An eating disorder is when a person has a distorted body image, fails to maintain a healthy weight, develops an obsessive fixation on food intake and attempts to control his/her weight through dysfunctional and harmful ways, such as starvation, binge eating, improper laxative use and vomiting. If you are concerned that a loved one or friend might be struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to understand how to spot an eating disorder in order to decide whether you should recommend counseling to your loved one.

Signs of Eating Disorders

The several types of eating disorders with the three most common being: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating Disorder. However, it can be difficult for an untrained person to ascertain the specific disorder with which someone may be suffering. Therefore, it advisable to look for telltale signs that indicate a person may be battling with an eating disorder:

  • Excessive weight loss
  • Reluctance to consume food around others or be involved in activities in which food or meals will be served
  • Refusal to eat certain types of foods, such as carbohydrates
  • Preoccupation with food, such as caloric and fat content and how food is prepared
  • Anxiety surrounding food intake
  • Persistent commentary about losing weight and being overweight despite extreme weight loss
  • Evidence of significant laxative and/or diuretic usage
  • Excessive exercising with a focus on cardio-related exercises and equipment
  • Prolonged chewing of food, which can be followed by spitting out the remnants
  • Hiding to consume a large amount of food in a short period of time, which can be evidenced by wrappers, empty containers and collections of grocery bags
  • Hiding food in unusual places, such as in a bedroom or bathroom
  • Withdrawal from family, loved ones and friends
  • Frequent vomiting and denial of inducing vomiting
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom, especially after eating
  • Swelling of the cheeks (sometimes referred to as ”chipmunk cheeks”)
  • Staining and/or deterioration of the teeth from stomach acid
  • Emotional outbursts related to discussions of food and need to eat

If you are concerned that a family member or friend may be struggling with harmful eating behaviors, contact Benjamin Wolf, MSW, LICSW of Hope and Healing for Life in St. Paul, MN, to decide the best way to begin the dialogue with your loved one as to why counseling would be beneficial. These disorders can be life-threatening, so schedule your initial consultation today by calling 612-643-1920.