Is Someone You Love Suffering from an Eating Disorder?


Eating disorders are often complex and sensitive issues to talk about, but sometimes it becomes absolutely necessary to do so – especially when it concerns the health and well-being of someone you love. Currently, more than 30 million people in America suffer from some sort of an eating disorder – a growing mental health condition that can become fatal without timely intervention.

One of the most common misconceptions about eating disorders is that they can only affect young women who look skinny but the truth is that anyone can fall victim to it, and sometimes the signs are so subtle that even people close to the sufferers aren’t able to detect them.

If you know someone who may be at a risk of developing an eating disorder, here are a few subtle signs that can help you know for certain, so that you can get them the help they need.

They’re Obsessed with Dieting

The discussion about different diets and the pressure to look a certain way is extremely pervasive in today’s world. Look at any website or magazine and you’re bound to find an abundance of weight loss tips and ever-changing diets – but if you know someone who has developed an obsession with dieting, has lost too much weight in a short span of time, and is constantly talking about food, there is definitely a reason to be concerned about their well-being.

Most eating disorders can be secretive which means that even though the person who suffers from one may not reveal their eating habits to others around them, they may bring up discussion about diets, body image, and weight in routine conversations.

They’re Eliminating Food Groups From their Diets

Dairy products

There seems to be a growing trend on social media to give up on certain foods without the prescription of a doctor or being allergic to them. The most vilified food groups in the weight loss community are carbs, dairy, and gluten which don’t pose a threat to your health unless you’re intolerant to them.

If someone you know is limiting their diet to only certain food groups without any medical, religious, or moral motivation behind it, it may have something to do with an eating disorder.

They Have Unusual Eating or Exercising Habits

People with eating disorders tend to have unusual views on food and may show signs of disgust or guilt after eating

According to Lauren Smolar, the National Eating Disorders Association director, people who suffer from this mental illness may display unusual mood changes or behaviors when it comes to the subject of diet and exercise.

This could include long cardio sessions every day with a very limiting diet, obsession with counting calories and sudden trips to the bathroom after meals. Any of these behaviors, when combined with sudden changes in weight, should be a huge cause of concern. 

Their Physical Appearance is Changing

Picking up on the obvious signs of an eating disorder and addressing the issue is the first step in helping someone recover

Eating disorder sufferers can show a number of changes to their appearance due to their extreme eating and exercising habits. Weight loss is one of them, but there are other, more subtle cues about their appearance which could be a sign that the eating disorder is destroying their health.

Some of them include hair thinning, tooth erosion (due to induced vomiting after meals) and sensitive skin that bruises easily.

They May Abuse Medication

It is quite common for someone who suffers from an eating disorder to feel guilty after eating or binge-eating which can lead to the overuse of laxatives to expel the food from the body in order to alleviate the feeling of guilt. Some of them may also use diet pills excessively to lose the weight which only exacerbates their health issues.

How Can You Help?

Choose a proper time and place outside of meal time to show support for a loved one who may be suffering from an eating disorder.

Approach them gently and try to understand what has prompted a sudden change in their diet or weight. It is important to let them know that recovery from an eating disorder is extremely probable as long as they have the love and support of people around them. It’s never too late to seek help for a mental health issue, no matter how long they have been suffering from it.