Eating disorders are, in fact, an enigma. They aren’t just an attempt to shed some extra weight; they cross into a more dangerous territory and can be serious enough to demand hospitalization in some cases. Eating disorders are like just any other illness while also having some psychological roots.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of an eating disorder so you can support yourself and even sufferers who need help.
Sufferers of eating disorders are most likely to be underweight. However, they may also be overweight. Sudden changes in weight are significant warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. It is also important to mention some people of normal weight can also struggle with eating disorders.
Body Image Insecurities
Individuals with eating disorders may experience a strong aversion to gaining weight, even when in reality they are underweight. As a matter of fact, most sufferers believe that they need to lose weight even when they are not overweight. With such a negative body image, sufferers of eating disorders try to abstain from activities and food that they would have normally enjoyed.
Guilt and Shame
People with eating disorders tend to want to eat in secret or stash away some food. They are probably the first to leave the table immediately after meals and sometimes, also attempt to hide weight changes by wearing large clothing.
The self-esteem of sufferers of eating disorders may be largely dependent on how they perceive their outward appearance, including their body weight. They also tend to be too critical of themselves in so many other areas.
They may induce vomiting after meals and indulge in the use of laxatives or diuretics. Family and friends need to watch for the bathroom visits, especially after meals.
Of course, no one is against exercising, but sometimes, those with eating disorders can get so obsessed with exercise until it becomes a problem instead of a solution. For instance, they may insist on exercising even when it is not appropriate or convenient.
An Unnatural Preoccupation with Food
Eating disorders can trigger thoughts of food and preoccupy sufferers with thoughts of nutrition as well. These thoughts range from the frequent counting of calories to classifying different foods based on “good” and “bad”. Interestingly, some sufferers may avoid food, while others may do the opposite–binge on food.
Eating disorders are known to result in a number of different health problems in sufferers. These health issues may include amenorrhea, low blood pressure, osteoporosis, hair loss, dehydration, cardiovascular problem, bruising, and electrolyte imbalances. If not watched, these health problems brought on by eating disorders can result in death.
So if you know anyone suffering from these symptoms, it is advisable that they consult with a professional, dietician, therapist, or medical doctor. Find time to listen; let them know you’d be there to support without placing blame or shaming them.
How you and your Loved Ones can Help the Situation
Typically, managing an eating disorder is a learning and growing process. However, here are some things sufferers and their loved one can do to help.
Be Open but Avoid Triggers
Try not to make assumptions concerning eating disorders. Instead, converse, without making undue reference to their weight, diets, and calories, because that can be stressful for anyone, including people struggling with an eating disorder.
If you ever find yourself in such discussions, try not to act or sound like a therapist. Be mindful of any sign of discomfort—just listen.
Come up with Healthy Distractions
In a normal circumstance, distractions are bad, but not when you notice a loved one is struggling to eat. Try to take their mind off their struggle by engaging in activities that will create some distractions and help them forget the problem, even if it’s momentarily.
Most times, when someone is struggling with an illness like eating disorders, a distraction from the problem can be very helpful. And no, do not act frustrated or force them to eat. The conversation should go in line with this: ‘I’ve noticed that when we go for lunch, you barely touch your food. I am no therapist—but as someone who really cares, is there something I can do to help?’”
Have the Right Perspective
When it comes to food and weight matters, sufferers should understand that their weight, eating habit and body shape does not define them. They might actually have valid reasons to be concerned about the eating disorder but it is important to understand that there is more to life. People with eating disorders should always be reminded that one of the most important things in life is a positive mindset.
Find Some Balance
There are, in fact, no bad foods, people just having bad eating habits. The trick is to eat in moderation and never denying yourself of the kind of food you want. You should draw up a plan on what time to eat and when not to. Don’t diet unnecessarily—eat well-balanced meals that are easily accessible.
Yes, plan ahead of time if you’re going on an outing; eat well before leaving home, and then enjoy the delicious treats at the party, as well. You do not have to over-eat because you wouldn’t want to be tempted with all the sumptuous meals at the outing.
It is important to also note that if you happen to eat more than you planned, do not beat yourself up. Avoid negative self-talks or judgment while you find a non-judgmental friend or therapist to talk to.