How Do I Know if my Loved One has an Eating Disorder?

Weight Loss and Weight Gain

One of the key indications of an eating issue is weight. Sudden shifts in weight can indicate restriction, starvation, or binging. Each body processes weight loss differently. In diet and exercise, what takes one body a year to achieve may only take a different body a few months. Disordered eating habits generally have the same effect: loss of weight, muscle, and fat. If their size is noticeably different in a short amount of time, it may be time to ask questions or monitor their eating habits more closely.

How Do I Know if my Loved One has an Eating Disorder?

Fluctuating Weight, Health, and Appearance

Disordered eating puts the body in a constant crisis mode. While a restricted diet will cause weight loss, a episode of binging will cause bloating and weight gain. Without balance between the two, weight constantly fluctuates and is noticeable. Generally, their health changes according to their eating patterns. As a result, their physical appearance can change as well. Symptoms of fatigue like sunken eyes or dark circles can appear from internal exhaustion. Pale, dry or saggy skin is a result of dehydration. Hair will thin out or turn brittle due to a deficiency in vitamins and nutrients.


Playing with Food

When out to eat or sitting around the dinner table, a person with disordered eating is more likely to play with their food rather than eat it. They will push their food around with their utensils, cut food up into small bites, or reorganize food on their plates, but they won’t actually eat. Eating small bites might be their compensation for consuming calories.


Talking about Food

One mark of food fears is obsession with food. In an effort to control what they consume, they talk about food like a lover. Instead of talking about recipes, delicious dishes, or food experiences, they talk about planning, calories, and dieting. Food becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.


Avoiding Food

Perhaps your loved one adored a certain treat and never turned down an opportunity to enjoy it. Lately, they always reject the gift of their favorite food, and many other foods as well. Fear foods are the items that disordered eating sees as the biggest threat to weight gain. If their conversation always ends up being about what they are eating, going to eat, or not eating, take notice. It might be time to have a conversation about their conversation with themselves. You might notice they start avoiding people or social interactions as well. Activities that involve a certain attire become uncomfortable for them and they abstain.