Eating disorders are disorders that are characterized by behaviours, actions, and beliefs that involve eating, dieting, weight, and body image.
Although everyone should focus on behaviors and activities that will maintain their physical health such as eating nutritious food and exercising most days of the week, there is a difference between a healthy approach to eating and exercise and an unhealthy approach. For example, if someone is on an extremely strict diet, exercises constantly, and is very concerned of his or her weight or physical appearance, the person may be at risk for developing an eating disorder.
It is also important to remember and consider the environmental factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders. For example, family influences (such as believing in the stereotype that women must have a slender figure and men must be muscular) and life stresses (such as going to university) have a significant impact on one’s mental health and psychological well-being.
An eating disorder characterized by weight loss, an unrealistic view of himself/herself (believing they are overweight despite having a low body weight), being malnourished, and believing they need to lose more weight. The disorder is mostly common among adolescent girls but can develop in older adults, children, and men.
Emotional and Behavioural Warning Signs and Symptoms
- Intense exercise routines and lengthy sessions despite injury, fatigue, or weather
- Dresses in loose clothing to cover appearance
- Expresses concern for weight, believes they are overweight
- Cooks for family and friends but not for themselves
- Unwilling to eat meals with others
- Constantly rearranges food on plate during meals
Physical Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa
- Loss of menstruation
- Skeletal appearance
- Large amount of weight loss
- Lanugo (fine hair that grows on the body to keep warm)
- Cold hands and feet
- Dry hair and nails
- Dizziness and fainting
- Feel cold constantly
An eating disorder that is characterized by eating large quantities of food in one sitting and vomiting (also called binging and purging) to limit the effects of overeating. Individuals with this disorder may be at a healthy body weight or may be overweight.
Emotional/Behavioural Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
- Uses bathroom after meals
- Eats large amounts of food in one sitting
- Constantly uses mints or mouthwash
- Dislikes eating in public
- Secretive about binging and purging rituals
- Uses laxatives constantly
Physical Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa
- Discoloured teeth and erosion
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Low potassium levels
- Dizziness, fainting
- Dry skin, hair, and nails
- Swollen appearance in the face
Binge Eating Disorder
Individuals with this eating disorder constantly eat an excessive amount of food in one sitting and often have feelings of shame and guilt. In addition, they often eat to the point of discomfort.
- Eats alone due to embarrassment
- Collects food
- Inability to control eating
- Creates a schedule for binge-eating rituals
- Eats exceptionally large amounts in short periods of time.
Physical Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
- Clinically obese
- Weight fluctuates (the individual constantly loses and gains weight)
- Stomach aches
How To Help Your Loved One:
According to the National Eating Disorders website, there are five stages family and friends experience to help a loved one recover from an eating disorder. They include:
- Precontemplation – Recognize the warning signs of an eating disorder in a loved one.
- Contemplation – Educate yourself on eating disorders and listen to your loved one.
- Preparation – Ask your loved one how you can be involved in the recovery process.
- Action – Eliminate triggers such as weight scales, follow a treatment plan, and remain positive.
- Maintenance – Maintain positivity, but understand that relapse is possible. Remember to praise your loved one throughout their recovery.
Blog post by Lara Silkstone, Volunteer
Anorexia Nervosa. (2018). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia
Bulimia Nervosa. (2018). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bulimia
Binge Eating Disorder (2018). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed
Stages of Recovery (2018). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/stages-recovery