Updated: Nov 29, 2022
About 9% of Australians will experience an eating disorder at some point in their life. Therefore it's very possible that you will know someone with an eating disorder. Being aware of the signs of an eating disorder means you can help to guide that person to seek support sooner.
Remember, weight is not the only indicator of an eating disorder. In fact, many people with an eating disorder may not fit that highly emancipated image we have come to expect when thinking of people living with eating disorders. Eating disorders can affect people at any weight, from any background, sexuality, gender, or culture.
Similarly, the signs of an eating disorder may be very different for different people, so it's important to remember that this isn't a complete list, and if you are worried, it's worth having a bringing it up with the person you are concerned about.
Physically, you may see:
Changes in their weight
Changes to menstruation and their cycle
Light-headedness or even fainting
Cold sensitivity (even when it seems warm to others)
Tooth damage (due to poor nutrition or vomiting)
Use of laxatives
Evidence of vomit in toilet bowls or elsewhere
You might notice these behaviours around food or meal times:
A strong preoccupation with food, higher anxiety around meal times
Avoiding specific food groups, or significant changes in food choices (e.g. no refusing to eat meat when previously enjoyed, refusing to eat "bad" foods, etc.)
Counting calories or fasting
Exercise patterns which seem obsessive
Stress when unable to exercise as normal
Rigid ideas of food, unable to be flexible in eating habits
Avoiding social meals, or withdrawing from activities
Hiding food, and lying about foods eaten
Other behaviours you might notice include
Distorted body image and extreme body dissatisfaction
Moodiness, depression, anxiety
Absolute thinking about foods (certain foods are "good" others are "bad")
If you're concerned about a loved one, encourage them to talk to their GP about their eating habits, or ask them to book in to see a trained health professional that they feel comfortable with. If you are reading this feeling that you may be experiencing some of these signs yourself, now is the time to take action. An untreated eating disorder can get worse, and getting help early is beneficial to your recovery journey.
If you need support, we are here to help you, get in touch today by booking in online or calling 0422480159.