When To Suspect An Eating Disorder

No one ever sets a goal to develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders are typically the result of attempts to be “healthy” that have gone awry. There is also no clear cut delineation between trying to be healthy and the onset of an eating disorder – that fine line is different for everyone based on their predisposition and physiology.

There are signs and symptoms of eating disorders to be watchful for, especially as
someone starts a diet or embarks on a new exercise regimen. This is particularly true for
children and adolescents because they should not be dieting at a time when their bodies
are growing and developing.
Some warning signs are obvious, others are more subtle, but the more signs you notice,
the greater the chance the fine line has been crossed and a problem that needs expert
attention is occurring:

Noticeable weight changes:          Changes in mood – Irritable, sad, anxious,
Unexpected weight loss,                 worried, isolative, etc.
weight gain or weight cyclin

Wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss or weight gain

Finding reasons to skip meals –
Already ate, Will eat later,
Will have something else, Isn’t hungry now,
Mealtime is only chance to do “X”
(like study with friends, exercise, go to the mall, schedule work hours, etc.),
Not going out with friends anymore,
Avoiding occasions where food is served, etc.

Wanting to become vegetarian or vegan;
wanting to eat clean, raw or only unprocessed foods, limiting the types of foods eaten, cutting out food groups, restricting fluids

Having weight loss, fitness tracking, food monitoring apps
on phone or other devices, using fitness bands like Fitbit,
calculating and recalculating calories, frequently weighing

Searching online for:
Weight loss programs,
fitness videos/routines,
pro-eating disorder sites,
clean eating, cleanses,
supplements, extreme
methods, etc.

Cooking or baking for others but not eating it,
overly focused on recipes or food shows

Regular comments about being fat, feeling fat, needing to lose weight, getting in better shape, not wanting to go out because
of appearance, wanting to look like the models, stars or even
friends, not liking oneself

Food missing with no explanation
Unidentified pills or powders
Packaging from laxatives or diuretics
Finding food wrappers in unusual places
Signs of vomit in the toilet, sink or shower
Going through money quickly
Higher than normal grocery bills

Unexplained fatigue, loss of menstrual period,
complaints of frequently feeling cold or wearing more clothes than normal, dry skin, brittle nails and hair, hair loss, constipation or diarrhea, swollen neck glands, sores on the knuckles, cold and blue looking fingers or toes,overall body weakness


While this is not an exhaustive list of signs and symptoms, the range and variety may
help to show why it isn’t always obvious to the person or to family or friends that a
problem is developing. There may be legitimate reasons why experiencing a few
symptoms wouldn’t be cause for alarm, such as some weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea or
vomiting with the flu. But, if those symptoms continue longer than expected and
additional symptoms become part of the picture, then it’s always best to seek out
consultation with an eating disorders specialist who can complete a comprehensive
assessment and determine whether treatment is needed.

It’s always best to seek treatment sooner than later – the longer a person has an eating
disorder, the longer it takes to recover.