If you've been wondering why your dear one has suddenly become obsessed with their calorie intake more than they should be, it could be a sign of an eating disorder.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 1, 2020. It has since been updated.
It's not easy to find out if your loved ones are suffering from eating disorders. It can be quite distressing for not just the person suffering from it but their loved ones too. Even "The People's Princess" Diana suffered from an eating disorder for years in secret.
During the Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, she admitted to being bulimic and said it was "because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don't think you're worthy or valuable," as per Vanity Fair.
Help Guide.org also describes an eating disorder as an extreme eating behavior where a person follows strict diets, counts each and every calorie intake, binges on food when no one's looking or throws up all of it after every meal. On the surface, it might seem like just some complicated dietary habit but the root cause may be emotional issues burdened with self-doubt, lack of confidence, and body image issues.
For people suffering from this issue, food acts as a temporary soothing agent that relieves them from the emotions they might be feeling. Taking extensive measures to control their food habits gives them a sense of control over their life. As time passes by, food and weight obsession start dominating their lives and they forget to treat their emotions in a healthy way.
There are different types of eating disorders and according to Breathe Life Healing Center, 12 are identified, with the three mentioned below being amongst the most common ones.
Anorexia- They often starve themselves because no matter what they do, they feel that they're fat. They restrict their calorie intake and often control their weight using diet pills, exercise, or purging even if they are underweight.
Bulimia- This is a disorder where the person finds themselves in a vicious cycle of bingeing and purging. Similar to people with anorexia, they do excessive exercise and use laxatives to get rid of extra calories.
Binge Eating Disorder- In this, a person consumes thousands of calories which is filled with the inner feeling of guilt. Despite that, they cannot control themselves and keep eating until they feel uncomfortably full.
Some of the other eating disorders are Compulsive Over Eating, muscle dysmorphia, etc.
Here are some signs that might help you discover if the people in your life are suffering from it:
The most noticeable sign is self-isolation. A person who used to be the life of a party might suddenly steer away from all social gatherings and usually disconnect from everything. As an eating disorder is a way for them to have control over their life, they might suffer from a mood disorder as well. Mood disorders might in turn lead to depression and anxiety disorders that can intensify the eating disorder, according to Self.com.
Beth Riley, an executive director of Eating Recovery Center says that a person with this disorder might include a number of flavorful condiments like vinegar, lemon juice, hot sauce, salsa, and pepper to their diet because they have the least calories. While eating hot salsa might not be a big sign but extensive consumption of these items might be a red flag.
A person with an eating disorder might over-indulge in exercise until they reach a breaking point. They would never go anywhere without their fitness tracker and try to overachieve their goals at every step. According to Riley, a lack of nutrition coupled with excessive exercise is a recipe for temporary changes in the neurochemistry of the brain, which makes the person "more obsessive.”
You might find them checking the labels or enquiring about the calories in everything they consume. You might also see them eating at only particular times of the day, in a certain kind of utensil. They might also refuse food that has not been prepared by them.
You might notice that according to the person's eating behavior, there might be changes in their weight as well. Either there would be a sudden weight gain or a weight loss which is very unhealthy. However, they might seem very unaware of it like in the case of those with anorexia, according to Mindful Urgent Care.
While those who binge eat and the ones suffering from anorexia might feel an extreme dip in their energy, sometimes they put a veil on their lack of energy and pretend to be hyperactive in front of the others. Some seem to be hyperactive because they feel they might gain weight if they sit.
So how can you help them out?
1. Other than noticing these subtle signs, according to National Health Disorder, it is essential to know the difference between facts and myths about weight, nutrition, and exercise so that you can inform your loved one who's suffering from the disorder.
2. Have an open and honest conversation about their health and make sure that the topic is picked up for discussion in a private space, where you and the other person can take part in the conversation in a healthy way.
3. Don't forget to remind them that there is no shame in admitting that they're suffering and you're there to help them out.
4. Also, encourage them to seek help as soon as possible. If you taking charge and talking doesn't work, ask for help from someone who might understand your dear one's situation.