5 Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

by | Eating Disorder Recovery


Big shout out to Komal Shah who helped to write this blog!! She was a dietetic intern for us for a few weeks.

Believe it or not. It’s summertime. This summer is going to feel a little different than any other summer we’ve had, due to a thing called coronavirus (heard of it?), hopefully, we’ll be able to find some time to enjoy the nice weather. Perhaps we can have BBQs with a small group of friends or sit outside to read or hang by a pool.

As your loved ones visit or are home for the summer, this might be a time to look out for eating disorder red flags. It’s possible you might have started to see some of these warning signs with your family staying at home. If so, consider making an appointment with an eating disorder dietitian and/or therapist.

So, we wanted to write a blog about eating disorder warning signs for families and loved ones to keep in mind. Eating disorders can be subtle and sneaky. Just a reminder that these are red flags regardless of the weight, shape, or size of your body! And regardless of ethnicity, age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Eating disorders do not discriminate.

Here are 5 warning signs of eating disorders, or “red flags” to look out for:

1. Cutting Foods or Food Groups

Is your loved one cutting out foods they used to love? Or eliminating food groups? Or no longer eating snacks or desserts? Oftentimes, if someone is struggling with their relationship with food, they may avoid foods their ED defines as “bad.” Looking out for changes in eating habits might indicate your loved one needing more support. This can be so, so tough because our culture views certain changes in diet as “healthy.” However, little changes can quickly become black-and-white thinking, which contributes to a good food/bad food mentality, this mentality could be an eating disorder warning sign. The more rules we have about food the further away we get from intuitive eating.

2. Increased Talk About Food / Nutrition / Weight

If your loved one has a sudden interest in food, exercise and talking about “health,” it’s possible they might be struggling with something deeper. Eating disorders tend to make the idea of health more complicated. And oftentimes clients are sacrificing mental health to aim for an impossible physical health pedestal.

3. Changes in Effect

While eating disorders affect both physical and mental aspects of wellbeing, many people who struggle with eating disorders might not “look” like the stereotype associated with an ED. That stereotype? The thin, malnourished, white, young woman. It’s important that loved ones do not use the physical body to judge whether a relationship with food is positive or not. Many, if not all, individuals who struggle with their relationships with food will have a change in their effect. For example, perhaps your loved one gets angry when food plans are changed. Or perhaps you’ve noticed your loved one is more withdrawn, this could be an eating disorder warning sign. Use your intuition. If something feels off, it’s very possible it is.

4. Changes in Exercise Habits

Increasing exercise or movement to change how our bodies look can actually be a sign of a disordered relationship with food, despite what our culture might say. Exercising to change body size, leads to increased anxiety surrounding food and body image. Therefore, I would recommend becoming attuned to your loved ones’ “normal” exercise habits. And notice if they have changed.

5. Bullied at School Because of Size

Bullying in school is absolutely terrible and sad. I’ve heard so many stories from my clients who were (and are) bullied in school because of their size. It breaks my heart. If you’ve found out that your child is being bullied at school, talk to a guidance counselor, vice principal, or principal. It also may be helpful to begin therapy for your child for them to have a safe space to discuss and process the bullying. And remember. If your child is being bullied because of their size, changing their body isn’t the answer. As that can likely lead to long-term self-esteem struggles and dieting.

What To Do If You’re Concerned with Your Relationship with Food and your Body

If you’re concerned that your loved one may be struggling with their relationship with food and body. Here are some things to consider if they are showing any eating disorder warning signs:

1. Talk with your Loved one

Share your concerns and let your loved one know you are here for them whenever they are ready to talk. It’s 100% possible your loved one might not want to discuss their food fears. You can let your loved one know you are available if and when they feel ready to talk. If there is something you don’t understand, ask your loved one if it’s okay to ask them questions. And listen to their feedback.

2. Be an Example

Set an example by modeling intuitive eating. Show your loved one it’s acceptable to enjoy a wide variety of foods and to give yourself permission to eat. Above all, it’s important to be mindful about how you discuss food, weight, body image and exercise. And try to maintain a neutral and/or positive stance about these topics.

3. Reach Out to a Health Professional

Moreover, a recovery team can support you and your loved one in navigating the recovery process. Typically, a team consists of a dietitian, therapist, doctor, and psychiatrist. It’s important that professionals on this team have eating disorder experience. Reach out to us at Courage to Nourish for more information. We’d be happy to support you or a loved one and direct you to other resources as needed. Visit our contact us page to schedule a discovery call.

Get Recovery from Your Eating Disorder

Thank you for reading our blog on 5 warning signs for eating disorders. If you need help with an eating disorder, there is hope!

Courage to Nourish is a group of eating disorder specialized dietitians. We have in person locations in Alexandria, Virginia, Columbia, Maryland. and College Park, Maryland. We offer virtual services across the state of Virginia, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. We offer individual nutrition therapy. As well as support groups. We would love to guide you in building a better relationship with food.

Contact us for more information. And to schedule a discovery call. Also, sign up for our client or clinician newsletter!

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Alex Raymond, RD, LD, CEDRD

Alex Raymond, RD, LD, CEDRD-S

Helping my clients cultivate meaningful connections and interests outside of their eating disorder is a true passion of mine. I like to think my clients and I are on a team to navigate recovery. I love working with high school and college students as well as athletes seeking to have a better relationship with exercise. I am a proud anti-diet dietitian and work with my clients through a Health At Every Size © and intuitive eating framework.

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