February 23 to March 1 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

In a world where you can’t open an app, turn on the tv, or glance at a magazine rack without seeing a model with the “perfect look,” body image issues are widely common amongst teens and young adults.

Although mainstream media has taken strides towards inclusivity, the pressure to look a certain way is ever-present. Studies show that up to 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder.

For National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we’re discussing how to recognize and help someone who’s battling an eating disorder.

Spotting an eating disorder

Eating disorders come in many different forms: restrictive food intake, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, obsessive exercising, and more. People often struggle silently for years with these issues.

Among others, these are three common warning signs of an eating disorder:

1. Changes in weight:

Not everyone struggling with a disorder will appear overtly under-weight. Significant weight loss with anorexia is more common than with bulimia, but eating disorders can affect people at any weight. Rapid weight loss or frequent weight fluctuation are things to look out for.

2.  Changes in eating and exercise patterns:

You may notice someone stops eating around others, doesn’t eat foods they use to love, or drinks excessive amounts of water or caffeine to suppress their appetite. Other signs to watch for are cutting food into tiny pieces, hiding food in their napkin, or habitually using the bathroom after every meal. Concerning behavior also includes obsessively counting calories, ritualistically exercising, and getting irrationally upset when their exercise routine is disturbed.

3. Fixated on body image:

If someone is spending an inordinate amount of time looking in the mirror, staring at pictures of themselves, picking apart their features, and avoiding social events, it may be cause for concern. Although these actions alone don’t always point to an eating disorder, having a negative body image can lead down a slippery slope.

Physical signs of an eating disorder include hair loss, constant fatigue, yellow-colored skin, fainting spells, overall poor health, and more.

How to help

Because eating disorders and mental health go hand in hand, it’s essential that a loved one steps in if they start to notice harmful behavior.

Eating disorders are a sensitive topic than can be met with denial, so it’s important to approach the subject from a loving angle. Understand that opening this conversation will require patience, understanding, and unwavering support moving forward. 

Start with a trip to the doctor’s office to determine any medical issues or mental health conditions that need to be addressed. Based on the individual’s needs, their healthcare provider can suggest the proper medical treatment, nutritional counseling, therapy, or help needed to recover.  

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, we encourage you to seek help. Tulsa ER & Hospital offers liver panel tests, treatment for injuries due to frail bones or exercising, and the proper IV medications and fluids to help with weakness or fainting.

To speak to someone immediately, contact the National Eating Disorder Helpline at 800-931-2237.


Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Tulsa ER & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.


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