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Day 2: Hey Siri, What's an Eating Disorder?

Let’s talk about eating disorders.


This may seem like the more boring part, but it’s so important to be educated on this stuff because you never know when you may need it (ever heard of "orthorexia"? check it out below). Now, this is NOT for you to self-diagnose. If you think any of these eating disorders sound like something you may be struggling with, reach out to a registered dietitian, therapist, or primary care doctor. Professional diagnoses can help with insurance coverage to pursue treatment. Also, just because you may not be diagnosable doesn’t mean you don’t need help. Remember, the first step to recovery is acknowledging you may have a problem.


When I was struggling with the binging/restricting cycle, I had no idea that was a symptom of an eating disorder until I read about it on a blog like this one. From that point, I reached out to my doctor and told her I might be struggling with an eating disorder, which is where my journey to recovery began. I say this to demonstrate how important it is to be educated on what may have otherwise been an unrecognized problem.


There’s a common misconception that eating disorders are only for people with skinny bodies. Eating disorders affect people of all sizes. Just because someone is skinny doesn’t mean they’re anorexic. Just because someone is in a larger body doesn’t mean they’re binging. As unfortunate as it is, anyone can be affected by eating disorders so it’s important to recognize these signs/symptoms universally.


I added in some “other red flags to look out for” not only for people to help recognize those symptoms in themselves, but mainly for peers to look out for in their loved ones.


With that, let’s get into it.


*These definitions are based on the DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Eating Disorders*


Anorexia (AN): self-starvation causing a significantly low body weight in the context of height and age


AN Binge-Purge Type: individual regularly engages in binge eating or purging or both

AN Restricting Type: individuals lose weight by dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise


Symptoms:

  • Intense fear of gaining weight despite being underweight

  • Very restrictive eating patterns

  • Obsession with weight and food to the point where self-worth is placed on it

  • Distorted body image, denial of being underweight

  • A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight

Other red flags to look out for:

  • Wearing loose or baggy clothes due to self-consciousness

  • Loss of menstrual cycle

  • Difficulty eating in public or around others (limited ability to be spontaneous regarding meals)

  • Brittle hair and nails

  • Intolerance to cold temperatures

  • Severe constipation

Binge Eating Disorder (BED): recurring episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food in a short period of time

Symptoms:

  • Binge episodes occur, on average, at least once per week for three months

  • Sense of lack of control over eating during an episode (or eating beyond fullness)

  • Distress around binges

  • Constant self-shame, disgust, and guilt that may lead to depression

  • *People with BED do not restrict calories or use purging behaviors

Other red flags to look out for:

  • Disappearance of food

  • Hidden wrappers or containers

  • Eating in secrecy


Bulimia Nervosa (BN): recurring binge eating episodes characterized by compensatory behaviors (such as vomiting, laxative misuse, or excessive exercise)

Symptoms:

  • Binge eating and compensatory behaviors occur at least once per week for three months

  • Eating large amounts of food due to lack of self-control within a 2-hour window

  • Self-evaluation is immensely influenced by body shape and weight

Other red flags to look out for:

  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after eating

  • Chronic sore throat

  • Worn tooth enamel

  • Severe dehydration

  • Overexercising

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED): any other conditions that have symptoms similar to those of an eating disorder but don’t fit into the categories above

*these disorders are not classified as eating disorders according to the DSM-5, but they are still serious disorders that may cause psychological and/or physical distress

Orthorexia: obsessive focus on healthy eating to the point in which it disrupts daily life

Symptoms:

  • Obsession with the number of calories the individual is consuming

  • Elimination of entire food groups due to fear of unhealthiness

  • Exceptional amount of time thinking about food (similar to someone with anorexia or bulimia)

  • Self-worth and identity are dependent on how healthy the individual thinks they eat

  • Thinking critically of others who don’t follow a strict diet

Other red flags to look out for:

  • Obsessive calorie tracking (I’m looking at you, MyFitnessPal)

  • Difficulty eating outside their own home

  • Severe anxiety about how food is prepared

  • Inappropriate weight loss

  • Overexercising, not listening to the body when it needs rest

Night Eating Disorder: recurring episodes of eating after awakening at night

Rumination Disorder: repeated re-chewing and regurgitation of food after eating it to be re-swallowed or spat out


Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): the individual is unable to meet appropriate nutritional needs (commonly known as extreme picky eating)

*This disorder is not caused by a mental disorder

Symptoms:

  • Weight loss

  • Nutritional deficiency

  • Dependency on nutritional supplements

  • Interference with social functioning


Please message me if you have any questions! Sending love to all.


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