25 Emotional & Physical Signs of Having an Eating Disorder
There are many signs to show if a person has an eating disorder. If some of the pointers below resonate with you and you share similar experiences with me, chances are you probably do have an eating disorder.
Recognising the signs is the first step to recovery. The earlier you recognise it, the earlier you can began recovery. I only started recovery after realising I had an eating disorder. (Click here to find out how I almost died from an eating disorder.)
Emotional and Behavioural
1. Entire life revolves around food
You are preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting. When I had eating disorder, I was also counting and overestimating my calories to trick my mind into thinking that I was eating enough. I also spent hours per day thinking about what food might be served at an upcoming event and plan ahead to see if it fits my diet.
2. Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, fat, veganism etc)
During my eating disorder journey, I started transitioning from a standard diet to a vegetarian one before progressing to being vegan and then finally raw vegan. I gradually refused to eat many food groups and was obsessed with eating mainly fruits and vegetables. I also tried to keep my diet low in fat during my vegetarian and vegan phases as I thought fat was bad for health but a certain amount is actually crucial for hormonal balance.
3. Appear uncomfortable eating around others
Initially at the vegetarian and vegan stages, I was still fine with eating around my family and friends. However, once I became raw vegan and started eating only fruits and vegetables, I was eating by myself. This was partly due to feeling inferior and also because I didn’t want to be tempted by the delicious foods that they were eating.
4. Always skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
I have skipped food entirely for days by just drinking water (7 days) or fruit juices (56 days).
5. Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
Going out with friends and family was more stressful as I had to find a place with vegetarian or vegan options. As I started becoming more extreme with my diet, I became more reclusive and started distancing away from my friends. Since eating is a form of social activity, I did not want to trouble them with eating the same kind of diet as me because they do not enjoy such types of food.
6. Extremely emotional
I get extremely angry, agitated and irritated easily. Towards the end as my weight got lighter to the dangerously low levels, I was crying everyday and having suicidal thoughts.
7. Constantly watching food reviews or mukbang videos
My diet consisted of a bland mixture of fruits and vegetables, and I was unable to enjoy delicious and regular cuisines found in cafes or restaurants. Hence, I found myself binge-watching food reviews and mukbang videos every single day. This was most likely due to me missing out on delicious food and my stomach felt satisfied from watching others eat.
8. Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
I lost a massive amount of weight in a short span of time as I went from 56kg down to 41kg in under a year.
9. Gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation
The average human shits once a day. I was constipated and went to the toilet every other day. This is because I was not eating enough food. Severe chronic starvation also leads to dysregulated hunger and satiety cues. I was always confused whether I was actually hungry or not.
10. Muscle weakness and difficulties concentrating on anything
Food gives energy. Not eating enough definitely made me feel weak which resulted in the lack of strength, motivation and focus to do anything.
11. Abnormal laboratory findings
I did a full blood test and I had anaemia. Not eating any meat or food rich in iron resulted in low iron levels. Attached is my iron level which is on the lower end of the spectrum. (The recommended level is between 59-158 ug/dl)
12. Dizziness, especially upon standing
I always felt dizzy when I got off the couch or bed upon standing. I even fell down the stairs once and hurt myself.
13. Feeling cold all the time
Whenever I am outside, especially in an air-conditioned area, I always felt cold even after wearing joggers and hoodies on top of my t-shirt. Even in my room, I had to cover myself with the blanket when I did not have the air-conditioner switched on. My hands and feet were always cold. In TCM, this shows a lack of Qi and weakness of the body.
14. Very obsessive about numbers, including finance
I was always calculating numbers in my head, be it calories, carbohydrate and fat grams, or money for grocery and shopping etc. Food and finance are fickle friends for people struggling with eating disorders. Apart from restricting from food, I realised I was very thrifty and often restricted spending money on everything and anything from food to treatment to gifts.
People with eating disorders tend to be perfectionists with low self-esteem.
16. Dry skin, hair and brittle nails
Even on places where I didn’t have eczema, my skin felt dry and flaky. I also realised more and more hair was falling out and it was scary. My hair was thinning. There were also white spots on my nails as well due to iron, zinc and calcium deficiency.
17. Dental issues
My teeth became weak and I had enamel erosion and greater tooth sensitivity especially to cold food.
I had difficulty sleeping as I constantly felt hungry.
19. Poor wound healing
The eczema wounds couldn’t heal fast enough before I scratched it again which resulted in raw wounds.
20. Avoid the weighing scale
This was due to self-esteem issues overly related to body image (Dysmorphia). I did not want to see my weight as I was delusional. I also didn’t want to know that I was so underweight and had to do something about it.
21. Chewing my food and then spitting it out if it did not taste good or was not up to my expectations
22. Creating lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge sessions
Things not relatable to me but you may have done it
23. Menstrual irregularities
You miss your periods or are only having a period while on hormonal contraceptives (this is not considered a “true” period)
24. Weighing yourself multiple times a day
You are afraid of gaining weight so you weigh yourself to make sure there isn’t even the slightest bit of increment in the weighing scale numbers.
25. Intense anxiety, depression and/or distress if unable to exercise
You use exercise as a form of calorie control and prioritise it so much that exercise takes place despite injury or fatigue
It’s never too late or embarrassing to seek help. I believe anyone who wants to recover, can. Don't live in denial.
Stop being in an unhealthy relationship with food and having a mental battle every time.
You can recover. The time is now.
(Click here if you are unsure how much food to consume during ED recovery.)
What are the signs that made you realised you had an eating disorder? Comment below!