What Are The Early Signs Of A Potential Eating Disorder?

Talking about Eating Disorders

For people with eating disorders and the people who care about them alike, it can be difficult to see some of the earliest signs of disordered and irregular eating, and how this relationship with food could be a symptom of a wider condition.

As with many conditions, the sooner someone is aware of their disordered eating, the sooner they can go to an eating disorder clinic and the greater their chances of recovery.

Because ED is not one single condition nor one single attitude to food, spotting these signs is a difficult but essential part of understanding when and what type of help, advice or guidance you may need.

Here are some early signs of a potential eating disorder that can sometimes be missed.

Avoiding Social Eating

Some people prefer to eat their lunch alone, away from their colleagues and peers, but if someone is persistently and emphatically avoiding eating with others to the point of avoiding social events whenever food is around, that can be a potential sign of an unhealthy attitude towards food.

If you feel exceptionally and particularly self-conscious when eating, it can sometimes be a small, subtle sign of ED.

An Unhealthy Attitude To Exercise

Exercise should, more than anything else, be movement that makes us feel good, with the health benefits being an important other aspect.

However, some people with ED treat exercise as a form of self-flagellation. If they feel they have eaten too much they enter into extreme routines of exercise to punish themselves or try to offset the food they have eaten.

This can involve the use of technology as well, using fitness trackers to set goals that are potentially unhealthy or unrealistic to achieve.

Building Up Food Rituals

Having different rituals, meal preferences or ways in which we choose to eat is not necessarily a sign of ED in and of itself. Many people eat at specific times and sometimes eat parts of a meal in a specific order, such as vegetables first before protein.

Others sometimes take up ritualistic habits as part of a diet plan, which whilst sometimes problematic in itself does not necessarily become a sign of ED.

However, extreme rituals, strict rules on food groups, intake or preparation can indicate an unhealthy food relationship.

This does not necessarily mean calorie restrictions either. It can also include eating beyond fullness, purging or an attitude to food that connects it to other aspects of life or having a negative association with mealtimes.

Low Self-Esteem

This should not be seen in terms of cause and effect but in terms of two conditions that interconnect with each other.

Disordered eating is often linked with a low sense of self-esteem, which can manifest as depression, a decreased feeling of self-worth or an obsession with physical measurements such as weight and body type.

It can sometimes, although not always, be an attempt to reclaim control over a facet of life in a similar way to self-harm, and even if not ultimately caused by ED is a warning sign that should be addressed.

Published: 28 June 2022