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10 Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

Eat well

It can be difficult to accept the harsh reality of someone you know having an eating disorder, whether that be a friend, relative, or the worst possible scenario, your own child. However, the earlier that an eating disorder is detected, the sooner the person suffering can get the help they need and start their journey to recovery. Therefore, it is highly important that you are aware of the most common warning signs of an eating disorder. It is worth noting that each individual case is unique, and someone may display all or none of the below indicators.

However, as a guide, the below signs could suggest that someone has, or is developing, an eating disorder.

Physical Signs

1. Sudden Weight Loss or Gain

Any noticeable fluctuations in weight, either losing or gaining, could indicate an eating disorder.

2. Dental Problems

Eating disorders can have a detrimental effect on the teeth, especially bulimia, so any signs of enamel erosion, a sudden increase in cavities or tooth sensitivity could be indicators.

3. Stomach Complaints

Cramps, constipation, acid reflux, or any other unexplained gastrointestinal complaint.

4. Change in Appearance

As well as a change in weight, someone suffering from an eating disorder may have dry skin and hair, brittle nails, yellow skin, fine hairs appearing on the body, swollen feet and/or cold, mottled hands. They may also dress in several layers of clothing to hide weight loss and keep warm.

5. Obsessive Exercising

This is normally associated with anorexia nervosa and manifests itself in the person obsessively maintaining a rigid and excessive daily exercise routine.

6. Signs of Purging Behavior

Sufferers of bulimia may show signs of purging, such as frequent trips to the bathroom after eating, smelling like vomit and/or using excessive laxatives or diuretics.

 Other Physical Signs:

  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Poor concentration levels
  • Low thyroid
  • Anemia
  • Low potassium levels
  • Low white and red blood cell counts
  • Feelings of dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Little or no sex drive
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping excessively
  • Feeling cold
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weak immune system

If you or someone you know is showing the above signs, and you are concerned that they may be suffering from an eating disorder, you need to seek professional help. Eden Treatment provides a safe and secure environment for those suffering from an eating disorder and has a team of trained professionals who offer a variety of therapy methods to help you or your loved one on the road to recovery.

Emotional & Behavioral Signs

7. Preoccupation with Weight

A sudden interest, bordering on an obsession, with counting calories, weighing food, measuring grams of fat, weighing oneself and any other form of dieting.

8. Changing Eating Habits

Refusing to eat around others, refusing to eat certain food groups, being secretive about eating, skipping meals, excessive chewing and/or not allowing certain foods to touch on the plate.

9. Changing Behavior

Withdrawing from usual daily life, not wanting to see friends or carry out routine activities. Extreme mood swings and constant checking of appearance in the mirror, often with perceived flaws relating to weight.

10. Distorted Body Image

Eating disorder sufferers may constantly make comments about looking or feeling fat, even when they are severely underweight. They may become fixated on a certain body part and strive to look like a particular ‘skinny’ model or celebrity.

Can we solve food related addictions by retraining our gut to crave healthy food?

Food is part of life – we cannot survive without eating. But for those with addictions or complex relationships with food, that presents a problem. Food is intimately a part of family events, cultural and religious holidays, and for many, enjoying a good meal is what makes them happiest

Living with diabetes means having to inject insulin, take oral drugs and monitor blood sugar levels carefully. However, for all types of diabetes, food plays an important role in the control of blood sugar and the amount of insulin needed to cover a meal. For these individuals, food is no longer just the nutrition they need to survive or a joyous moment in their lives, but a carefully assessed ingredient in the overall treatment program that is diabetes.

Many cultures show love through food, and when one says no to love, one can be faced with consequences, despite the reason. Someone who controls their food intake can seem overly uptight, not fun, and not a happy-go-lucky person. The reactions when you decline something unhealthy due to your disease can be strong, especially if the person serving the food does not know that you have a medical condition.

What is even worse is when the very food that is supposed to make you feel stronger and happier becomes your poison. and you just cannot indulge in even the smallest portions. This is how an eating disorder is born. For a person with diabetes, 200+ extra decisions have to be made daily, but there are still problems that can arise, even if all these decisions were made correctly. One controllable action is to restrict the food, eliminate any temptations and reduce the risk of failure- because failure means near and long term consequences such as passing out due to hypos, or losing your vision and kidney function due to highs.

I restricted my carb intake for several years to the extent that I could lower my insulin injections to a bare minimum and I never had to worry about going low or going high! If you do not eat carbs, and you do not inject large amounts of insulin, blood sugars are stable, but your body suffers due to actual lack of energy. That is not yet diabulimia, but it causes weight loss and an enormous fixation on food.

Diabulimia is an eating disorder in which an individual gives themselves less insulin than they need for the purpose of weight loss.

The transition to full blown diabulimia is dangerous and often happens as a “natural” progression of restriction – when the temptations of food are too great, and you start having some carbs, but you still do not inject insulin! Now, you are still avoiding the lows, but the highs are a constant presence and that is BAD for the long term.

The reverse is when people eat whatever they want, despite their diabetes and keep their blood sugars under control by overdosing on insulin. This may lead to “double diabetes,” which implies added insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes to the already diagnosed type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, this is becoming a more common phenomenon due to the ease at which one can dose insulin through pumps or pens and the “politically correct” attitude of not restricting diets of especially young patients, of some doctors and parents.

So how do we avoid diabulimia and double diabetes? I believe in training the body to enjoy healthy but nutritious foods. As I mentioned, food is essential to life and it also can be a pleasure in life. The gut-brain relationship is becoming more well understood and I truly believe that if the gut gets exposed to low sugar, low carb but high fiber, lean protein and “good” fat ingredients, the bugs in our gut (microbiome) will start craving more of the same and the brain will feel good and satiated on foods that are not triggers for binging, glucose excursions and feelings of shame. The research area focusing on the microbiome is very interesting to me. The bugs that live in our guts seem to determine what foods we crave, whether we are thin or overweight and may even be part of the cause for autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.

Our call to action are several-fold:

1: Stop judging people for keeping healthy diets – that is a sign of strength, discipline and a will to survive

2: Be aware of the signs of diabulimia: people with insulin-dependent diabetes with very poor glucose control who when pushed will admit to under-dosing insulin to stay thin

3: Do not encourage double diabetes: when diagnosed with T1D, we cannot eat exactly what we want – that is a fact and an opportunity to be healthier than your peers

3: Learn what foods are good for you and what your systems likes. Stick to this diet for a period of time and you will learn to enjoy it, not just because you want to, but the gut-brain system will be re-trained and you will start dreaming about grilled salmon with mushrooms instead of pasta with cream sauce!

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