What are eating disorders?There are several types of eating disorder, including bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating. If you’re not sure whether you have an eating disorder, there are lots of symptoms to look out for:
- Feelings of guilt after you’ve eaten.
- Binge eating in secret.
- Being obsessed with food and your weight.
- Making yourself vomit after eating.
- Over exercising.
There are many reasons why people adopt eating disorders, such as low self-esteem, being overweight or depression. Emotional and social issues can often be caused by the media and social media presenting unrealistic perceptions and images of what society expects us to look like.
When we become so obsessed with food and our weight, we might start to see our physical appearance in an unrealistic light, which is completely different to how others see us. This is called body dysmorphia and is very often linked to eating disorders.
Effects of eating disordersEating disorders are extremely damaging to our mental and physical health and can cause worrying problems such as: low blood pressure, irregular periods in women, low moods, anxiety, depression, tiredness, lack of energy, constipation and bloating. Over time, these symptoms can lead to more serious health concerns, including: heart failure, seizures, diabetes, hypothermia, kidney failure and, in some instances, even death.
The charity Beat Eating Disorders provides further information about eating disorders and offers advice and techniques to help make things better.
In order to tackle eating disorders, you must first recognise that you have an issue. Beat has a great page about the different eating disorders and their symptoms here as well as what you can do to get help.
However, in the meantime, there are ways in which you can help yourself if you're concerned you might have an eating disorder.
- Talk to someone. Whether it’s a close friend or family member, don’t keep it to yourself. Eating disorders can bring about feelings of guilt and shame but remember, it is an illness and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Asking for help is a brave thing to do and there are lots of people who are willing to help without judging you.
- Undertake a healthy amount of exercise as this releases endorphins and will help to make you feel good about yourself.
- Try not to calorie count and avoid weighing yourself every day. Instead, plan a healthy balanced diet and try to stick to regular mealtimes to keep a healthy routine.
- Avoid social media and any other forms of media that might encourage you to compare yourself to unnatural and digitally enhanced images of men and women.
- Practise affirmation exercises that make you feel more positive about yourself. These types of exercises can quieten your inner critic and make you more appreciative of your good qualities.
- Be kind and patient with yourself. Unfortunately, there isn’t an overnight cure for eating disorders and it can be a lengthy healing process where you might relapse from time to time. Remember, this is normal and try to focus on your positive achievements.
- Recognise and make a list of any situations or emotions that might trigger thoughts and behaviours related to your eating disorder. Are there any ways you can avoid certain situations or are there coping mechanisms you can put into place that will help you overcome them?
By accepting you have a problem and by asking for help, you have already made a huge step forward and you should be proud of yourself. Make sure you have a strong support network around you and focus on your ongoing recovery.
For more about eating disorders and body image issues, visit our information page >