These 4 seemingly harmless eating disorders can go unnoticed. Watch out for these symptoms

Updated on:7 February 2020, 15:07pm IST
Inculcating a healthy eating habit is good, but you got to pay attention if it's turning into eating disorders as they can have serious health implications.
Sonakshi Kohli
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You need to pay attention to eating disorders that can impact your health significantly. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

It’s absolutely crazy how we’re all so obsessed with getting perfect bodies these days that anything that involves going easy on yourself and your body might seem absurd. Why do we say this? Well, because aren’t we living in the constant fear of gaining weight and cutting down calories and food—which, by the way is the new “normal”, or so, it seems.

But just to remind you guys, unhealthy eating habits for any reason are what you need to beware of because they might seem like an easy way to lose weight or feel better about yourself, but they can result in some serious health complications.

In fact, you also need to pay close attention to your eating patterns because you could be becoming susceptible to eating disorders. Here, we list seven of those subtle-but-serious eating disorders you need to be paying attention to: 

1. Anorexia nervosa
According to the American National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), this disorder is characterised by extreme weight loss; difficulty in maintaining an appropriate body weight for a particular height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image.

People suffering from this condition could drastically restrict their calorie intake, exercise compulsively, and may try to compensate for eating via forced vomiting or laxatives.

eating disorders
Giving up on your favourite foods might make you feel sad and lead to eating disorders. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Emotional and behavioural symptoms

  • Obsession with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Resorting to layering on clothes to hide weight loss/stay warm
  • Negative body-image expressed through comments about feeling “fat”/overweight despite losing weight frequently
  • Running away from situations involving food and avoiding mealtime
  • Maintaining a rigid exercise regimen, which involves working out despite fatigue/bad weather conditions/illness
  • Expressing constant need to burn off the calories taken in

Physical symptoms

  • Stomach cramps, and other gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
  • Fatigue/dizziness/fainting due to nutritional deficiencies
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Brittle and thin hair, weak nails, and dry and dull skin
  • Cavities/discoloration of teeth due to excessive vomiting
  • Poor immunity and wound-healing ability

2. Bulimia nervosa
While anorexia is all about eating less or not eating at all, this one is characterised by repeated episodes of binge eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. This is followed by inappropriate behaviour to compensate for the calories gained in binges via self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, fasting, and/or excessive exercise.

eating disorders
Not all weight loss diets are going to be your saviour. They can lead to development of eating disorders. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Emotional and behavioural symptoms

  • Expressing or facing constant fear of gaining weight
  • Disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time/lots of empty wrappers and containers indicating consumption of large amounts of food
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics
  • Discomfort while eating around others
  • Heavy reliance on harmful fad diets, which lead to a quick weight loss by eliminating certain food groups completely from the diet and are harmful in the long run
  • Stealing/hoarding food in strange places
  • Hiding the body with baggy clothes
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
  • Secret recurring episodes of binge eating
  • Extreme mood swings

Physical symptoms
While most physical symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, weight fluctuations, menstrual irregularities, gastrointestinal issues, weak immunity, and deteriorating quality of hair, skin, and nails remain the same as that of anorexia nervosa, certain physical changes might be unique to bulimia.

  • Bloating due to fluid retention
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area along with some discolouration of teeth
  • Self-injury (cutting and other forms of self-harm without suicidal intention)
  • Substance abuse
  • Impulsivity (risky sexual behaviours, shoplifting, etc.)

3. Binge eating
The fact that this recently-recognised eating disorder also involves episodes of losing control and eating till you get uncomfortably full, may make it sound like bulimia nervosa. However, in this case, binge eating is not always followed by unhealthy compensatory measures such as forced vomiting and use of laxatives. But, it is surely followed by guilt, shame, and distress.

Symptoms
The physical and behavioural symptoms of the binge eating disorder (BED) are more or less similar to that of bulimia nervosa as both the conditions involve eating beyond necessary.

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4. Orthorexia
The term coined in the 1980s basically indicates an individual’s obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating, which often results in them damaging their own well-being instead.

Symptoms

  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels on food items
  • Sticking strictly to a narrow food group that is deemed as healthy
  • Spending too much time in meal planning
  • Obsession with food and health blogs on social media
  • Unusual interest in what others are eating

Finally…
Obviously, if you don’t pay heed to the symptoms and seek expert advice and supervision, your condition could get serious and result in nutritional deficiencies and some life-threatening diseases too if matters get out of hand completely.

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Sonakshi Kohli Sonakshi Kohli

Twenty kilos down and struggling to maintain the weight loss by preaching healthy eating, while eating unhealthy every now and then.