Eating Disorders

 

 

Are My Behaviors Normal?

It is normal to experience from time to time fluctuations or changes in your appetite that would cause you to eat less, or more, food. For example, when you are feeling stressed, sad, angry or worried, you may be more or less likely to eat. Everybody has unique patterns in their appetite and eating habits. There may be times in the day when you feel less hungry (e. g. in the morning) or when you feel more hungry (e. g. in the evening). There also may be times in your life when you want to change your eating habits to help you lose, or even gain, weight, perhaps to achieve a healthier body weight, to improve your athletic performance, or generally feel better.

Should I be Worried?

If you find that you are consistently eating less than you used to, or more than you used to, and you are unhappy about your weight or eating habits, this could be a sign that something is wrong. If you are experiencing any of the following signs, you might be experiencing an eating problem that you may want to talk about and get help with:

  • You are losing weight without trying to and are feeling sad, numb, worried, or exhausted all the time
  • You are gaining weight without trying to and are feeling sad, numb, worried, or exhausted all the time
  • You have completely lost your appetite and there does not appear to be an explanation for it
  • You eat a large amount of food in one sitting and then throw it up or use laxatives to get rid of it
  • You have lost a large amount of weight and are now below your recommended body weight
  • You have lost a large amount of weight and (for females: ) have missed three periods in a row
  • You are very afraid of gaining weight or becoming “fat”, even though people tell you are thin
  • You feel like you have no control over how much food you eat (like you can’t stop eating)
  • You worry a lot about your body size, shape, or weight, and spend a lot of time thinking about this
  • You often skip meals so you can lose weight


 
 

Sometimes medical conditions can cause changes in your appetite and eating habits; if you aren’t aware of any medical conditions, it is important to check this out with your doctor first. Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can also cause changes in your appetite.

If you have noticed extreme changes in your eating habits that get in the way of your day to day life, and people tell you they are worried about your eating habits and the way that you talk about your body, these may be signs of an eating disorder, such as Anorexia or Bulimia. Males can suffer from eating disorders, just as females can. Anorexia Nervosa is the technical term for a condition in which a person severely limits what he or she eats, cannot maintain a normal body weight, has an intense fear of gaining weight, and sees his or her body as being much larger or heavier than it really is. Bulimia Nervosa is the technical term for a condition in which a person (who is normally within a healthy weight range) “binges” or eats large quantities of food at single sittings, and uses unhealthy strategies such as vomiting, fasting, laxatives or exercising to prevent weight gain. Some people don’t exactly fit into either of these anorexia or bulimia categories, but may still have an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are serious conditions that are difficult to fix on your own. If you feel that you may fit the description of either of these conditions, it is important that you talk to someone, preferably a doctor, as soon as possible. Only a doctor can diagnose and properly treat an eating disorder. Without treatment, these conditions can lead to more serious health concerns. But, it is also important to know that they can be corrected with the right help.

 

Tips for Prevention and Wellness

There are several strategies that can help you deal with significant changes to your appetite and eating habits. The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor. As mentioned earlier, medical conditions can cause changes to your appetite. If there is no medical condition causing the changes, then your doctor can also speak to you about other things that may be causing the problem, such as mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, or in extreme cases, eating disorders. Your doctor is the best person to tell you whether or not your eating habits and weight loss or gain are concerning. You doctor will also know how best to help.

If your doctor isn’t worried about your health but does feel that you should make some changes to your eating habits, it may be helpful to talk to a nutritionist, dietician, or public health nurse to learn healthier eating habits. Your doctor should be able to refer you to someone if he/she cannot help you develop a plan. The Region of Peel’s Public Health Department offers many helpful resources in relation to healthy eating. If poor body-image or self-esteem is getting in the way of healthy eating habits, talking to a counselor or school social worker can also help.

Dieting can be dangerous territory, because it can lead to becoming preoccupied or “obsessed” with weight, weight loss, and a desire to look a certain way or achieve a weight that is unrealistic. Many diets don’t work or lead to people regaining the weight once they stop dieting. A better way to think about losing weight is to simply have a goal to develop a healthier lifestyle, which means creating life-long habits that don’t stop after you lose the weight. Healthy eating and exercise are habits that should become permanent features of everyone’s life. Most importantly, though, you should focus on your strengths and what makes you attractive and unique. If you have a hard time thinking of things you like about yourself on both the inside and outside, it may be time to focus on building your self-esteem first, before you try to fix it by focusing on your weight. Feeling good about yourself starts from the inside.

 

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