Some of the signs you have an eating disorder are quite obvious: a huge drop in weight, a tendency to skip meals, or vomiting after meals. However, binge eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia can reveal themselves in other subtle ways too. One thing that is certain: the body will try physically and mentally to send out warning signs that something is wrong. While you might not pick up on one or two of these symptoms by themselves, multiple symptoms are warning signs you that have eating disorder issues and should seek medical attention sooner than later. You could be causing irreversible damage to vital organs, or this eating disorder could even kill you.
1. Swollen Cheeks
One of the many signs you have eating disorder issues is the appearance of swollen cheeks. When persistent swelling appears near your jaw line, it can be an early warning sign of bulimia, and this is a good indication some form of purging may be present. Unlike those who suffer from anorexia, people with eating disorders like bulimia can often maintain a normal weight, or even be above normal, but the purging will often give way to the swollen cheeks regardless of the overall weight. The reason the cheeks become swollen is because the salivary glands, known as the parotid glands, are swelling. Depending how often purging occurs, the swelling may occur at different stages of the eating disorder.
2. Fear of Eating in Public
People who have an eating disorder tend to feel self-conscious or shy eating in public because they are overly concerned with body image. You get that overwhelming feeling that everyone in the room is watching you, judging you, and it causes you to lock down and stop eating. By this point, it is nerve-wracking to simply eat at all outside the comfort of your home. When you have an eating disorder, your anxiety levels skyrocket at the thought of having to eat in a public setting. So if forced to be around other people to eat, you tend to eat very small amounts and then rush to get back home to binge the rest of the day. That guilty feeling after eating when others are present is a clear sign something is wrong.
3. Feeling Cold Always
As you begin to deprive the body of food, malnutrition begins to set in. That malnutrition and accompanying low body fat that acts like an insulator causes the feeling of being cold all the time. When temperatures are mild and you are wearing heavy sweaters or jackets and still complaining that it is frigid, this could be a sign that you have an eating disorder. The body is designed to store fat to help to protect the body from the cold weather, but when you starve yourself, you decrease the stored up body fat and become more susceptible to the colder weather. On the extreme end, as your body weight continues to drop, you begin to have difficulties maintaining your core temperature, leading to symptoms of hypothermia.
4. Eating Rituals
Another of the warning signs you have eating disorder issues is developing compulsive behaviors around the way that you eat your meals. These eating rituals are similar to those seen with people suffering from OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and become more obvious over time. Sitting down to eat a meal, you might notice that each time you begin to cut your food into tiny morsels or begin arranging certain foods in certain areas of your plate, or you eat and chew your food for a predetermined amount of time. Counting your chews before you swallow and feeling fuller sooner are all signs you are headed down a very dangerous road towards an eating disorder. These can be associated with anorexia or the earlier stages of binge eating disorder. These new food rituals are a tactic to avoid eating, distracting yourself to appear busy at the dinner table when all the time you are simply cutting, moving, and then rearranging the food.
5. Poor Body Image
One of the key factors in any eating disorder is an obsessive or negative opinion about your body image. Many of those around you may be concerned that you have been saying negative things about your body more frequently. These comments sound like, “I’m getting so fat,” “I really have no self control,” and “I feel sloppy today”. On the other end of the spectrum, you begin to misinterpret compliments from others as attacks on your appearance. When someone says you fill out that dress nicely or that you look different today, you immediately assume they are calling you fat. Body insecurity emerges or gets increasingly worse as your eating disorder worsens. People are brainwashed as children to look up to princesses and celebrities who are extremely thin in appearance, and this can carry over to adults.
6. Excessive Exercising
One of the areas in which you will notice symptoms of an eating disorder is in the way you exercise. Referred to medically as exercise anorexia, exercising to the point of exhaustion, especially after eating, can signal issues with different types of eating disorders. The issue here is being able to define “excessive” when it comes to exercising, because many people tend to push themselves harder than others. There are a couple red flags that can help you to identify serious concerns with your eating issues. One, do you panic if you miss or are unable to exercise during the day or after eating? Two, do you feel the need to exercise even if you are feeling sick or after being injured? That compulsive feeling to exercise is a clear indicator that you have taken things too far and should seek help.
In addition to these six warning signs you have eating disorder issues, pay close attention to physical signs like a sensitivity to the cold, loss of menstrual periods, frequent vomiting, dizziness, and fainting. There are also psychological symptoms like fear of gaining weight, preoccupation with food, complaining of being fat, sensitivity to criticism, anxiety at meal times, increased irritability, and feelings of loss of control. Speaking with a medical professional can help identify the underlying cause and get you back to healthy eating again.