According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) “35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives,” meaning that it’s critical for young girls to look out for the signs of eating disorders if they want to live a long, healthy life. Eating disorders aren’t produced out of vanity; they’re a type of illness that can be treated with the help of medical professionals, along with personal hard work and determination. You should try to be aware of these signs of eating disorders in you, your family members and friends, especially if you’re a teenage girl.
1. Body Dysmorphia
Body dysmorphia, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder, is one of the symptoms and signs of eating disorders. BDD is a chronic mental illness that causes people to obsess over their image. While checking the mirror and inspecting your body is natural, obsessing over your body or face to the extent that it’s all you ever think about is dangerous. There’s a link between BDD and anorexia nervosa too, so if you ever feel crippled or consumed by thoughts about your body, or listen to a friend criticize herself ceaselessly, don’t stay quiet. Tell a parent or doctor now so that you can begin preventing a life-threatening eating disorder later.
2. Low Self-Esteem
Everyone doubts themselves sometimes, but there’s a difference between doubting yourself and despising yourself. With low self-esteem, no one can successfully convince you that you’re special, valued, and wonderful. If you know someone like this, or ever feel like you have extremely low self-esteem, take note and speak up, before an eating disorder takes control of your life.
3. Extreme Fear of Weight Gain
If every time you eat a brownie, you hop on the scale and then run seven miles, it’s probably because you have a pretty extreme fear of gaining weight. But during your teenage years, weight gain is practically unavoidable. With all of the changes going on inside of your body, you’re bound to put on at least a few extra pounds. So if you fear the natural changes your body must undergo to keep you healthy, you’ll be on a path toward a destructive eating disorder. Keep this in mind next time you notice a fear of weight gain, and tell a trusted adult about your feelings.
4. Visiting Pro-anorexia/ Bulimia Websites
I really wish these websites didn’t exist, because they only encourage harmful eating habits. But if you often find yourself searching the web for pro-eating disorder pages, you need to stop before you take things too far. Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice; they’re dangerous mental disorders that can be life-threatening. There’s nothing glamourous or entertaining about these websites, so please, for your own health, avoid them.
5. Obsessive Thinking
Body dysmorphia isn’t the only cause of obsessive thinking; you may obsess over calories or “bad” foods too. If you think about these things more than you think about school, friends, the future and other typical, healthy concerns, you shouldn’t disregard it it. Obsessive thinking may be a warning sign of an eating disorder and you should try your best to nip it in the bud, with the help of friends and family.
6. Lack of Control
Anorexia and bulimia aren’t the only eating disorders out there; binge eating is another you should be wary of. A harbinger of this disorder can be a lack of control in your food consumption. We all pig out sometimes, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so, but binging on a 3000 calorie meal, which far exceeds most people’s recommended daily calorie consumption, isn’t wise. Everything should be eaten in moderation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you find yourself or someone you love binging more often than normal, voice your concerns.
7. Secret Eating
When you’re little, you sneak cookies and cupcakes when your mom isn’t looking. But once you enter your teenage years, eating in secret means something other than trying to avoid a time out. Just like sufferers of bulimia vomit in secret because they don’t want anyone to find out, there are “secret eaters” who eat large quantities of food in secret, because they’re ashamed of what people might think. If you eat in secret often, or have found a loved one binging in secret, talk to a trusted adult about this bad habit that can be a sign of an unsafe eating disorder.
Eating disorders are no trivial matter, especially for teens today who are exposed to countless images of the “ideal body” and put under stress to be something they’re not. If you ever detect these signs in you or someone you care about, let your concerns be heard. If you have any further concerns regarding eating disorders, visit NEDA's website at nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information. What other signs of an eating disorder do you recommend teens look out for?