A Closer Look at Anorexia and Bulimia

Eating disorders represent serious conditions that lead to many adverse effects on our bodies. People suffering from Anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by cutting down drastically on calories and even sometimes by purposely exercising too much. On the other hand, one suffering from Bulimia resorts to vomiting and over-exercising to avoid weight gain after binge eating. Those are two types of eating disorders that commonly affect young adults, in particular women.

The following article focuses on the myriad of warning signs often associated with Anorexia and Bulimia.

BEHAVIORAL WARNING SIGNS

Restricted eating

Restricted eating or dieting can be an indicator of an eating disorder. Anyone who seems to be on a rigorous diet and appears to be excessively restricting what they eat should be a cause for concern.

Skipping meals

Rather than simply restricting their intake at mealtimes, people suffering from Anorexia and Bulimia will skip meals altogether. If you do become aware of meal skipping, it is a potential warning sign that should be explored.

Scheduling activities during lunch

A hectic schedule during lunchtime can leave one without time to eat their lunch – or act as a distraction to stop them from thinking about eating if they are forcing themselves to fast. Like many of the warning signs, lunchtime activities alone do not indicate an eating disorder but can be an indicator that helps form part of a bigger picture.

Strange behavior around food

People with eating disorders will often have strange rituals that they carry out during meal times. They may, for example, cut their food up very small, or eat their food in a particular order. They may also experience distress around food and, in more severe examples, may even suffer from panic attacks.

Wearing baggy clothes

People with very low self-esteem about their appearance will often hide their bodies under baggy clothes. It is also widespread for anorexics to hide their weight loss under oversized clothes.

Wearing several layers of clothing

As we discussed earlier, anorexics tend to feel very cold all the time due to the lack of fat. For this reason, you’ll often see them wearing multiple layers, even when the weather doesn’t feel that cold.

Excessive chewing of gum/drinking of water

Chewing gum, and drinking can be used both to cover the smell of vomit in a bulimic and as a distraction for any eating disorders sufferer trying to prevent themselves from eating.

Increasing isolation/loss of friends

People with eating disorders will often distance themselves from their fellows as they become more and more mired in their disorder. At school, you should be particularly concerned if previously cheerful pupils appear to be distancing themselves from their peers, mainly if they are exhibiting other warning signs or fit into any of the at-risk categories we discussed before.

Believe they’re fat when they’re not

This is a classic symptom of eating disorders. Those with eating disorders often see themselves as if looking in a fairground mirror that makes them appear fat the whole time. Individuals of healthy weight who express concerns about being fat could be a cause for concern.

Secretive behavior

Eating disorders are quite secretive diseases. Bulimia, in particular, usually involves secretive eating and purging. If you note an increase in secretive behavior, it shouldn’t be dismissed.

Visits the toilet immediately after meals

Many eating disorders, sufferers, especially bulimics, will visit the toilet immediately after a meal to vomit. If you note this pattern, it should be a cause for concern.

PHYSICAL WARNING SIGNS

Weight loss

This is probably the most staggering warning sign to look out for. Someone who rapidly loses a large amount of weight should be followed upon. Occasionally there will be an alternative medical explanation, but in many cases, it is a classic symptom of Anorexia.

Weight fluctuation

Young people suffering from compulsive eating may steadily gain weight, and bulimia sufferers may experience frequent fluctuations in weight depending on where in the bulimic cycle they are. As a rule of thumb, any noticeable changes in weight, whether up or down, are a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored.

Dizziness, tiredness, fainting

Dizziness, fatigue, and fainting can all be caused by either anorexia or bulimia symptoms, as both conditions mostly leave the sufferer malnourished.

Feeling Cold

Anorexics tend to feel very cold all the time as they don’t have the layer of fat that most of us rely on to insulate them.

Hair becomes dull or lifeless

Dull and lifeless hair is a general indicator of poor diet and may be the result of Bulimia or Anorexia. In severe cases, hair loss can also occur.

Swollen cheeks

Bulimics who regularly induce vomiting sometimes suffer swollen glands, so the cheeks/face may appear swollen. Particularly soon after an incident of vomiting – the same puffy look that we all suffer from when we’re sick with stomach flu.

Callused knuckles

Many bulimics will make themselves sick using their fingers. When done regularly, this can result in callused knuckles.

Sore throats/mouth ulcers

These are more side effects of repeated vomiting.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay can occur in bulimics who regularly induce vomiting as the acid in the vomit erodes their teeth.

Very often, those suffering from eating disorders face embarrassment when they wish to open themselves about such issues. If we come across a friend or relative with an eating disorder, we can still provide support by encouraging them to seek help from a medical practitioner. 

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