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Eating disorders are a type of illness that is characterized by extreme emotions or behaviors surrounding food or weight concerns. The most common eating disorders are anorexia (restricted energy intake and fear of gaining weight) and bulimia (cycles of binging and purging). Eating disorders can be very dangerous with physical effects including low or high blood pressure, serious electrolyte imbalances, loss of bone density, heart failure, and more.

These disorders are often highly publicized and see a lot of stigma and misinformation. There is no easy way to diagnose an eating disorder by a person's weight or appearance. In truth, eating disorders are multifaceted illnesses that occur in all race, gender, or other demographic areas. 

Recovery from an eating disorder can be difficult, but it is possible with help. If you know someone who may have an eating disorder, the best thing you can do is express your concerns with them and encourage them to seek treatment. Try not to argue and direct the conversation away from the person's weight. Find tips on what to say in the Family and Friends section of the NEDA website.

Signs of an Eating Disorder

  • Obsessive thoughts and behaviors surrounding food which could include being secretive, developing rituals, or strong avoidance of social gatherings where food is involved

  • Excessive exercise or abuse of various dietary pills/supplements 

  • Repeated and frequent comments in reference to weight and size of self and others

  • Distortion of body image

  • Significant or sudden weight loss or gain

Coping Tips for Eating Disorders

  • Start each day with a positive thought about yourself.

  • Be mindful of your emotions and try to fully experience them before reacting. Journal or talk to someone about your emotions. 

  • Learn a new skill or focus on a craft after eating.

  • Make a plan to help cope with difficult situations like holidays or dinner parties, and discuss it with a trusted family member, friend, or mental health professional.

  • Change the subject when someone talks about food or weight.

Online Resources

Hy-Vee Dietitians 

Eating Disorders: Text
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