Weight loss has long been a goal for many people. Add in “stress eating” related to COVID-19, and you have a lot of people complaining about having put on a “COVID 15” and wanting to lose it as quickly as possible.
For most people, wanting to lose weight is a perfectly healthy goal, as long as they go about it in sensible ways that don’t endanger well-being. That means eating a mix of foods that are good for you and steering away from too much junk food, reducing your portion sizes, getting intentional movement, and not trying the new fad diet.
But for other people, a focus on dieting is symptom of disordered eating, which simply stated is not having a health relationship with food and/or your body. It can also mean taking internal anger out on yourself. It can be a way to show others that you’re not ok and it can also be a way for you to exercise what little control you feel like you need.
Often, people who have eating disorders don’t even realize there’s a problem. There’s a fine line between wanting to slim down and starving your body to lose more weight than is healthy. While the symptoms of disordered eating vary among individuals, and not everyone with an eating disorder will display the same symptoms, these are among the most common:
- any behaviors suggesting weight loss and dieting are the person’s biggest concerns
- being preoccupied with weight, eating, dieting, and food choices
- skipping entire meals or eating just a few bites
- compulsively counting calories or weighing yourself frequently
- overly concerned with body image and frequently looking in mirrors or avoiding them all together
- visible fluctuations in weight (both gaining and losing)
- becoming uncomfortable when eating around others
- refusing to eat certain categories of foods previously enjoyed
- menstrual irregularities, such as missed periods
- unusual stomach cramps and other gastrointestinal complaints
- dental problems and tooth discolorations from vomiting
- mood swings and concentration problems
- secrecy, avoidance and sleeping irregularities
- increased anxiety, anger or depression
If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from disordered eating, it’s important to get help as quickly as possible. The sooner someone with an eating disorder starts receiving professional help, the more likely they’ll recover successfully. Talking with a doctor or professional counselor with experience in disordered eating is a good start. If you need more information or guidance, contact us today. And please remember, it isn’t about the food and the numbers, it’s about what they mean to the person suffering.
Tracy Teipen is a certified Christian counselor, focusing her work at Care to Change with teens and adults who struggle with food and body image issues.