You may be asking yourself this very question if you’ve been struggling to enjoy food like you once did. “Is it normal to feel this way? Or am I struggling with something bigger?”

Eating disorders are complicated and dangerous mental health conditions. If you haven’t been feeling like yourself around food and are worried that you may have an eating disorder, you’ve already taken a helpful first step towards recovery by searching for this blog.

Read on to learn more about who is at risk of developing an eating disorder, understand the signs and symptoms, and take a free eating disorder assessment to help you determine your next steps.

 

Am I at risk for developing an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are more common in individuals with certain psychological traits.

You may be at risk of developing an eating disorder if…

  • You identify as a perfectionist and/or a people-pleaser, often setting very high standards for yourself and feeling more comfortable following strict rules
  • You struggle with anxiety, feel uncomfortable or self-conscious in social situations, or have obsessive compulsive tendencies
  • You have poor body image, low self-esteem, or low self-worth

 

Eating disorders are associated with dieting for weight loss.

You may be at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder if…

  • You have a history of dieting and trying to control your body size with diet and exercise; Under-fueling your body, intentional or not, can put you at risk of an eating disorder

 

 

do i have an eating disorder

Eating disorders are thought to be hereditary and run in families.

You may be at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder if…

  • A family member or close relative has/had an eating disorder or other mental health condition like substance abuse, alcoholism, or depression

 

Eating disorders can also be triggered by your environment and social setting.

You may be at greater risk of developing an eating disorder if…

  • You have friends and family who are currently dieting or trying to lose weight, encouraging you to do so as well
  • You’ve been teased or bullied about your body or size
  • You’ve been told by a doctor or someone else that your weight or BMI is not “healthy”
  • You have few friends and little social support, and feel isolated in your daily life
  • You have a history of trauma in other areas of your life

Do I have an eating disorder if my weight is “normal” to “overweight”?

Yes, you can have an eating disorder at any body size or weight. Your body size does not determine how “sick” you are. It is a dangerous misconception that only people of certain body sizes are at risk or will develop an eating disorder, and may prevent those with eating disorders from seeking help when they need it or from being properly diagnosed.

 

What are the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder?

Although eating disorders can present differently in different people, there are signs and symptoms that you should be aware of, including:

Changes in thoughts and behaviors around food, like:

  • Cutting out food groups or foods that you once loved because they are no longer “healthy” for you
  • Being extra aware of nutrition labels and feeling fearful if a food has too much fat, sugar, carbs, etc; establishing a small subset of foods that feel “safe” and eating these almost exclusively
  • Struggling to eat out at restaurants, studying menus for nutrition information and choosing only the lowest calorie option
  • Skipping meals, finding reasons not to eat with friends and family, or eating in secret
  • Cooking or baking for others, but feeling like you can’t eat the foods you make
  • Suddenly switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet
  • Finding the feeling of being hungry or “empty” to be desirable, feeling proud of yourself for missing meals despite being hungry

 

Changes in exercise behaviors, like:

  • Feeling compelled to exercise after eating regardless of the time of day, fullness, or energy levels
  • Adopting a new, highly regimented workout routine, despite having little interest in exercise in the past
  • Feeling extremely guilty for taking a day off from working out, even if injured or fatigued

 

Changes in thoughts or attitude, like:

  • Feeling preoccupied with thoughts of your body, checking the mirror more often for evidence of body changes, feeling hyper-critical of “problem areas”
  • Weighing yourself several times a day or trying on the same pair of pants to assess changes in your body, feeling extremely guilty if your weight has gone up or the clothing feels too tight
  • Becoming irritable or annoyed quickly, especially if someone challenges you on your food or exercise behaviors

 

Changes in your body, like:

  • Having dryer skin, more brittle hair and nails
  • Feeling cold all the time, even when others are comfortable
  • Feeling low energy during the day, yet being unable to fall or stay asleep at night
  • Feeling extremely full after eating only a small amount of food
  • No longer getting a regular period

 

These types of thoughts and behaviors may be difficult to identify in yourself. You may have even been praised by others for eating less, exercising more, making “healthier” choices, and showing “self-control” around food. Despite praise from others, these thoughts and behaviors could be a sign that you need help.

To learn more about the types of eating disorders, and the difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating, check out our blog 5 Different Types of Eating Disorders And What to Do If You Think You Have One

 

 

Do I have an eating disorder? A self-assessment quiz

The EAT-26 assessment is a helpful tool to determine where you are struggling with your eating behaviors. If you have identified several eating disorder risk factors, behaviors and thoughts in yourself while reading this blog, we encourage you to complete this assessment. Upon completing the quiz, we suggest you schedule an appointment with one of our expert eating disorder dietitians who will help you review your results and assist you in determining the next steps in your recovery.

Nutrition Behavior Screening Tool for Eating Disorders

 

 

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Kristin Jenkins, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Kristin specializes in eating disorders and intuitive eating, and is an advocate for weight-inclusive care for all her clients.