The relationship you have with food is probably more complex than you think. Eating disorders are extremely complex, and they come in many different shapes and forms. From having a chocolate bar when you’ve had a bad day to extreme starvation matched with extreme binge eating, every aspect of your diet is vital and can be life-threatening in some cases. Overt symptoms of disorders do not show overnight. Early detection that you have an issue with the way you perceive food can help you overcome problems before things get out of hand.

Changes in Eating Habits
Because eating disorders are so diverse, different people will change their eating habits in different ways. Some warning signs are common to most people. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Never fully finishing a meal, and throwing away food excessively.
  • Taking a sudden interest in food and preparation, and asking questions about how food was prepared, what was added to it etc.
  • Constantly chewing gum and drinking diet soft drinks.
  • Counting calories and choosing lower calorie foods despite the health benefits or risks. (Remember to count nutrients not calories.)
  • Making excuses for not eating when in groups – ‘I ate earlier’ or ‘I am going to eat later’.
  • A sudden liking to foods with a strong flavour e.g. mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, and vinegar.
  • Excessive use of laxative, diuretics, and diet pills.
  • An obsession with the scales and your weight fluctuations.

Food Perception
A focus on calorie counting and rejecting foods you willingly ate in the past is one of the biggest signs of an unhealthy relationship with food. You may start classifying foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, safe or unsafe. Putting foods in specific boxes and classifying certain nutrients as villains are the first warning signs.

Self Perception
Low self-esteem and eating disorders come hand in hand. Constantly doubting yourself and putting yourself down, even away from anything food related. It’s likely that if you have an eating disorder you will be dissatisfied with the way you look and the things you eat, but it does not just stop there. This dissatisfaction runs beyond body size and weight, shape and figure. Learning to be happy with yourself and knowing your self worth can make a huge difference to your relationship with food.

The bright side is, eating disorders can be successfully treated, especially when they are caught early. Little can be gained, and much lost, if you take a wait-and-see attitude towards this problem. Get help as soon as possible. Speak to a health professional or even a loved one if ever you feel your relationship with food is an unhealthy one.