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Could You Have an Eating Disorder and Not Know?

Posted Mar 03 2010 8:36pm

Have you seen the movie Sixth Sense?  Remember the creepy part when the kid says, “I see dead people…and sometimes they don’t know they are dead.”  Well, that is my situation.  Only I see people with eating disorders, everywhere, all around me.

Most of them don’t know they have one.  That is because disordered eating and disordered body thoughts are pretty commonplace in our culture.  Just because something is practically the norm doesn’t mean it is healthy.

I have a colleague,  Jessica Setnick , who was asked her opinion on the pro-eating disorder sites.  I’m sure the interviewer was expecting her to burst with outrage.  Instead she made an important point:  what you see in every women’s magazine are the same things you see on those sites.

Those sites are set up to help people engage in their eating disorders. News flash…the magazines set women up to have the same thinking, only they don’t know it is a problem. It is hard to find a magazine that does not have dozens of photoshopped images or at least one article on diet (often disguised as ‘healthy eating’).


On that note, consider this:

  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full syndrome eating disorders.*

I can certainly identify with the issue of the unknown eating disorder.  As a teenager I was obsessive about eating healthy and exercising.  I thought this was how you maintain a healthy weight.  I believed that without this hyper-vigilance, I would be doomed to out-of-control weight gain.

It wasn’t until I began working in eating disorders that I could see I had been engaging in unhealthy behavior.  So then I got to thinking…how many others are living with an eating disorder and don’t know it?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1.  Are you dissatisfied with your eating patterns?

2.  Do you believe you’re fat when others say you’re not?

3.  Does your weight affect the way you feel about yourself?

4.  Do you ever eat in secret?

5.  Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?

6.  Have you recently lost over 14 lb in three months?

7.  Do you make yourself sick or exercise because you feel too full?

8.  Would you say that food/weight dominates your life?

If you answer yes to 2 or more of the above questions, you may be struggling with an eating disorder—regardless of your weight. The mental and physical impact of all types of eating disorders can have grave consequences. If you or someone you know is struggling with any of the above eating disorder symptoms,   seek help immediately .

If you don’t know you have an eating disorder, you won’t seek treatment for it.  Even if that doesn’t result in death,  a life lived with an eating disorder is barely living at all.  It is time to take your life back (even if you never knew it was lost).

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