If you are reading this, you are likely concerned about yourself or someone you love. Perhaps you are wondering where is the line between watching what you eat and having a full-blown eating disorder? And how do you know when you or someone you love needs help?
Maybe you have already recovered from an eating disorder but feel yourself sliding backward. Or you might be somewhere in between, struggling with food and trying to find your footing through the murky path towards recovery. What are normal struggles and how do you know when it is time to reach out for more support?
The further you sink into an eating disorder, the more disconnected you become from others.
It can occur so gradually you don’t even realize it is happening. Conversely, it might feel more like quicksand; only a few steps in, and your head is practically covered.
How do you know you need help for an eating disorder?
So, how do you know if your own eating has crossed the line? Can you somehow prevent the descent or relapse into the hell of an eating disorder?
If you are wondering if you need help for an eating disorder, ask yourself these questions and answer honestly:
Do you control your food, or does your food control you?
If you had to stop following a specific way of eating tomorrow and start listening to your body- what would that feel like? Would you be overcome with grief and shame? Would anxiety overwhelm you to the point of general distress? And how do you feel about eating food you did not prepare?
Does the thought of not controlling what is on your plate cause panic?
How would you react?
If you woke up tomorrow and your pants were too tight to button, how would you react? Answer this question honestly. Would you be upset momentarily but then get on with your day? Or would thoughts about your weight fill your head for the next several days? Would you feel compelled to change your eating behaviors dramatically? Does the idea of buying clothing in a larger size cause panic? Do you believe going up a size means you are less worthy of love?
Does food affect your social interactions?
Do you avoid others because of food? Have you said no to social situations because it was centered around eating? Have you felt isolated and alone because you withdraw completely? Are you so anxious eating with others that you avoid it altogether? Can you eat around others when they aren’t eating too? Does eating in public cause you an intense amount of anxiety?
How is the grocery store?
How long does it take you to grocery shop? Does your blood pressure increase as soon as you contemplate what to put in your cart? Have you ever gotten so stuck in your head reading labels and questioning what to buy that you literally lost track of time and blocked other shoppers? Or found yourself crying in the yogurt aisle because you did not know which kind to buy? Do you have overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame when you buy certain groceries? Or do you feel superior when you stock up only on foods you label as “healthy”?
Are you really there?
When you eat around others, are you able to be present in the conversation? Or are you so focused in your head about what you are and are not going to eat that you are not even present?
Do you feel like you are underwater watching everyone else from a distance?
Do you feel alone? Does it seem like no one else could possibly understand where you are let alone reach you?
Are you harming yourself?
Do you engage in behaviors you know are harmful physically to your body, but you continue them anyway? Have you promised yourself you will stop a behavior only to keep repeating it? Does it feel like you are stuck on a merry-go-round but you want to get off?
How do you spend your time?
Do you spend an enormous amount of time every day focusing on your appearance, measuring your size, worrying about what you will and will not eat, and engaging in disordered behaviors? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy?
Are you constantly playing the comparison game?
When you walk into a room, do you immediately compare your body to everyone else in the room? Do you feel awful if you are not the smallest body there? Do you feel superior in some way if you are in a smaller body?
How honest are you?
Have you lied to others about eating or exercise in order to hide the extremes you go to in an effort to control your body size? Have you felt defensive and upset when others express concern regarding your obsession with weight or weight loss? Do you try to hide your body size under layers of clothing?
Are the mind games getting to you?
Do other people’s comments about your body size truly confuse you? Is it impossible for you to believe their statements about your body? Do you believe deep inside you have enormous flaws that others are lying to you about? Do you question their motives, silently accusing them of lying, or coming up with bizarre reasons your friends or family might lie to you?
What happens first?
When you wake up in the morning, what thoughts or feelings do you experience first? Do you mentally go through every bite you ate the day before to determine if you are “good” or “bad” based on your list? Does this set the tone for your entire day? Do you dread getting out of bed and spending another day fighting against yourself?
Do you check a number on a scale instead of checking in with how your body feels?
And does the number on the scale determine your feelings that day?
Who are you?
What emotions come up when you read this question? Do you truly know who you are underneath your behaviors with food and your focus on your body? Do you feel like an empty shell? If you stopped struggling with food tomorrow, would you lose your identity?
Time To Ask Yourself Honestly: Do I need help for an eating disorder?
How do these questions resonate with you? Ask yourself honestly what drew you to read this article? If you feel yourself slowly sinking down, or if you have already gone under, please put down the scale and reach out for help.
Lowering the number on a scale won’t really help you. You need to learn that you matter. That you are worthy of love. That you are seen and you are valued.
As scary and impossible as it sounds, I promise you can learn to stop measuring your worth by the size of your pants. And you do not have to do it alone. It is OK to ask for and accept help for an eating disorder.
Your purpose on this earth is SO MUCH MORE than your size. Happiness will never be found by shrinking your body. I promise. I have been there. It never ever works.
True freedom begins by choosing a different way to live and accepting help to get there.
You do not have to live a life consumed by thoughts of food, weight, and exercise. You do not have to suffer alone and disconnected from others. You do not have to go through your days filled with overwhelming anxiety, guilt, and shame. There is a better way and it is worth the fight to get there.