Eating disorders are on the rise. So are “new,” healthier ways of eating that may rely on still-controversial techniques, such as calorie restriction and fasting.
Calorie restriction and fasting have been part of the human dietary strategy since the beginning of our evolution. What’s the difference between following a diet that’s good for your health and having an eating disorder?
Our expert counselors and eating disorder specialists at The Soho Center for Mental Health treat eating disorders in our Greenwich Village offices in New York City, New York, and via secure telemedicine consultations. Here we lay out some of the key differences between eating a diet that’s right for your body and one that could impair your health.
Eating disorders are common
Eating disorders are common and are increasing, especially since the pandemic. The National Eating Disorders Association reported that calls to their hotline increased 70-80% from about March to September, 2020.
Stress and trauma often trigger eating disorders. When you control what you eat, you may feel like you’re more in control of your life. However, if you’re not giving your body what it needs to stay healthy, you ultimately have no control at all. In fact, every hour, at least one person dies from an eating disorder.
Do you try a lot of different types of diets?
Even though there are a lot of different types of eating plans out there, not all of them are right for everyone. If you’re healthy and in touch with your body’s signals, you might be able to find the best plan for you.
However if you switch from diet to diet — especially those that require you to eliminate foods or food groups — you may have an eating disorder. Or, if you’ve settled on a plan, but remain rigid about adhering to its rules, even if you don’t look or feel well, you could also have an eating disorder.
Have you lost or gained a lot of weight, very quickly?
Whether you gain weight or lose weight, it should be gradual. If you’re too eager to shed pounds, you could not only deprive your body of the nutrients it needs to thrive, you could be over-exercising, which doesn’t allow your body to rest and recover.
Conversely, if you’re binge eating, you may find yourself gaining pounds very quickly. Either way, we can help you get back to a healthy eating plan and a healthy weight.
Do you ever make yourself vomit after eating?
Vomiting after you eat is a sign of a dangerous eating disorder called bulimia. Other signs that you may have bulimia include using laxatives to try to eliminate the food you ate.
Are you obsessed with your weight or body shape?
Our society is overly focused on ideal body types, and this can make you feel insecure about the way you look. If you weigh yourself more than once a day, or think you’re fat when everyone tells you that you’re underweight, you may have anorexia nervosa or another eating disorder.
Do you hoard food, binge, or eat in secret?
Nobody should feel guilty about nourishing their body. If you hoard food and then eat it in secret, you may have an eating disorder. Another sign of eating disorders is eating huge amounts of food all at once (i.e., binging). You might follow an episode of binging with vomiting or purging with laxatives or diuretics.
Do you have mental or physical changes?
If you’re a woman and you have anorexia, one sign may be that you stop menstruating. Your body needs to be healthy in order to become pregnant. If your body senses that it’s starving, it won’t release eggs, and you won’t have a period.
Whether you’re male or female, the following changes could be an indication that you have an eating disorder:
- Decayed or discolored teeth
- Bad breath
- Foggy brain
- Distracted attention
- Dry skin and hair
- Brittle nails
- Sleeping too little
- Sleeping too much
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Stomach cramps
If you’ve noticed physical changes, consult a medical professional right away. We work with your medical team to ensure that you become both physically and mentally healthy again.
Eating disorders are treatable. If you think that you or a loved one may have an eating disorder, use our online form, or call our friendly staff during office hours to schedule an eating disorders consultation. You can also choose teletherapy that’s conducted through confidential and affordable video/phone consultations.