- Do you worry constantly about what and how much you eat?
- Are you afraid that eating “the wrong foods” will make you fat?
- Does it seem like you spend too much time thinking about food and eating?
- Do you fast, diet, use laxatives, diet pills or “cleanses” to make up for eating too much food (or the “wrong” kinds of foods)?
- Do you eat in secret or feel like you don’t deserve to eat?
- Do you feel out of control when you start eating or when you eat certain foods – as if you cannot stop until the food is gone or you feel physically sick?
- Is figuring out what and how much to eat really stressful for you?
- Do you ignore hunger and/or fullness cues? Or is it hard for you to tell if you are hungry or full?
- Do you avoid entire food groups or specific foods out of fear they will make you fat or unhealthy?
- Does stress lead you to either avoid food or overeat?
- Do you exercise to “earn” your food?
- Do you exercise even if you are sick or injured?
- Is exercise mainly a way to burn calories and something you don’t otherwise enjoy?
Many of these statements are common thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that we don’t think are a problem. In fact we live in a culture that promotes many of these things. We don’t hear much about healthy eating or exercise that become problems when taken too far. For some people however, many of these statements can be clues to problem eating or even full-blown eating disorders.
Food is often used to comfort, numb or distract from uncomfortable feelings or problems that seem overwhelming. If this is a once-in-a-while thing you may be fine. But when this is the main way you cope (or don’t cope) it can be a serious problem.
How do you know if what you are experiencing related to food is “simply” emotional eating vs. a full-blown eating disorder? This year’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week promoted by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) can help you explore this question. The theme this year is:
3 Minutes Can Save a Life. Get Screened. Get Help. Get Healthy.
The NEDA website (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org) has a free, confidential screening tool and lots of information about eating disorders both for people who may be suffering with an eating disorder and for friends, family and others who are concerned about someone who may have an eating disorder.
Whether what you (or a loved one) are struggling with is an eating disorder or other eating issues that is causing physical or emotional distress, you are not alone. And, there is support and guidance available. Don’t wait – act right now.