Posted: Apr 17, 2012 7:18 PM
If dieting, weight control and body image issues are taking over your life, you may be suffering from an eating disorder. Find out if you’re at risk.

Johanna Kandel is the founder and CEO of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness and the author of Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder. Kandel battled an eating disorder for 10 years and has been recovered for 12 years. Here, she explains various eating disorders and what signs to be on the lookout for:


What it is:

"Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-induced starvation and excessive weight loss," says Kandel. Individuals who are battling anorexia have an intense fear of weight gain or being fat, even though they’re underweight.

What to look for:

  • preoccupation with weight, calories and food
  • rapid loss of weight and continued weight loss
  • gaunt, pale appearance and yellowish skin tone
  • feeling cold or chilled
  • a delay or absence of menstruation for three or more months
  • constantly making excuses for not eating (e.g. already ate with a friend, have a headache, etc.)


What it is:

Bulimia is characterized by bingeing and purging — that is, a period of excessive overeating followed by ridding the body of the food via vomiting, laxatives or extreme exercise. "Interestingly," says Kandel, "75 to 85 percent of bulimics are normal or overweight."

What to look for:

  • swollen glands
  • puffy cheeks
  • broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • discolored/stained teeth
  • sore throat
  • calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
  • secretive eating
  • hiding food
  • constant visits to the bathroom after meals

Binge Eating Disorder

What it is:

"Binge eating disorder is characterized by frequent episodes of bingeing – eating a large quantity of food in a short amount of time — without the purging behavior of bulimia," says Kandel.

What to look for:

  • rapid weight gain
  • using food to self-medicate and numb feelings
  • eating food to the extreme of discomfort and even pain
  • feeling out of control over food

The effect on your kids

Whether you like it or not, you are your kids’ primary role model. Your children mimic your words and your behavior — positive and negative — both consciously and subconsciously. If you have an unhealthy attitude toward food, weight and/or body image, it can impact your children's developing attitudes.

Recovery is possible. Although eating disorders are very serious, there is help and hope.

Eating disorders don’t just affect teens and adults, explains Kendal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, hospitalizations for eating disorders of children under 12 rose by a frightening 119 percent from 1999 to 2006! You may be contributing to this growing trend without even realizing it.

"It’s difficult to believe that anyone is capable of hurting himself/herself by means of an eating disorder," says Kendal. "If you or your loved ones display signs and symptoms, seek help immediately."

Early intervention and specialized help are critical when tackling an eating disorder. For help and/or referrals, contact The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness at 866.662.1235 or the National Eating Disorders Association at 800.931.2237.

"Recovery is possible," says Kendal. "Although eating disorders are very serious, there is help and hope."

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Topics: diet self esteem