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How to Identify an Eating Disorder Early On

Updated: May 3

Written by Eden Davis, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and co-owner of Pearl Wellness Practice

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Have you noticed any changes in your relationship with food, body, or movement? Maybe your health and wellness activities have turned into rigid rituals and routines that are unsafe, and compulsive, and leave a negative impact on life.

Defining an Eating Disorder

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The National Eating Disorder Association defines an Eating Disorder as "serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights".

Types of Eating Disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorders, pica, and other specified feeding and eating disorders. It's important to note that an Eating Disorder does not discriminate and can impact any individual of any size, which is why it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

Common Signs & Symptoms

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Signs and symptoms will vary depending on the individual and diagnosis. Somebody with an Eating Disorder won't necessarily "check the box" for all the signs and symptoms, but they may resonate with some. We asked our Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Kira Denney, what to look for in an Eating Disorder.

Kira broke down commonly seen signs and symptoms into behavioral, emotional, and physical factors. Behavioral signs and symptoms may include: Hiding weight loss by wearing bulky clothes, eating food in secret, making excuses for not eating, avoiding eating with others, frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws, and consumption of only “safe” or “healthy" food.

Emotional signs and symptoms may include intense fear of gaining weight, negative or distorted self-image, hyperactivity and restlessness, and fear of eating in public or with others. Physical signs and symptoms may include sleep problems, fainting/syncope, dry and brittle nails, stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints, feeling cold all the time, and impaired immune functioning.

Seeking Treatment & Support

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Do any of the signs and symptoms reflect your daily habits with food and body? If so, it may be time to find a treatment team. A treatment team may consist of a primary care physician, therapist, and dietitian.

At Pearl Wellness, we have an in-house LCPC and RDN to assist clients on their recovery journey in DC, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, and California. Kira is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who works with clients looking to heal from Eating Disorders, disordered eating, and overall well-being.

Eden is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who provides medical nutrition therapy for Eating Disorders, disordered eating, PCOS, and overall nutrition and wellness. Apart from a treatment team, it's also important to incorporate a strong support system.

This may include joining an Eating Disorder support group or sharing resources with your loved ones so that they can provide support as well.

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If you or a loved one have been impacted by an Eating Disorder, please don't hesitate to reach out. We understand that treatment can evoke feelings of fear or anxiety, which is why we offer complimentary consultation calls prior to treatment. This allows time to ask questions, address concerns, and see what treatment may look like with the provider. We wish you the best on your recovery journey!

With Pearls of Wisdom,

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