Get help today 888-319-2606 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

3 Signs That Your Loved One Is Suffering from Disordered Eating

In the depths of my fight with food, my main intention was to keep it as private as possible. I didn’t want to break the image of light and love I portrayed. I didn’t want to be seen as weak, struggling, or anything but perfect. I was a perfectionist to the core.

The sad reality is, the majority of people who struggle with eating disorders are perfectionists. They are geared to think in black and white – with someone who suffers, there is really no grey area. One of the most evident traits in a perfectionist is someone who fears judgement more than death; the thought of being judged or thought of being seen as weak is terrifying. I would put on a happy face and just get through the day. I would try to save face, all while fighting an internal battle.

Not only did this make me feel like a fraud, it was an exhausting and debilitating pattern. Waking up and basically acting for 15 hours of the day – until I was home – drove me to the brink of mental overwhelm on a regular basis. It was a tough act.

What’s Beneath the Behaviors?

A majority of the people in my life had no idea I was struggling with the diet/binge cycle. Most of them would like think “Oh Sam, she is at it again; let’s see how long this new kick lasts.’ It was funny to them, but to me it was a constant hell. They really had no idea how severe the emotional pain was – which was causing this anyway.

In a world where dieting is openly talked about, we never know what is beneath the behaviors. Perhaps one person just wanted to ‘get in shape’ before a summer holiday or a wedding, and the next person is fighting an intense emotional battle, and truthfully, it’s sometimes hard to tell. It’s important we educate ourselves on the signs of disordered eating so we can help our loved ones. Being ignorant to the signs might prolong someone’s suffering an unnecessary amount. I thought I excelled at hiding it from my friends and family. In some regard, I could have won an award for not only the duration at which I kept this a secret, but also concealing the behavior.

One Sunday, a girlfriend asked me to go for a walk. I agreed and off we went. I thought we were going to grab coffee and chat about boys, business, and what is on sale at Top Shop, (that was what we did a lot). But this time was different; this time I could tell as soon as I met her the conversation was going to go in a different direction.

We grabbed our coffee and headed down the path. I was talking about the current diet I was on and mid-sentence she stopped me. She turned to me and said “Sam, I know you’re struggling with food, I know it’s not just a simple diet, there is more that is going on.” This was my breaking point, I had to finally admit to another human being that I wasn’t perfect and indeed, behind closed doors, I was struggling.

After the initial shock, I was interested and asked her what it was that made her realize there was something much deeper. She began telling me what she noticed that had her in a state of wonder, which later confirmed I was, in fact, struggling with food.

  • Sign #1  Extremely Particular With Food

    She mentioned to me that she never saw me eat like a normal person. She said that at dinners I asked the waiter hundreds of questions. I had moderations done to every meal (no salt, hold the dressing, gluten free, please don’t touch it with anything else) and when I got my meal, I would pick around it, moving the food around the plate and not enjoying it. “You never were present,” she said. I froze up until there was no food to distract me.

  • Sign #2  Social Retraction and Isolation

    She noticed I stopped wanting to go out for dinner with friends. Before I would plan the dinners, book the table, and make it all happen. Now I would find every excuse in the book to not attend the dinners other friends had. She also noticed that if I did attend a social gathering, I would leave early, usually before dinner, or show up much later after dinner.

  • Sign #3  Obsession With Weight

    She mentioned that it was impossible to hang out with me without me speaking about my weight in some negative, derogatory way. I would make weight comments all the time, either to myself about how much weight I have to lose or commenting on other people’s weight. There was intense judgment of myself, therefore there was intense judgment of other people.

Save a Life

Had she not taken the time and love to ask me if I was struggling, perhaps I never would have admitted it and, therefore, never got the help I needed so desperately at that time. Perhaps I wouldn’t be writing this article in hopes to inspire you to help the loved ones in your family. I was crying out for help, yet didn’t have the courage to ask for it.

Observe the ones you care about most; show them you care by being inquisitive with an intense amount of love and compassion. I have my life back and though this vulnerability, I was able to seek the help I needed. This is a gift I will never take for granted. You have the power to save a life; get out of your own way and be there for the ones you love.




Images Courtesy of iStock

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.