The Ones You Might Not Know

edsThere are plenty of eating disorders outside anorexia.  And disordered eating is more of a spectrum than you might think.  Here are some examples – and warning signs to watch out for..

General weight loss warning signs:

  • loved ones have moved from congratulation (saying ‘good on you for getting healthy’ or ‘you look great’), to concern (‘are you sick?’, ‘you’re looking thin’, ‘shouldn’t you take a break’) etc
  • you get teary/angry for no reasons
  • you have a toddler brain which wanders off at every opportunity. You’re forgetful and can’t think straight.
  • you swing between clinging to others and wanting to cut yourself off
  • you can’t think about anything except food: what you’ve eaten, what you’ll eat.  When you do eat you feel guilty and out of control and then try to restrict or purge or exercise to make up for it
  • you tell yourself and others you’re getting better, but you aren’t
  • you hoard or hide food and eat in secret.  You have rules about food and they keep on growing
  • you tell lots of lies


Manorexia : Can be hard to spot for different reasons:

  • men don’t menstruate, so that’s not an indicator.
  • thinness in men isn’t prized in the same way as women and they’re sometimes encouraged to do more exercise, so people are a lot slower to suspect it.  (In reality men are cutting calories and women are exercising but there we are)
  • guys who restrict are often trying to build muscle as well as lose weight.  But the same feelings that put Jenny on a diet, send Johnny to the gym
  • on top of not wanting help, guys can feel that EDs are for women and too embarrassed to admit they have a problem.  They’re more likely to be medicated than to get specialist help
  • it used to be thought EDs affected mainly gay men, but as the media objectify straight guys too, they’re increasingly affected
  • guys need more calories than women, which can make recovery harder


EDs in the Over-50s:

Very common, especially if they’ve been struggling with these behaviours since they were young: a big challenge is to help the patient conceive of an identity that doesn’t include the ED. Because of their age their brain and body is often weaker, and they may be more isolated or struggling with money. But remember, just because a condition is chronic doesn’t mean it’s permanent – it just takes a bit more work.


Pregorexia: extreme dieting or exercising to avoid gaining recommended amount of pregnancy weight

Night-eating: does what it says on the tin


Orthorexia: eating only ‘clean’ or ‘healthy’ foods. (E.g. organic, unsalted, sugar-free, dairy-free etc, etc).

You might have genuine health issues. Or – you might just be managing a fear of food by eating it at the ‘right’ time, in the ‘right’ amounts or the ‘right’ types.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • do I think of food as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
  • do I care more about the value of what I eat than actually eating it?
  • does what I eat isolate me?
  • does what I eat determine my mood?
  • do I weigh food? or look up its nutritional value?
  • do I equate some things (eg; non-organic) with bad health?
  • are there some foods I absolutely will not eat?


Exercise addiction: food is less of a threat as long as you can exercise it off.

Some questions:

  • are you eating enough food to keep you at peak health and sustain your exercise?
  • do you rest between exercise and take time off  if you injure yourself?
  • do you feel very stressed if you miss your exercise?
  • do you think about exercising a lot?
  • do you organise your life around exercise and not vice-versa?
  • do you need to do more to get the same high?
  • does your need to exercise causes conflict with loved ones?



Drunkorexia: (sorry – ridiculous name, but I’m just the messenger): using alcohol as a way of restricting appetite and as a means of losing weight.

NB: It’s important to distinguish between  alcoholism as a separate issue and using alcohol as a way of managing weight.



3 thoughts on “The Ones You Might Not Know

  1. Another possible question to add under orthorexia: “In the pursuit to eat healthy, wholesome foods, do you feel reluctant or paralyzed in preparing appetizing meals for family or friends, because you feel like it could “kill them” if it contains any “unwholesome” ingredients.” The desire to be relational and hospitable is overwhelmed by fear when I feel overly responsible for others’ well-being while I’m obsessed with my own health.

  2. Thanks Valorie: yes, there’s lots of elements of OCD with orthorexia and this concern about hurting others is a big one.

  3. Compulsive overeating has many of the same attributes as anorexia and bulimia – but without the purging. Secrecy, buying and hiding food in secret, thinking about, planning and worrying about food all the time. Eating in your sleep (especially that hidden in your bedside table). Shame, guilt, embarrassment, the worry that people think you are stupid because you are fat. Almost wishing you were anorexic – at least then i would be thin and people may understand my struggle. Trying your hardest, for over 20 years, to hide the way you eat from your kids in the hope that they will be ‘normal’ eaters – total fail. Not realizing your eating is abnormal until you are in your thirties – when the food left in the middle of the table at a family dinner was actually causing me pain, whilst everyone else was able to effortlessly ignore it. Hating food so much whilst, at the same time, being totally consumed by it. x

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