Common Eating Disorder Symptoms

Researching eating disorder symptoms has been an interest of mine for a while now so in this article, I’m going to discuss the various symptoms that we see most often.

Unfortunately, it’s been reported that over 10% of people in the U.S have some sort of eating disorder.

While the number of cases reported mostly consists of women, men have been reported to be showing signs of eating disorders as well.

Before we get into the various eating disorder symptoms, I think it’s important to understand what an eating disorder is.

It’s much more vast than I initially thought so I wanted to highlight some common points that I found interesting…

Stuff That’s Good to Know About Eating Disorders

First – Having an eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. When you break it down, eating disorders develop from a place of pain and sadness.

It is nothing to be ashamed of or hide.

Talking about your unhealthy relationship with food does not make you a disgusting, shameful person. It means you are willing to protect yourself and with your health and that’s amazing!

eating disorder symptoms

Second – Having an eating disorder is much more common than I ever thought.

In fact, I truly believe that the reported 10% population that claims to have one is extremely low.

I bet this is not an accurate representation of the true number of cases as people either aren’t aware that they have an eating disorder, or they’re ashamed to admit it.

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Third – Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Meaning, I used to think of Anorexia or Bulimia initially, but it can be something as subtle as having very particular eating patterns.

I’m seriously questioning my love of intermittent fasting after researching this topic because it’s making me question my reasoning behind doing it.

While I don’t deprive myself of food if I’m hungry in the morning (no one likes to work with hangry people), I am becoming more conscious of when a practice of intermittent fasting is beneficial for me or not and practice accordingly.

I think if I fasted like this everyday, no matter what for the sake of “being skinny” that would most certainly qualify as an eating disorder. 

Which brings me to the fourth thing I wanted to mention before getting into the symptoms.

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Intention is everything. Intentionality can determine an eating disorder where it otherwise might not be an issue.

For example, if I’m running around all day knocking things off my to-do list and end up skipping breakfast and lunch because of it, that clearly does not mean I have an eating disorder.

eating disorder symptoms

Even if I have a demanding lifestyle and skipping meals is a regular part of my week/day.

Unhealthy? yes, eating disorder – no. 

However, if I intentionally skipped meals because I’m trying to “be skinny” and it’s a regular part of my “diet plan” then I believe this would qualify as an eating disorder.

This is because the avoidance of food in the name of health IS NOT being healthy/health conscious.

I don’t care how you spin it, depriving your body of the fuel and nourishment it needs to properly function while claiming that you’re being healthy is super unhealthy!

It all starts with self-love and wanting what’s best for yourself.

Which means promoting a healthy body image through proper nourishment is key. Exercise is important as well but that’s a different topic.

Okay…now that we’ve gotten eating disorders 101 out of the way, let’s get into the real reason why you’re here! To learn more about common eating disorder symptoms.

Common Eating Disorder Symptoms

One of the most common signs of eating disorders is when meals are habitually skipped.

I’ll admit that sometimes after eating a large meal for lunch, I’ll cut back for dinner.

When it comes to your relationship with food, being honest about the reasons you behave the way you do can help you avoid developing a disorder.

eating disorder symptoms

This is usually because I would be too uncomfortable (and possibly sick) if I tried to eat a full meal after eating a heavier meal earlier on in the day.

Also, I’m trying to be more conscious of my triglyceride levels. In this case, skipping meals only turns into a disorder if it’s habitual and for the sake of not wanting to consume calories in fear of putting on weight.

Nourishing our bodies is important and if you think that depriving yourself of food is healthy, you may want to talk to get some help and talk to a doctor.

In some cases, it’s totally normal to skip a meal. We’re all busy and life gets in the way sometimes.

Another common eating disorder symptom is when you feel the need to get the calories out of your body whenever you put any in.

Common disorders related to this would be Bulimia and Anorexia.

People with these disorders usually turn to vomiting or extreme workouts to get rid of the calories they’ve just consumed.

If you joke about needing to work out after a heavy meal, you most likely do not have an eating disorder.

I think most people who work out regularly or are typically conscious of their health/weight are just more conscious of this in general.

Nothing to worry about – if you are just truly joking.

But if you find yourself sneaking off to the gym to get a few reps in after Thanksgiving dinner then you might have an unhealthy dynamic with food that needs to be addressed.

Another common eating disorder symptom that I found particularly interesting is being a picky eater.

We all have that one adult friend that still prefers to order from the kid’s menu.

While a little odd, there’s nothing of concern here.

Picky eaters as it relates to eating disorders are those who will not let anyone else prepare their food or who need to eat something other than what everyone else is eating.

On an even more extreme level, I’ve heard of someone whose relationship with food was so unhealthy that this person tried to make everyone else in her family gain weight by sneaking fatty/unhealthy ingredients into meals she prepared for them and would eat something different herself.

As malicious as this behavior is, it’s not something that should be criticized. If this is happening with someone you know, you should offer them confidential help.

Next, binge eating.

I’m sure you’ve heard of it and think of the occasional feast where you eat too much of your favorite food and end up feeling uncomfortable and unable to move much.

Surprisingly, this is considered the “healthy” kind of binge eating. The “unhealthy” type of binge eating associated with eating disorders is very complex and dangerous.

eating disorder symptoms

In this scenario, the person binging is usually not even enjoying the food they’re eating.

They want to stop eating but feel totally unable to.

This could be for a number of reasons. You know the healthy amount of dopamine you get when you’re eating?

That’s your brain’s way of rewarding you for keeping yourself alive by feeding yourself.

When an unhealthy binge is taking place some people may be addicted to that satiated feeling of dopamine and associate eating large amounts of food with that positive feeling even though their experience is no longer positive.

Unhealthy binge eating can lead to many health problems aside from the disorder itself such as diabetes and other health conditions that come from overeating.

Another eating disorder symptom that piqued my interest was when one feels the need to sneak food.

This could be for a number of reasons, one of which is most likely that they know what they’re doing is wrong but in one way or another, this person is addicted to overeating.

According to this article from, some people sneak food or eat in secret because they may be ashamed of being seen eating.

While the thought of someone having such an unhealthy relationship with food that they don’t want to be seen eating is extremely sad, I believe it can tie into negative self or body image as well.

Probably the most common symptom that may indicate an eating disorder that I’ve found in my research is the practice of restricting certain categories of foods.

This includes any fad diet and I thought that was interesting.

For example, if we give up carbs and stick to (let’s say) a keto diet, could we associate carbs to be unhealthy and develop an eating disorder over time?

I think this absolutely can be the case. It can be like this with anything, including sugar!

While it’s healthy to avoid sugar, refusing to eat any sugar at any point in time ever may not simply be the sign of a  disciplined and healthy person.

It’s important to be aware of the reason why you’re choosing to eat the way you do.

If you avoid sugar at all costs in the name of health but secretly believe that sugar is what “makes you fat” then you might want to dig a little deeper into why you believe that.

As someone with a major sweet tooth who regularly exercises, I can tell you that it’s not sugar’s fault that weight gain may be occurring.

It’s a combination of things – usually a lack of exercise.

A healthy balance can be a spectrum of combinations which does not have to include giving up anything altogether. 

I’d like to wrap this article up with a final eating disorder symptom that I found particularly disturbing.

It’s the withdrawal from family/friends and typical activities with them.

As if the other symptoms mentioned weren’t horrible on their own, the fact that having an eating disorder can make you miss out on precious time with loved ones is so sad!

This could be for a number of reasons, most commonly I’m sure is because seeing family and friends usually involves something to do with eating.

Imagine missing Sunday family dinner or meeting friends for dinner on Friday night due to an unhealthy relationship you may have with food. That’s lost time with the most important people in your life that you’ll never get back.

If this rings true with you, I encourage you to put yourself in their shoes and take the loving advice they’d give you. Visit your doctor and discuss your relationship with food.

Seek counseling and be willing to discover the painful reasons behind your negative limiting beliefs around food/body image. 

The more research that is done, the more I believe that there is a fine line between eating disorders and being health conscious.

It comes down to the individual. Examining your reasons behind eating the way you do and taking responsibility (if you’re capable of doing so) can help maintain a healthy way of eating without becoming obsessed over any particular area of it.

Over the last handful of years I’ve been increasingly conscious of what’s good for me and what isn’t. What is wasting my time, draining my energy/happiness and what brings me joy and fulfillment.

While I can’t relate specifically to having an extreme eating disorder, I can relate to living in an environment that was harmful, unhealthy and unloving.

It’s hard to take the first step toward a better life for yourself but I promise you it’s worth whatever it is you have to go through to get there.

Self-love is self-care. Know that you have the power to create the best version of yourself if you’re willing to love yourself enough to choose to work on your mental and physical health.

Journaling is a powerful technique that I’ve used to get to know myself over the last couple of years. Here is the journal I use and love.

I use it for gratitude journaling, jotting down thoughts and feelings about what I’m currently going through and even for goal setting!

It’s a great way to begin your own self-care journey so be sure to check it out if that’s something that interests you!

Finally, it’s important to be patient and gracious with yourself on your health journey.

There will be good and bad days and that’s okay! Just deciding to not give up on your mental/physical health journey is powerful in itself. 

Thank you so much for checking out this article on common eating disorder symptoms! I hope it helps you or someone you know. Feel free to leave a comment or EMAIL ME with any comments or feedback – I’d love to hear from you!

So, what about you!? Do you have life-changing ideas for self care in mind that you’d love to implement into your daily life but don’t know how to make it a habit?

Maybe you want a self-care routine for mental health but don’t know where to start or what to try!?

If this is the case, check out the 3-Month Self-Care Challenge for Mental Health. In this course, I go over the methods and strategies that I’ve used to implement the mental health practices that I now call habits! I also provide ideas for self care, a few pintables to help you succeed!

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Hi, I'm Marissa! I'm passionate about mental and emotional health and want to share what I've learned over the years with others! I've seen first hand how mental health struggles can cause serious issues within relationships, work life, daily productivity, self-worth and more! I truly believe that we owe it to ourselves to bring more awareness to these life changing topics. Start your mental/emotional health journey by learning more today!

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