5 Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

For Parents of High School and Middle School Students.

Be aware of the following symptoms if your child or teen:

  1. Often makes excuses to avoid family meals or stays away from social situations that involve eating.
  2. Has rituals to make eating small amounts of food less obvious, such as cutting it into small portions and moving it around on the plate.
  3. Has great fluctuations in eating—periods of excessive eating cycled with food restrictions.
  4. Obsessively exercises without enjoyment regardless of bad weather, illness, or injury.
  5. Signs of vomiting or laxative use; often disappears after eating to go to the bathroom.
  6. Preoccupation with food and eating, and continued dissatisfaction with body shape.
  7. Coldness, particularly in the hands and feet, and wearing layers of baggy clothing to hide body, even in warm weather.
  8. Dental problems or calluses on the knuckles can be signs of vomiting.
  9. Becomes disgusted with former favorite foods like meat, fats, and desserts, and only eats "safe" foods; or boasts about eating healthfully or as a vegetarian without consuming adequate fats, oils, whole grains, and dense fruits and vegetables (such as potatoes or avocados).
  10. Frantic fear of weight gain, and repeated attempts to diet.
  11. Simplistic, black and white thinking, such as "If I am thinner, I will feel better about myself," and envious of thin people in general.
  12. Has trouble talking about feelings, especially anger, is moody, irritable, and withdrawn more than what is "normal" for a teen.
  13. Self-harm behaviors, such as cutting, burning themselves, hair pulling, or engaging in risk taking. These can be signs of Borderline Personality Disorder, which may include a combination of eating disorders, substance abuse, alcohol binges, stealing or promiscuity.
  14. Engages in secretive binge eating, hides food or wrappers, food disappears from the household without explanation, empty food containers in the garbage.
  15. Girls and boys develop eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction, so watch for these signs in both sexes.