How Do You Know If You Have An Eating Disorder?

Hi Heather,

I’m 14-years-old, I weigh 121 pounds, and I’m 5 ft. To lose weight, I used to barely eat, and then exercise to a point where I felt dizzy and couldn’t concentrate in school. Luckily, I came to my senses and stopped. Even though I gained weight, I am much healthier and more fit than before. But I just can’t get over this obsession of losing weight until I’m 110 pounds. I always find myself researching diet and exercising methods for losing weight. My friends tell me I’m skinny, but I just don’t feel like it. My mom says I could always lose a little more weight. That just makes me even more unhappy with how I look. I’m always trying out diets or different types of exercises to improve. Some days when I’m really down, I usually skip meals to feel better. Do I have an eating disorder?

I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling this way about your weight. It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of body and self-esteem issues, and I know from personal experience how difficult that is to go through. Since I’m not a doctor and since I don’t know you, I can’t tell you for sure whether you have an eating disorder or not. But I can give you my opinion, and as much help as possible.

First of all, to me, it doesn’t seem like you’re overweight. Depending on your frame, for your age and height, you are a pretty average weight. If you really want to lose weight, you can, but you certainly don’t have to. So, please don’t think you’re overweight or that you’re “not normal.” If you’re really concerned about your weight, you can see a doctor or nutritionist who can give you a better idea of exactly where you “should” be, but don’t get carried away with the number on a scale. It is just that: a number. It doesn’t define you, and it never will, as long as you don’t give it power.

Now, onto your habits. Your old habit of barely eating and exercising to a point of feeling sick was 100 percent not great. I’m really glad you no longer do that. That kind of extreme behavior is very unhealthy, both physically and emotionally, and not something worth participating in. While your eating habits seem better than they were, they also still don’t seem ideal. You’ve described your feelings as “an obsession.” Being obsessed with what you are eating, how much you weigh, and how much you exercise is not healthy either.

There is nothing wrong with eating healthy and exercising. There’s also nothing wrong with looking up different diets and forms of exercise. However, it becomes a problem when it’s all you think and care about. If it is an “obsession” to you, then it has become a problem. Thinking that way can easily lead to disordered eating or even an actual disorder. It stresses you out, lowers your self-esteem, and makes it hard to focus on anything else. Plus, it makes you feel miserable all the time.

As for skipping meals? You need to stop doing that. First of all, skipping meals is a terrible way to lose weight. Sure, you might feel lighter since you didn’t eat lunch or dinner, but in a few hours, you’ll be starving, therefore you’ll be much more likely to binge. Plus, when you skip meals and ignore hunger signals, your body shifts into starvation mode. In an effort to keep your energy up without actual food, your body will slow down your metabolism – and since your metabolism is how you burn off fat, you won’t be burning off fat. Get it? It’s counterproductive and is not actually helping you – it’s hurting you.

You need to find a healthier approach to diet and exercise that works for you. For example, eating the correct portions and cutting down on certain foods is a much better way to stay fit than not eating at all. You also need to find a healthier way to think about your weight. In your case, I would highly suggest seeing a psychologist, along with a nutritionist or diet specialist. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with you, but you need to talk to a professional about how you feel about your weight and dieting before things get out of hand. Then you can see a nutritionist, who can tell you the healthy way to eat so that you feel good about your diet habits without going overboard. Lastly, if possible, you may want to consider a personal trainer for exercising. They can tell you the best exercises for your body while making sure you’re not working too hard.

Also, I really want you to stop listening to what other people have to say about your body, especially people who are negative, like your mom. Feeling pressured into weight loss is only making you feel worse, and your mom should know better – what she’s doing isn’t right. Don’t talk to her about this anymore, and if she brings it up, ask her to stop because it genuinely upsets you.

Please know that you’re not alone in the way that you feel. Even if you don’t have a full-blown eating disorder, you could still be dealing with disordered eating, which is something many people go through. It’s important to get a handle on this before things go too far. You seem like a smart girl, and you deserve more than a life spent worrying about your clothing size. Please put the scale away and focus on being healthy and feeling good about yourself. Once you start focusing on YOU and stop obsessing, you’ll feel better. In the meantime, get the help you need. Good luck.

take care,

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