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How to Avoid Allowing a Diet to Turn into an Eating Disorder

Normal dieting and exercise can spin out of control and turn into something more serious if you're not careful. Watch for the signs to prevent food-related and eating disorders.


  • Step 1: Watch weight loss Watch for signs of excessive weight loss. If someone becomes frail, or looks emaciated, it may signal that they suffer from anorexia.
  • Step 2: Look for signs of obsession Look for signs that someone is obsessed with eating, food, and weight control. Red flags include weighing themselves repeatedly, weighing food before every bite, avoiding certain foods, obsessively counting calories, overeating when distressed, or strict dieting after binge eating.
  • Step 3: Be aware of over-exercising Be aware that excessive exercise may be a sign of an eating disorder. Signs include feeling the need to burn off calories after every meal or skipping social events to work out.
  • Step 4: Pay attention to antisocial behavior Pay attention to someone who seems depressed or withdraws from social activities, especially family meals or celebrations that involve food.
  • TIP: While eating disorders are most common in girls, boys may also suffer from body image concerns and problems.
  • Step 5: Monitor purchases Monitor regular purchases of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Be wary if someone constantly makes excuses to go to the bathroom directly following meals. These are signals that the person has an eating disorder.
  • Step 6: Discover physical signs Discover any physical signs of an eating disorder. Chipmunk cheeks occur when salivary glands permanently expand from excessive vomiting. Hair loss, fingernail breakage, feeling cold all the time, or loss of periods may be signs the body has gone into starvation mode.
  • TIP: Loss of dental enamel or dental cavities may also signal bulimia.
  • Step 7: Check for body unhappiness Observe signs that someone is intensely unhappy with their body shape, size, or weight. Recognizing this serious problem early means that you can take steps to break the pattern of unhealthy eating.
  • FACT: In 2005, the National Eating Disorder Association estimated that 5 to 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder.

You Will Need

  • Awareness of common signs and symptoms

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