Food & DrinkEating disorders: signs that you or someone in your...

Eating disorders: signs that you or someone in your environment suffers from one and some myths that surround them


Both June 2 and November 30 are marked on the calendar as the World Day of Action for Eating Disorders (TCA) and the International Day of the Fight against EDs, respectively. With TCA we refer to complex health problems that affect something as important as our relationship with our diet. In a complex issue that mixes nutrition and mental health, we have consulted psychologists and dietitians-nutritionists about some signs that may indicate that we or someone close to us has an eating disorder.

How ACTs are defined

The fifth edition of the main psychiatric diagnostic guide, the so-called DSM-5, edited by the American Psychiatric Association, officially calls them eating disorders and food intake, and defines them as a “persistent disturbance in eating or in eating-related behavior that leads to impaired consumption or absorption of food and causes significant impairment of physical health or psychosocial functioning.”

Beatriz Robles, dietitian-nutritionist and food technologist, explains that “some of them are well known, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Others, such as binge eating disorder, avoidance disorder, or rumination disorder, are less well known.” , and adds that there are cases in which the criteria for some of these disorders are met but others that are not included in the diagnostic manuals, such as permarexia (being constantly going from one diet to another), diabulimia (when the diabetes with bulimia) or drunkorexia (when you seek to compensate for excess calories from severe alcohol consumption by restricting food intake).

“The common denominator of all of them is excessive concern about food and weight, but detecting them can be very complex,” says Robles.

Some signs that something is wrong with food

For this reason, each case is different and must be diagnosed by a specialist. Aurora Gómez , a psychologist at Corio Psicología, points out some signs that something may not be going well in our relationship with food.

  • We spend a lot of mental space thinking about food (or losing weight).
  • We limit our leisure activities because this implies not being able to control our food.
  • We use food as a strategy to avoid emotions. After an argument, or something that we dislike, we use food (or the lack of it) to cover up those unpleasant emotions.

Daniel Ursúa, dietician-nutritionist, especially affects this emotional aspect of food: “food in our society does not fulfill a merely nutritional function. It has a very strong relationship with the emotional . When we have had a horrible day it is normal that we feel like eat something rich, tasty and, if possible, that does not involve us a lot of work. This usually translates into fast food. The problem comes when our only resource for “relief” or “reward” for a bad day is to order a pizza , eat an ice cream or buy a hamburger. If, in addition, after that pizza or hamburger come feelings of guilt or compensation strategies such as not eating anything the next day, that is when the alarm bells should go off.”

The Myths Surrounding EDs: They Affect Not Just Teens

The three experts consulted agree that it is important to disprove some myths about eating disorders, especially the idea that they only affect women and especially adolescents, because this makes many cases difficult to detect, even for people who have them. suffer.

“Although it is true that the child and adolescent population is especially vulnerable to this type of situation due to the vital moment in which they find themselves, we cannot fall into the error of thinking that, since I do not have any problem with my image, I am not in danger of falling into such a disorder. Anyone is vulnerable to this type of situation and that is why we must be alert to announcements, comments from others or our own, etc. “, Ursúa points out.

The Academy for Eating Disorders published in 2015 a list of Nine facts about eating disorders in which it precisely refuted some myths about these problems. Those nine realities are the following:

  1. Many people with eating disorders appear healthy, but their health may be seriously affected.
  2. Families are not to blame and can be the best allies in the treatment of patients.
  3. An eating disorder is a health crisis that affects personal and family life.
  4. TCAs are not choices, but diseases conditioned by biology.
  5. EDs affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, morphologies, weight, sexual orientation, and status.
  6. EDs carry a high risk of suicide and comorbidities.
  7. Genetics and environmental conditions play an important role in the development of eating disorders.
  8. Genes by themselves do not predict who will develop eating disorders.
  9. Full recovery is possible. Early detection and intervention are important.

The responsibility of the environment

Once again, the three experts coincide in pointing out that the social environment in which we move has an important responsibility for the development and prevalence of eating disorders. “In the context in which we live, we continually receive contradictory information regarding food and image: models with a low BMI who assure that their secret is a healthy life but that they do not deprive themselves of eating hamburgers, social pressure to have an image determined alongside slogans like “break the rules” or “enjoy responsibly,” says Robles.

Gómez emphasizes the idea of ​​the constant contradiction in the public sphere in regard to food: “At a social level it is important to point out that we live in a fat-phobic society, which gives confusing signals. On the one hand we have an excess of unhealthy foods around us and on the other we have pressure on the media to get a perfect image.”

Given this, reliable information and the responsibility of the authorities are the two measures mentioned by the experts. “As an expert psychologist in digital behavior, it is quite noticeable how Instagram consumption negatively affects self-esteem and body satisfaction. Therefore, choosing our sources of information is also part of the treatment,” explains Gómez.

And Robles concludes: “We would have to have some basic knowledge about healthy eating, but it is also essential that there be a proactive attitude on the part of the administrations and that all the responsibility is not placed on the population to manage the huge amount of messages they receive (many sometimes misleading or directly false). For example: limit the advertising of unhealthy products aimed at minors, improve food information in advertising, the point of sale and labeling…”

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