By Justine Nichol
February first marks the start of the month of love. With that also comes National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, observed from February 1-7, 2016. While these may not appear to have obvious commonalities, there is no better time to focus on love than when shedding light on an issue that impacts a staggering number of women each year in North America alone.
Why is love important? While self-love plays an important role in addressing the underlying issues contributing to eating disorders, external sources of love can have the biggest impact on finding a solution. Equipped with the right tools, friends, family and loved ones have the potential to identify behaviours that are indicative of a serious problem, before it’s too late.
Here are 5 eating disorder warning signs you might not know to look for:
- Fast progression of interest in healthy eating to the point of obsession. This could include a drastic shift towards veganism, vegetarianism, or other specialized, health-focused lifestyle choices. While there are many reasons to engage in environmental or health-centric choices, there is an invisible line between progressive and obsessive. This can be difficult to spot and easy to hide due to the cultural shift towards holistic lifestyle trends – watch for something unexpected.
- Rapid and unexplainable weight fluctuations. We all know that hobo-chic and boyfriend style may be trendy, but often baggy clothing can be used to conceal drastic body size changes and avoid confrontation or discussion.
- Dieting. We know (from experience) that the hard truth about fad diets is that they don’t work. Eating disorders are often used as a control mechanism, replacing a sense of control that may be lacking in other areas of life. Dieting, calorie counting, and unusual mealtime rituals are examples of how eating disorders are manifestations of craving control.
- Physiological signs. Eating disorders, like the people they affect, come in many shapes and sizes. This means that the variety of warning signs can be difficult to correlate with a problem. Symptoms may include feeling tired, cold, lethargic or faint. Some signs are more personal, including lack of menstruation and decreased libido.
- Exercise-related behaviours. Did your best friend just join the gym, change her ideals and become a hot yoga ambassador, or hit the throttle on her existing training regime? Take a step back and talk to her about the shift – exercise is so important, but staying balanced and having realistic, healthy goals should be step one.
In an effort to raise awareness this week, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) has launched a campaign emphasizing that one of the most deadly symptoms of eating disorders is silence.
This week, RAW Beauty Talks encourages you to engage with the #TalkingSavesLives campaign and share NEDIC’s message that eating disorders are as diverse as the people that they affect and can (and do) affect anyone. Understanding the warning signs is the first step towards engaging in healthy conversation, identifying a problem and seeking help.