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6 signs that may indicate eating disorders

An eating disorder is not just about what's on your plate but involves complex emotions and behaviors surrounding food.

Man in plaid shirt holding two plates with crisps and sandwiches [Credit: Rachel Claire]

We hear so much about depression, bipolar and anxiety as types of mental health conditions. But did you also know that your eating habits could point to a mental health disorder?

Yeah, eating disorders are a thing and should be addressed with equal concern as other mental health conditions. An eating disorder is not just about what's on your plate but involves complex emotions and behaviors surrounding food.

In this article, we'll explore six signs that you shouldn’t ignore as they might suggest the presence of an eating disorder.


One of the primary signs of an eating disorder is an obsessive focus on food, weight, and body image. Constantly thinking about calories, dieting, or feeling distressed about body shape can indicate an unhealthy relationship with food.

If these thoughts consume a significant part of your day, it may be time to pause and reflect on your mental and emotional well-being.

Noticeable shifts in eating patterns, such as drastically reducing food intake or binge eating followed by extreme attempts to compensate, can be indicative of an eating disorder.

Pay attention to sudden and unexplained weight loss or gain, as these changes may be connected to underlying emotional struggles.


Eating disorders can lead to feelings of shame and guilt, causing individuals to withdraw from social interactions during meals. If you find yourself avoiding communal dining experiences or creating excuses to eat alone, it may be a sign of underlying emotional challenges related to food.

An unhealthy preoccupation with burning calories through excessive exercise can be a red flag for an eating disorder.

If you feel compelled to engage in rigorous physical activity to "offset" food consumption or experience distress when unable to exercise, it's essential to evaluate the motivations behind these behaviors.


Distorted perceptions of body size and shape, known as body dysmorphia, are common in individuals with eating disorders.

You may perceive yourself as overweight, despite evidence to the contrary. Constant negative self-talk about your body can be an indication that your mental well-being is entangled with your body image.

Concealing or lying about eating habits is a common behavior among individuals with eating disorders.


If you find yourself hiding food, avoiding eating in public, or being dishonest about the quantity of food consumed, it may be a signal that there's an underlying struggle that needs attention.

Acknowledging the signs of an eating disorder is a crucial step toward fostering a healthier relationship with food and one's body. If you recognise these signs in yourself or someone you care about, seeking professional help is instrumental in navigating the complexities of an eating disorder.

Reaching out to a healthcare professional, therapist, or counselor is an empowering decision that can pave the way for a journey toward mental and physical well-being.

Editor's Note: Mindful Kenya offers mental health services on short USSD code *702*30#. By following the prompts a person seeking professional mental healthcare is linked with a specialist under a guarantee of anonymity.


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