Possible Eating Disorder?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. So ever since I was young I’ve weighed about 100-110lbs. I have never went over 110lbs, and if I did. I tried to lose the weight immediately. Which was fine. I was short, thin, I looked fine. Everyone was jealous of how skinny I was. When I moved to Calgary. I’ve been here for a few days shy of a year. And noticed a couple of months ago I’d gained a significant amount of weight. I know I’m not fat. But I can’t help but think I look huge when I look at my body in front of a mirror. I’ve only put on 30lbs, but it’s all in my stomach, butt, and thighs. I can’t stand it.

So that being said. I have been eating once a day. I never eat breakfast, I work 3-11pm so I don’t eat lunch or dinner. And just, don’t eat unless I have hunger pains. And the only reason I eat is because it literally hurts if I don’t. I’ve never thought in my life that it was a problem, but now actually having sat down and thought about it. I think it might become a bigger problem if I don’t seek medical help. Everyone around me jokes around and calls me fatty, or tubby, and I just shrugg it off. But it actually gets to me. When my boyfriend goes to pick me up, I say “don’t, I don’t want you to hurt yourself” and he thinks I’m kidding, but really, I feel as if I’m that heavy that he could actually hurt himself by lifting me up.

People at work are always wondering why I don’t eat when I work 8hr shifts, and I tell them I already ate. It’s not even that I care about how much fat is in the food when I eat it either. I just starve myself until I’m hurting because I’m so hungry then I’ll eat whatever until the pain goes away. I bought a bathing suit last summer, and put it on this summer, and my ‘love handles’ are spilling out all over the place and I look disgusting in it. My mom was really into her weight when I was about 16yrs old. She was CRAZY thin, but was ALWAYS working out, walking places, and taking ‘metabolife’ everyday. I never really thought she had a problem. But do you think it could be hereditary?

A. I do not know if you have an eating disorder but you are displaying many disturbing signs of an eating disorder. You have an unusual fixation with your weight. This is one unhealthy sign.

Another symptom of an eating disorder is that you see yourself as fat when you look in the mirror. Based on the numbers you gave, it is unlikely that you are very much overweight if at all but despite this you still consider yourself fat. This indicates you may be experiencing some form of distorted thinking. Individuals with eating disorders commonly have distorted thinking. In fact, it’s very common that a person with an eating disorder will inaccurately conclude that they are fat but can accurately describe someone else as being overweight. Among individuals with an eating disorders, it’s their view of themselves that is highly imprecise not necessarily their view of others.

The behavior that is most concerning, however, is that you put off eating until you experience hunger pains. This would not be considered normal, healthy eating behavior. It’s dangerous. From a clinician’s perspective, this type of behavior is highly indicative of someone either with an eating disorder or the verge of an eating disorder.

With regard to question regarding heredity, there may be some studies that show eating behaviors as hereditary but it’s more likely that you learned these behaviors through modeling. Your mother was unusually focused on her weight and so are you. You likely learned this from her because you saw her behave in this manner.

Studies show that children commonly emulate their parents’ lifestyle behaviors. For instance, if your parents smoked you’d be more likely to smoke. If your parents lived a sedentary lifestyle, you would be more likely to also live a similar lifestyle. If your parents used drugs, you’d be at a greater risk of using drugs than someone else whose parents did not use drugs, and so on. The point here is that children are highly influenced by how their parents behave and much of this carries over into adulthood.

The good news is that you can correct negative behaviors and replace them with healthier behaviors. The same is true regarding your distorted thinking. You can come to see yourself as you truly are (i.e. not overweight). You may need assistance relearning positive behavior patterns or correcting your incorrect thinking and if so you should consider counseling. In fact, I strongly encourage counseling. Why? Because you are putting your body and mind in great peril if you do not change your unhealthy ways. I hope this answers your questions.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Mar 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Possible Eating Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/03/29/possible-eating-disorder/