Archive for the ‘Eating disorders’ Category

All of these are early signs, none of them alone mean much, you may see any combination of them. Most of these comments and behaviours can seem innocent, teenage behaviour. Mostly though they are out of character for your child. They will be a departure from their normal personality and family routines. Watch, ask, challenge. Don’t let any of these go unnoticed or uncommented about. Keep watching, keep asking, keep challenging.

If you do, if you have any suspicion at all, bring your child to the doctor and insist, insist and keep insisting.

early signs of an eating disorderThings they say

I just want to eat healthier
I want to be a vegetarian
My stomach hurts
I am not hungry
I already ate
I think I am allergic to….
(foods they never had an issue before or diagnosed allergy)
I don’t eat this
This is not organic or gmo
I just don’t like this any more
I am so sick
What’s in this food (nutrients)

Things they do

Disappearing after meals
Checking out the nutrition labels
Increased exercise
Pushing food around plate
Cutting food in tiny pieces
Chewing food forever
Stop making plans with friends
Taking forever to make it to the table for meals
Frequent showers (especially after meals)
Spending forever in the bathroom after shower – body checking
Sleeping at meals time
Watching cooking shows, reading cook books none stop
Cooking/baking obsessively without eating it
Going to the grocery store and reading all labels
Buying expensive foods that go uneaten
Frequent body stretching and movement
Wearing baggy clothing (despite temperature)
Refusing to go out with friends if meals are involved
Writing calorie/meal/fitness journals
Taking a lot of body checking selfies
Picking fights at meals so they can be sent to room, or storm out
Eating only low calorie foods
Spitting food into napkins
Having to exercise even when injured or sick
Spitting food into napkins
Having to exercise even when injured or sick
Notice the calories in everything
Dissect the ingredients of a meal
Interested in high metabolism foods
Lots of gum chewing
Taking ice baths
Very emotional response if any of the above is mentioned
Skin picking

Things you can observe

Over dressed in summer, under dressed in winter
Blood shot eyes after meals
Social withdrawal
Unnatural seating positions
Constant foul mood especially at meal times
Weight decrease – A child should never ever lose weight
Anxious, distracted, avoidant behaviour at school
If pets, notice if the dog/cat is seating closer to your child
Cats will gravitate to someone with an illness
Dogs will gravitate for food being dropped
Increased perfectionism, rigidity, ritualistic behaviour
Increase in anxiety, depression, OCD if these are already part of your child’s character
Cold hands and feet
Bad breath or personal smell
Small sores on body which take a long time to heal and can bruise easy
Blue finger nails
Obsessive body checking
Thinning and failing hair
Soft down on skin particularly chest, neck and upper back
Loss of menstruation
Panic attacks out of nowhere
Weight gain despite exercise due to B/P or binging
House plumbing issues from: purged food, hair lumps.

With thanks to The Dirty Laundry Project with additions from me.

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Butterfly, with respect your constant body image campaigns and it’s all about looks ideology heavily promote to the general public, medical people, parents and kids of all ages that eating disorders come from body image, dieting or models. You do not separate the issues enough nor do you promote campaigns that clearly state what an eating disorder is – they are genetic/biology based with a very complex mix that trigger the development. Just because you struggle with your body image or you diet does NOT mean you are seriously opening yourself to an ED. Otherwise there would be millions with an ED. Those who develop an ED do so because of a genetic/biological predisposition. Your campaigns do not indicate this and in their simple, trivial body image design muddy what is the truth. You also confuse disordered eating with eating disorders. The two are VERY different and are not the same. Disordered eating can sometimes lead to an ED but again ONLY if your predisposed that way.

If you are the most public spokes group for EDs in Australia then do so without the body image stuff being too closely associated with EDs. We desperately need early intervention, and diagnosis and treatment centres. Yet you spend grant money on silly, superficial campaigns. There is no research at all that says these type of campaigns work in preventing EDs and these have been done world wide. In fact research show they don’t help. Research does however show that early diagnosis, intervention and full on treatment does work. Yet Australia DOES NOT invest in this. Instead we do best practice which in the end ends up worst for the patient. We still cannot even get GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists to even be trained correctly to clearly diagnose an ED or provide correct treatment and therapy. What the medical profession here tells sufferers is appallingly wrong and old school.

Your ‘dis’ campaign makes a joke of my daughters serious (almost deadly) illness and long recovery, as it was never ever about body image nor dieting nor media related. She herself will tell you your campaigns miss the mark. Many others will tell you that. And because people keep pushing the body image barrow, of course sufferers think they can blame their poor body image. They aren’t told of the truth of how an ED develops so of course they blame body image or diets. It is so much more complex and deeper and your campaign does not go that deep. It remains shallow, superficial and unlinked to the reality of an ED. Thankfully my daughter had a decent, highly ED educated medical team who explained what EDs really are and worked far beyond the silly body image idea. Her recovery is a testament to the fact they totally understood EDs, early diagnosed, heavily intervened, used high level therapy and long term treatment.

The campaigning for better body image alludes that this is the key to prevention. This naturally then follows the idea that you can then choose to get an ED or not. By choosing better body image then you can prevent an ED occuring. This is a very wrong concept and not achievable and in the end this type of thinking lays blame at the doorstep of sufferers. They could have ‘chosen’ better, ‘done’ better. You cannot choose to give yourself an ED, you cannot do superficial body image external caring that will prevent an ED developing. By pushing the external body image line, you also make is sound so simplistic and easy to either get the ED and worse, to remove the ED in your life.

You CANNOT prevent an ED. It is wishful thinking and taking the easy/wrong road out to say that good body image will prevent an ED. Complete crap. As parents of sufferers we are so over the body image linkage, the half naked women, and all that goes with this. It does nothing more than send the wrong message, not provide what is needed nor address the gaps in care. We see our children develop EDs, we see the generic and biological trigger set off and we can tell you very very very clearly that if our children had been exposed to your campaigns it would NOT have made any difference. There are and have been for years many such school based programs and self esteem stuff – it made and makes no difference. US research are proving this, they have been at this body image campaign longer than Australia has. It isn’t working for the prevention of EDs.

Research in this country is either suppressed or not valued for the medical side, and obviously not funded. The push is for quick research, popular topics and public opinion. Research is only ever as good as the questions it fields and the frame it has surrounding it. The research touted often aligns to a purpose or campaign and the real research with the truth and guts of eating disorder development is ignored or not done. The strong alignment with genetics, biology, neurology, personality etc are not marketed. In doing so we hide for longer the real truth and we hamper any decent forward progress we can make toward this illness.

Many clinicians in this country do not understand EDs fully nor do they keep up to date with latest findings. They are many of them, still in old school format. Thousands of parents can testify to this hard cold fact when we seek treatment for our children. Our country is very out of date and has a severe limitation on diagnosis and treatment. The parent body is a critical aspect you have ignored and forgotten. We are the frontline of care, we seek, fight and get so frustrated with the lack of knowledge, treatment and care. We are ignored but have far more ability than your experts. In most cases it is us who sees the the real ED, it is us who save our kids by doing refeeding and fighting for correct care because our health system fails us. We can tell doctors far more about this illness, it’s reality and development and yet we are classed as sub-people. Other countries have realised the value of the parent body and utilise them. Australia and its ED areas still ignore our input or only ever include us after all the ‘experts’ have decided what is best. Time to change and start to listen to what is needed and what could be better approaches.

Don't 'DIS' our eating disorder recognition and recovery

Further information:

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This is worth repeating again, thank you to PEDAW and VanCityBuzz


Online chatter these days often illustrates there is a long way to go before many people fully realize what an eating disorder truly is: a mental illness, or a disease of the brain.

On February 2, we published an article detailing the struggles of a 21-year-old B.C. woman who has resorted to crowd-funding to treat her severe eating disorder. Some of the publicly posted responses highlight the common misconceptions about eating disorders, so we thought we’d take a look at the kinds of misinformation that gets in the way of the good work being done to help those struggling with eating disorders.

While many of those who responded to our story were supportive of the woman’s endeavors to receive help, another fair share could not understand why her disease warranted help, let alone a news story.

The issue is complex.

But those without the education, life experiences or personal struggles that create compassion for and understanding of eating disorders will continue to criticize the publicity of this disease. They will mumble under their breaths something like “just eat a hamburger” or whisper to their friends “she doesn’t look anorexic.”

And that is where a direct response to these comments is needed. For eating disorders to receive the support they need, the stigmatization needs to be removed and the harsh reality of the disease needs to be learned.

Here are some common misconceptions and comments made about eating disorders, along with responses to the issues from professionals:

1. Just eat if you’re anorexic.

“Having an eating disorder means having neurological or neuroanatomical organization of your brain that creates enormous barriers to eating normally. These barriers include visual and sensory distortions, impacts on reward centers and executive organization of the brain, distortions of senses of fullness and hunger, and over evaluation of body size and shape, in addition to other issues that may be present. The combination of all of these things makes eating incredibly hard to do.”

Dr. Mark Warren, Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders

2. Just smoke weed, then you’ll get the munchies!

“We definitely want individuals to eat and digest food in order to heal their physical bodies. This being said, balance is key, so optimally they will work with supports to find ways of eating without using other substances that further promote numbing out to their present experience.”

Natasha Files, Individual and Family Therapist, Looking Glass Foundation

3. It’s more important to donate money to underprivileged children who can’t afford to eat.

“Suffering takes many forms. I have worked with individuals from all socio-economic realms, with some people having money for food and others not. Please choose to donate money to what moves you, but know that eating disorders are an illness cloaked in shame and secrecy. Many individuals do not get help unless their loved ones encourage them to do so, meaning that asking for support takes significant courage.”

– Natasha Files, Individual and Family Therapist, Looking Glass Foundation

4. #firstworldproblems

“There have been many reports about eating disorders in Western countries in the late 20th century. It has been claimed that those with eating disorders have mostly been white women and that few cases have been seen in non-Western countries other than Japan. Recently, eating disorders have been reported in non-Western countries, such as the Middle East and the People’s Republic of China.These recent studies suggest that the prevalence of eating disorders has been rising among non-Western countries as well. However, eating disorders may present differently in different cultures, and diagnostic criteria based on Western norms may not always be appropriate.”

– Makino, Maria, Koji Tsuboi, and Lorraine Dennerstein. “Prevalence of Eating Disorders: A Comparison of Western and Non-Western Countries.” Medscape General Medicine 6.3 (2004): 49. Print.

5. There are people fighting cancer who can’t eat, and other people far worse off. Stop being so selfish and just eat.

“These kinds of statements just increase the guilt and shame of a person suffering from an eating disorder- which can lead to an increase in coping behaviours designed to avoid those uncomfortable feelings… cue the binge purge cycle or restriction!”

Trixie Hennessey MSW, RSW, Individual and Family Therapist

6. Anorexia is a serious disorder… but it’s not as bad as cancer or AIDS. We should focus on helping those people.

“Categorizing eating disorders as less deserving of support than other illnesses proves the ongoing struggle with stigmatization in our society. One outcome of struggling with an eating disorder is death. Eating disorders are the third most chronic condition among adolescent females (after asthma and obesity), yet have significantly less funding towards research and treatment.”

– Natasha Files, Individual and Family Therapist, Looking Glass Foundation

“Actually, more people die from eating disorders (350,000) than from breast cancer (approximately 40,000) every year. Females aged 15–24 are 12 times more likely to die of an eating disorder than any other cause of death. More people die of eating disorders than any other mental/behavioral disorder including depression.”

– Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders

7. You don’t look anorexic!

“Being the most lethal of psychiatric illness, eating disorders come with a number of serious health consequences, even if the individual looks “okay”. Low blood sugar, blood abnormalities (electrolyte imbalances), enamel erosion, dizziness/confusion, esophagitis, arrhythmias, acrocyanosis, edema, growth retardation in children and adolescents, and sometimes death. Eating disorders affect every system of the body, meaning that glancing at someone’s body shape does not determine the level of physical impact.”

– Natasha Files, Individual and Family Therapist, Looking Glass Foundation

8. You should be grateful you can afford to feed yourself. If you knew real hardship, you wouldn’t have this problem.

“Individuals who develop eating disorders are usually very sensitive.  They are physiologically more sensitive from birth than the average person. They are very in tune with the feelings of others and have a strong drive to want everyone around them to be happy. This often leads to perfectionism as they try to reduce any negativity that they or others will experience. As the disorder progresses they become caught in a vicious cycle where their attempts at being the best that they can be actually does cause others negative feelings — but at that point they can’t just stop. The attempt to be perfect is primarily a way to ensure that nothing about them will cause anyone else any distress and to ensure that others will not find fault in them, something that they are very sensitive about.”

– Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders

9. Starving yourself to death is a choice, just like taking drugs or drinking too much.

“There is no choice when it comes to an eating disorder. There is a choice to start out with behaviours such as dieting, exercising, fasting, etc… but there are many people that diet, exercise and overeat that do not have an eating disorder. There are many people unhappy with their weight and shape who do not have an eating disorder. Eating disorder treatment is complex and an intense process. I would encourage you to question this assumption, as I feel it perpetuates the stigma and feelings of shame that keep people from reaching our for help if they need it.”

– Trixie Hennessey MSW, RSW, Individual and Family Therapist

“Someone can make the choice to pursue recovery, but the act of recovery itself is a lot of hard work and involves more than simply deciding to not act on symptoms. In most cases, the eating disorder has become a person’s primary way of coping with intense emotions and difficult life events.  In order to heal from the eating disorder, a person needs appropriate treatment and support regarding medical monitoring, nutritional rehabilitation as well as learning and practicing healthier ways to manage stress.”

– The Center for Eating Disorders


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What they don't tell you about eating disordersWelcome to all my new followers. Thank you for joining me. Whilst it’s lovely to have you hear, it means though, there are more and more searching the internet to find support, resources and answers when facing an eating disorder.

Thinking back on our experience and what we have travelled through plus what others have shared, there is a list of things that aren’t told to you when you start this journey. You find them out yourself the hard way and often alone. Some come as a surprise, others you realise are normal but you didn’t think about it. So I thought I would list them, just so it’s out there and because medical support teams don’t tell you.

  • You (the carer) are often the front-line and sometimes only line of care. Funding and resources can make it very difficult to get what you may need.
  • This is going to be a long journey. You won’t just get well after the first ’round’. It will take years in some cases.
  • You need to treat yourself for self-care just as much as you care for your loved one. It’s essential to survival.
  • Your marriage or significant relationship will be tested to the max. Take care of it.
  • This is NOT your fault. It’s not your parenting or your family. It is a genetic pre-disposition.
  • How exhausted and OVER it you will be. How refeeding is draining. That you will have a list of appointments on a weekly, fortnightly, monthly basis that you might have to drive miles to.
  • You will find yourself up against schools, doctors, clinics, friends, family. Most have a ‘warped’ idea of eating disorders. You have to explain and educate just to get the care your loved one needs.
  • You will need to swat up on symptoms, treatment, research. No one else will teach this. As you are the front line you need to know this stuff.
  • There are not enough resources or funds in place to provide what your loved one or you will need. That includes treatment centres and hospital beds. And a lot of written resources are often out of date (badly).
  • You are not alone – even if it feels like it. There are many of us on the internet, facebook and other medias who are travelling this journey and can support you.
  • Your child will become a totally different person – loud, rude, violent, abusive, manipulative and lies. This is the illness not your child.
  • Logical, clear, rational thinking will not be part of your loved ones thinking. The illness is in full residence and they are not able to eat, care, stop or save themselves when they are very ill.
  • When really sick, they smell. This really threw me. My beautiful daughter smelt like death – sour, old and decaying. The body is breaking down and the smell starts from a relatively higher weight than you think.
  • Watching the lanugo (fine hair) grow on your child body. Also quite freakish for a parent. It’s the body’s way of keeping warm when there is no fuel to feed it or enough fat to warm it.
  • Night-time heart rates go much lower than day time. Whilst doctors do the medical observations they only ever do day-time, standing and sitting ones. At very low weights the night-time heart rate is actually very scary and can be dropping into intensive care levels without you knowing it.
  • Medical professional won’t know it all. Medications are one big area they are in the dark about. It’s trial and error, of sometimes many medications tried or grouped to find something that might work.
  • That relapse is every parents nightmare, when in actual fact it can be monitored and cared for quite closely by an aware and caring team.
  • There will be a before ED and an after ED state for your family. It will affect everything and the way you live and think for years to come – even when your loved one is fully recovered.
  • Eating disorders are a family illness. It will affect all the members and relationships within.
  • How quickly your loved one can develop an eating disorder and become critical.
  • The blood results will stay ‘normal’ for ages then suddenly drop at the last possible minute. Make sure you have medical support around you.
  • Hope is real and full recovery possible. Even good levels of recovery are better than the original illness.
  • Associated and long term digestive problems, bowel problems, bladder problems, over health problems, teeth, bones, Vit D, Vit B, calcium levels.
  • Despite all the pain, fear and the enormity of it all, you will be given strength to do this.

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One of the best resource links on the website for eating disorders.

Gurze Ed Catalogue


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From NEDC Bulletin: http://www.nedc.com.au/e-bulletin-number-twenty-six#article-one

When communicating about eating disorders, it is critical to construct coverage in a way that minimises accidental harm and promotes positive outcomes.

If due caution is not exercised – that is, if the behaviours, symptoms or effects of eating disorders are highlighted or a key focus of the editorial – reports can increase the prevalence of the disorder the greater population (Mindframe 2012).

To avoid causing harm, all media coverage of eating disorders should follow the guidelines set out by Mindframe. They should also avoid trivialising or glamorising disordered eating behaviour or treating eating disorders as entertainment.(Mindframe 2012).

Items that do not conform to reporting guidelines and focus on ‘thinness’ and the ‘body ideal’ also pose a greater risk to those concerned with their physical appearance and create more negative impact in such individuals (Boyce et al., 2013). In this way, the media can potentially contribute to the development of eating disorders in these individuals, and others in the population.

Issues around glamorisation can further be exaggerated when reporting on celebrities, with links shown between the exposure of underweight celebrities in the media to at-risk groups and the development of disordered eating.

This is particularly relevant for females and adolescents, who tend to use celebrities as social comparison targets and thereby engage in disordered eating behaviour with the intention of closing the gap between their own self-image and what they perceive is a standard exemplified by the celebrity (Shorter et al., 2008).

A 2014 study demonstrated the correlation between the media depiction of celebrities perceived to be underweight and online queries related to anorexic behaviours. It was discovered that coverage of popular figures perceived to have anorexia nervosa triggered a 33% increase in online searches associated with disordered eating practices and the desire for thinness (Yom-Tov & Boyd, 2014).

Yet the same study also showed that when the media used the language of anorexia nervosa in their coverage, there was little increase in anorexia-related searches. In comparison, media reports on underweight celebrities that emphasise their eating-related behaviour have much more potential to do harm than reports that simply focuses on the perceived illness (Yom-Tov & Boyd, 2014).

Caution should still be exercised when using language associated with eating disorders in the media, as the incorrect use of language can glamorise or normalise the issue” (Mindframe 2012)

A 2013 study on restrained eaters also indicated that exposure to certain media images resulted in higher weight dissatisfaction and negative moods (although it did not significantly or immediately affect food intake). This correlation was also shown to extend to other females who share commonalities with restrained eaters (Boyce et al., 2013).

The implication here is that vulnerable women (and others in the population) react negatively to certain media images and that such reactions can impact their individual body image and weight satisfaction, and place them further at risk of developing an eating disorder.

Mindframe also provides guidelines around the use of images of people with extreme body weights or shapes, which can lead to adverse effects and motivate some people to try to achieve an unrealistic size/shape (Mindframe 2012). Instead, editors should aim to include a diversity of images of people (with various shapes and sizes) in all coverage of eating disorders.

The stigmatisation of mental illness by the media overall can also negatively affect help seeking in individuals at risk. Researchers suggest that multi-level media approaches and programs are needed that positively influence the perception of mental illness. Addressing and including information on individual-level strategies (e.g. focusing on the mastery of personal crises, rather than behaviours or destructive activities) is also required to help confront the stigma of eating disorders and encourage help seeking (Niederkrotenthaler et al., 2014).

To promote help seeking in all eating disorder public communication, Mindframe further advises:

  • Emphasising that positive outcomes and recovery is possible
  • Including practical help seeking information in reports
  • Highlighting messages on the importance of help seeking

For more information on how to portray eating disorders in the media visit our Communicating About Eating Disorders page

Or for specific information on eating disorder messages, images and language, download the MindFrame Guidelines.


Boyce, J.A., Kuijer, R.G., Gleaves, D.H. Positive fantasies or negative contrasts: The effect of media body ideals on restrained eaters’ mood, weight satisfaction, and food intake (2013). Body image: 2013.

Mindframe National Media Initiative. Reporting and Portrayal of Eating Disorders (2012).

Niederkrotenthaler, T., Reidenberg., D.J., Benedikt, T., Gould, M.S. Increasing Help-Seeking and Referrals for Individuals at Risk for Suicide by Decreasing Stigma: The Role of Mass Media (2014). American Journal of Preventive Medicine: 2014;47(3S2):S235-S243.

Shorter L., Brown, S.L., Quinton, S.J., Hinton, L. Relationships Between Body-Shape Discrepancies With Favored Celebrities and Disordered Eating in Young Women (2008). Journal of Applied Social Psychology: 38, 5, pp1364-1377.

Yom-Tov E., Boyd, D. M. On the Link between Media Coverage of Anorexia and Pro-anorexic Practices on the Web (2014). International Journal of Eating Disorders: 47:2, 196-202, 2014.

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From NEDC: http://www.nedc.com.au/communicating-about-eating-disorders


Eating disorders are often misunderstood and underestimated in our society.

Common myths about eating disorders include:

  • Eating disorders are not serious; they are a lifestyle choice or about vanity.
  • Dieting is a normal part of life
  • Eating disorders are a cry for attention or a person ‘going through a phase’
  • Families, particularly mothers, are to blame for eating disorders
  • Eating disorders only affect white, middle class females, particularly adolescent girls

In order to dispel these myths and approach eating disorders correctly, appropriate messages should be combined with effective engagement strategies to help the media and various institutions and providers educate the community about eating disorders and work towards prevention and intervention.

The information within this section will help guide teachers, government representatives, non-government organisations and those in the education, health, sport, fitness, media, beauty and fashion industries to implement appropriate communication campaigns and programs using evidence-based guidelines.

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