Having a healthy relationship with food is important for our mental and physical health. It's undoubtedly complex, and we can go from healthy to unhealthy eating very quickly.
What sucks is we can go from a healthy relationship with food to an unhealthy one with something as simple as having good intentions to lose a few pounds.
Many of the problematic eating or disordered eating start from weight-focused problems, but food can also be a coping mechanism for people's feelings or emotions.
It's just overwhelming without food, isn't it?
Whether the unhealthy relationship started from weight, body image, or emotions - disordered eating behaviors can be pretty damaging to your physical and mental health.
Your self-esteem, sense of confidence, and self-worth will plummet.
If you feel like this may be you, here are 15 red flags you should be aware of.
15 Signs You Have a Bad Relationship With Food
People with a healthy relationship with food may exhibit some of these signs, so don't jump to conclusions. Just pay attention.
#1 - Meals Get Skipped
Skipping a meal or completely eliminating food groups are a means to cut calories. This is exactly why this is one of the first signs of eating. If you know someone skipping meals because they want to lose weight, it is eventually going to backfire on them.
Starving off weight may help them initially lose weight, but eventually, the reduced metabolism coupled with some binge eating from feeling out of control with food will come.
#2 - Their Menstruation is Off
If someone undereats or over exercises, this can interrupt their menstrual cycle. This hormonal imbalance can also affect bone mineral density.
While having a lack of menses may seem pretty awesome for most women, it's not that healthy on a female body.
#3 - They Go to the Bathroom After Meals
If you notice someone going to the bathroom right after a meal, there could be a sign of bulimia nervosa. This is characterized by excessive food intake followed by a purge.
The urge to purge after a meal or snack can be pretty strong, which causes some people to escape to the bathroom immediately after eating.
People dealing with anorexia may also exhibit purging behaviors. Since purging isn't limited to after a binge, those dealing with anorexia will purge to rid the body of calories and that feeling of fullness.
#4 - They Exercise Excessively
Getting off of the couch and going for a run is healthy. In fact, I invite you to try it out. When there is an obligation to exercise to the point that it causes more harm than good to the body, the line needs to be drawn.
Hours on the treadmill a day or doing multiple workouts per day need to be watched. This type of behavior opens your body up to stress fractures, dehydration, and exhaustion.
#5 - They Refuse to Eat in Front of Others
One that I personally deal with, the fear of judgment and being uncomfortable around food and groups of people can be a symptom of an eating disorder.
Due to being challenging to engage in that behavior in public, it's not uncommon for a person who struggles with disordered eating to completely withdraw from eating out or over at a friend's house.
#6 - They Use Laxatives, Diuretics, or Diet Pills
It's not too uncommon to see someone abuse laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills as a way to "clean out" their body. It helps rid the body of excess and helps them feel less bloated.
Another common thing to see is the abuse of prescription medications, alcohol, or other drugs or caffeine.
#7 - Large Amounts of Food Are Gone in a Short Amount of Time
You know your triggers.
A classic symptom of binging or bulimia nervosa is the disappearance of large amounts of food in a short amount of time.
Eating an entire jar of peanut butter, washing it down with a box of cookies or a loaf of bread is all things I've done. That "stuffing" of emotions is supposed to numb them, but they don't.
Keeping your trigger foods out of the house and away from easy access is a good way to prevent habitual binging.
#8 - They Hide Food or Food Wrappers in Strange Places
If you've ever opened a drawer in the bathroom or opened someone's glove box in their car and there are food wrappers stuffed in there, it's not out of the ordinary that they could be suffering from disordered eating.
#9 - They Wear Excessively Baggy Clothes
Someone with a body image disturbance usually struggles with an eating disorder.
Wearing clothes that are almost comically too big to hide your body is not uncommon. They want to hide from the judgment, security, and safety.
#10 - Constipation or Stomach Pain Are Often a Complaint
People who have some problems with their relationship with food will probably have bloating, stomach cramps, and other digestive issues. These eating disorders disrupt our digestive patterns and enzymes - making it harder to break down foods.
Dehydration from a purge or limiting your intake to prevent "water weight gain" along with eating too quickly can cause stomach troubles.
There's a possible connection between our gut microbiome and eating disorders, according to current research.
#11 - They Are Obsessed With Food But Not Eating It
Do you know someone who likes to read cooking magazines, food blogs, and Pinterest boards?
Do they like to cook and bake things for you but they don't allow themselves to eat any? Welcome to another red flag.
#12 - Their Weight Fluctuates
Someone with disordered eating habits can be overweight, underweight, or even normal weight. There will be many who may lose or gain weight, many will maintain weight - and appear to be healthy.
The number on the scale keeps people stuck in this disorder.
#13 - They Are Rigid with Their Meal Plans and Food Rituals
Counting a specific number of bites, chewing food excessively, cutting food into very small pieces, and even spitting out food after they chew are all food rituals that may be a sign of disordered eating.
Extremely restrictive meal plans are another common habit with someone with an eating disorder.
#14 - They Have Some Bizarre Food Combinations
We all have that one weird friend that makes crazy food combinations.
As a result of anxiety and stress with food, our taste buds change with starvation. Excessive use of condiments, hot sauce, pepper, and calorie-free sugar substitutes could also be a sign.
#15 - They Have a Fixation on Eating Clean
Making healthy choices most of the time is how you stay healthy.
Orthorexia is an eating disorder that has to do with clean eating. Many foods will be completely wiped from their diets, and the enjoyment of food and daily functioning disintegrates.
This often results in unhealthy weight loss.
Wrapping It Up
If you've read these and you or your friend exhibit some of these red flags, it's important to take it seriously.
There are many eating disorder resource pages and even the National Eating Disorders Association would be a good place to start.
It's a pretty slippery slope, so the longer you notice these behaviors, the harder it can be to get away from them.
Find some help if you or your friend need it and start developing a healthy relationship with food and your body.