Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Tips

A new study from the National Center for Health Statistics found that 37.6% of teens ages 16-19 have tried to lose weight in the past year. The percentage of adolescents who tried to lose weight increased with weight status category among both adolescent boys and girls. That percentage sits at a higher rate with Hispanic adolescents at 50.8% and ranges from 28-33% for people of color, white, and Asian adolescents. (CDC)

College often is a common time for eating disorders to develop. The last week in February is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and in collaboration with Seeds of Hope, here are ways to identify what eating disorders are, common types of eating disorders, early warning signs, and steps to take to prevent an eating disorder from forming.

  1. 1. What is an Eating Disorder?

    An eating disorder is a mental health condition that affects weight, body image, and eating and exercise habits. These disorders can be life-threatening if they are not treated.

    There are various physical, environmental, and psychological factors that can contribute to an eating disorder, including: 

    Having a family history of eating disorders

    - Frequently dieting or trying to lose weight

    Experiencing hormonal changes, especially during puberty or menstrual cycles

    Media and advertising that promotes a certain body type

    Influence from peers who are critical about their own bodies

    Negative body image or low self-esteem

    An underlying mental health condition

    Growing up in a dysfunctional family environment

    Experiencing bullying, abuse, or other types of trauma

    Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are a strong factor in developing an eating disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that up to 50% of people with an eating disorder also have a mood disorder. 

    Major stressors or life changes can also be a trigger. The transition to college is a particularly challenging time, and many individuals develop eating disorders during these years.

  2. 2. What are Common Types of Eating Disorders?

    The most well-known types of eating disorders include:

    Anorexia, which is marked by skipping meals, fasting, exercising excessively, and an intense fear of gaining weight.

    Bulimia, characterized by cycles of binging (eating a lot of food) and purging through dieting, exercising, vomiting, or taking laxatives.

    Binge eating disorder, which involves eating a large amount of food over a short period of time without purging, followed by intense feelings of shame.

    There are many other types of eating disorders besides these three, including:

    Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

    Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED)




    If you feel like your eating or exercise habits have drastically changed or that you are preoccupied with weight and body image, you should talk to your doctor to see if you might have an eating disorder.

  3. 3. What are Early Warning Signs?

    Eating disorders have many symptoms, including:

    Significant or frequent changes in weight (gain or loss)

    Frequent talk of feeling “fat” or overweight

    Wanting to lose more weight than is necessary (if on a doctor-prescribed diet)

    Dissatisfaction with appearance, or a certain feature of the body

    Preoccupation with calories, fat, carbs, or protein intake

    Avoiding certain foods or entire food groups

    Practicing a rigid exercise routine that will not be broken even for illness, injury, bad weather, etc.

    Skipping meals or eating smaller portions at meals

    Disappearing after meals (often to the bathroom)

    Consuming an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time

    Purging after meals (vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, exercising, or fasting)

    Evidence of purging can include callouses on the knuckles and back of hands, stained/discolored teeth, frequent trips to the bathroom (especially after meals) and laxative, diuretic, or enema packaging

    If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor or mental health professional immediately. Eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the outcomes.

    Keep in mind that the focus of your eating and exercise habits should never be on weight or appearance. Always put the focus on health and proper nutrition and exercise.

  4. 4. Where Can I Get Help?

    Seeds of Hope provides an online quiz to help you figure out if you have early signs of a possible eating disorder and ways to reach out for help. The quiz is located here.

    Treatment for eating disorders usually involves therapy, nutritional counseling, and sometimes medications. Family counseling may also be incorporated since recovery requires adequate environmental support at home.

    If you believe you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important to find them help in a safe and judgment-free environment. Seeds of Hope offers personalized eating disorder treatment, from one-on-one therapy sessions to group counseling.

    Find a location near you or contact them at (610) 644-6464 to schedule an appointment.

As well, the Suicide Hotline and Crisis Text Line is available 24/7. The suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Text HOME to the Crisis Text line at 741741 in the United States. 


Reach out, you are never alone.