Losing too much weight is a risky business. Along with the belly fat and the hip pads can go muscle (including the heart), brain tissue, bone, and more. Sure, this level of skinny is extreme, but it's exactly why eating disorders can be so, so dangerous: The starving body gradually consumes itself.
So how do you know whether someone you're close to -- probably someone who's lost a lot of weight and already looks thin to you -- needs help? Here are the 20 classic signs of an eating disorder, from YOU: The Owner's Manual for Teens, the newest book from RealAge experts Mehmet Oz, MD, and Michael Roizen, MD. If some of these signs sound familiar, consider that a very large red flag. Don't attempt to tackle this yourself; eating disorders are very tough to treat. And don't make comments about food, dieting, or body image; you could trigger even more extreme dieting.
Instead, try to get your friend or loved one to see a doc for a checkup. An astute physician will take it from there and may need to bring in a whole team of reinforcements: parents and other family members, medical specialists, nutritional counselors, physical therapists, and psychologists.
- Being so preoccupied with appearance, body shape, or weight that it gets in the way of daily life
- Consistent sadness, frustration, or anger about body image
- Frequent self-deprecating comments
- Frequent comparisons to others' appearance, body shape, or weight
- Excessive concern about a body part that seems normal to you
- Increasing self-consciousness
- Secrecy about eating or exercising habits
- Dramatic or nonstop weight loss, or extreme weight fluctuations (big ups and downs)
- Severely restricting food intake
- Bingeing (likely followed by purging -- see below)
- Self-induced vomiting, using laxatives, or other forms of purging
- Refusing to eat certain foods or refusing to eat in front of others
- Obsessing over body weight, calories, food, or dieting
- Unusual eating rituals, such as constantly rearranging food on the plate, chewing excessively, eating foods in a certain order, or measuring all foods before eating them
- Making excuses to avoid mealtimes, or claiming food intolerances or allergies when none exist
- Complaining often about feeling fat and repeatedly getting on the scales
- Exercising excessively, even during bad weather or sickness, to get rid of calories
- Constantly denying being hungry
- Attempting to hide the body with clothing or posture
- Becoming increasingly moody, depressed, or withdrawn
Get more health tips from RealAge: