The Eating Disorder Symptoms We Don't Talk About


Kira McCarthy

date published

April 14, 2021, noon



Eating Disorders have a higher mortality rate when compared to other mental illnesses -  and yet it continues to be stigmatized and silenced. Diet culture is pervasive and clever, and the selling of “health” as a product we can consume affects all our choices, whether we are conscious of it or not. 

It is fairly obvious that recovering from an Eating Disorder means reducing and eventually eliminating behaviours. The perfectionist tendencies, restricting of and compensating for food, excessive exercise, and counting calories are things we know we need to stop. But what about all the behaviours  we don’t talk about? 

The Eating Disorder brain comes up with all sorts of ideas that seem entirely rational but are actually behaviours that prevent recovery. If your Eating Disorder Brain tends to tell you to restrict, here are ten ideas you may not have considered to prevent those behaviours. 

1. Buy some bigger plates. Eating on small plates allows you to restrict your food in a way that fools you, and everyone around you, into thinking you’ve eaten more than you actually have. Small plates are not helpful in measuring portion size. Ask yourself: if you moved your meal onto a bigger plate, would it still provide you with the right amount of nutrients?

2. Small spoons and small forks were not meant for eating meals. They trick you into eating smaller bites, or allow you to take tiny bites that are easy to make it feel like you’re not eating much. Small cutlery perpetuates your fear of judgement. They fool you into feeling like putting tiny bites into your mouth is eating more privately. This is not true and does not serve you.

3. Get rid of your scale. When your medical team needs to weigh you, request that they not share the number with you. There is no number on that scale that will make you feel good about yourself. Your version of “too high” makes you feel awful, and your version of a “lower number” gives you encouragement to continue with behaviours that will worsen your health and progress in recovery.

4. Correct yourself compassionately when you catch negative self-talk. There is no benefit to berating yourself or calling yourself names.

5. Embrace all of your emotions. When you feel yourself starting to feel anxiety and/or sadness and grief, remind yourself that all of your feelings are valid.

6. When you do something you regret, make a mistake, or feel embarrassed, be sure to give yourself some compassion. Being self-compassionate means acknowledging that you are human and that humans make mistakes. Everyone has these experiences. Hug yourself if it feels right!

7. You don’t need to cut your food into teeny-tiny pieces. It is unnecessary and may reinforce your fear of food. Bite into your food with gusto instead of tearing off tiny pieces.

8. Stop using utensils for foods that are meant to be picked up. You can bite into things instead of cutting or breaking off small pieces first.

9. Reduce your consumption of social media. Take a break from scrolling through stories, images, and updates that make you compare yourself to others or make you feel bad about yourself. Why spend hours intentionally looking at images and messages that reinforce exactly what you are trying to recover from? Instead of “following” friends and family, talk to them on the phone or see them in person when you can. When you do use social media, be intentional and make an effort to remove accounts that trigger you. Seek out supportive accounts that encourage recovery. 

10. If you have a meal plan, do your best to stick to it. It is essential to recovery. It helps you stay accountable for your food intake and it reduces your food decision-making time. It also cuts costs when you make your grocery list directly from your meal plan. 

Recovery is a long and hard road. Whether you have addressed the physical symptoms or not, these 10 tips can be an important part of your journey. 

Take care of yourself, and remember to nourish your mind, body, and spirit.

Author’s Bio

Kira McCarthy is an emerging Toronto writer and artist. Her work expresses her passion for body politics, especially body image, body shame, body language, and self-acceptance. She fiercely explores women’s experiences of Eating Disorders, weight shaming, and the pathologizing of obesity. Kira brings her love of learning and joy for personal expression into her artwork. Social justice and an anti-oppression lens frame much of her work. Kira’s other passions include singing, and spending hours researching. In 2015, Kira founded Fox Tales Art; a company that donates its profits to Sheena’s Place, a non-residential, non-institutional centre in Toronto supporting people affected by Eating Disorders. She also curates their blog.

IG: @foxtaleskira 

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