Body Image & Eating Signs

Learn about the thoughts, feelings and behaviours linked to body image and eating concerns.

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These symptoms show up early on. Other symptoms may develop later. Everyone experiences body image and eating concerns differently and not everyone will have all the symptoms.

Thoughts add

  • Think constantly about what you will eat (or not eat)
  • Think constantly about when you will exercise
  • Believe that if you lose weight or look different you will be happier
  • See eating as one of the only things you have control over
  • Believe people would like you more if you were thinner or looked different
  • Are confused when your friends and family members say you look too thin, because you don’t see yourself that way
  • Find it hard to focus and concentrate at school or work

Feelings add

  • Feel guilt or shame after eating large amounts of food
  • Feel you are worthless or don’t deserve food
  • Feel out of control when you go on an eating binge (eat a lot in a short period of time)

Behaviours add

Note: Many of these behaviours can be dangerous or harmful to your health.

  • Don’t eat even when you are hungry
  • Go on diets often
  • Have strict rules about what you can and cannot eat
  • Eat less and less over time
  • Count calories for everything you eat
  • Spend a lot of time exercising to burn off calories or to punish yourself for eating
  • Prefer to eat alone and are secretive about eating habits
  • Use steroids and protein drinks to build muscle
  • Try to avoid social situations where people will be eating
  • Argue with others when they say you should eat more or exercise less
  • Stop doing activities that were fun or important to you
  • Visit the bathroom immediately after eating
  • Weigh yourself often

Remember, symptoms are changes from your usual routines or habits. Not everyone experiences the same set of symptoms or to the same level. Many people will experience these symptoms from time to time but they become a problem when they keep coming back or don’t go away. Not everyone has the same symptoms at the same level. A person may be diagnosed with an eating disorder if symptoms are very strong, and interfere in their life. Spotting these symptoms early and taking action can prevent problems from getting worse.

Concerned about someone else?

It can be hard to understand why a friend is unhappy with the way they look. For more information on how to support a friend, visiting Supporting a Friend.

Families are often the first to notice changes and become concerned. For information on how to support a young person, visit Supporting a Family Member

What Next?

If you want to find out if this is something you are experiencing or are looking for tips to help manage body image and eating concerns here are a few options.