Don’t Let an Eating Disorder Go Unnoticed: Understanding the Signs and Symptoms

Eating disorders can be a difficult topic to talk about, but it’s important to shed light on the subject as early detection and intervention can significantly increase the chance of recovery. If you suspect someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, there are some warning signs to look out for.

Now, this isn’t meant to be a definitive checklist as every eating disorder is unique and people may not show all the symptoms at once. However, it does provide a general overview of the types of behaviors and attitudes that may indicate a problem.

Firstly, watch out for emotional and behavioral changes: 

  • If someone is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting, and is constantly talking about them
  • Refusing to eat certain foods or restricting entire categories of food 
  • Food rituals such as eating only particular foods or food groups excessive chewing, or not allowing foods to touch
  • Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
  • Withdrawing from usual friends and activities
  • Extreme concern with body size and shape

Some of these behaviors might be mild and not very concerning, but when behaviors like these begin to impact your quality of life or your loved one’s quality of life and impact your/their ability to do things, that is a time to reach out for support. 

Another area to keep an eye on is physical symptoms. People with eating disorders may experience: 

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
  • They may complain of stomach cramps, constipation, acid reflux, or experience menstrual irregularities
  • They may also have difficulties concentrating, and abnormal laboratory findings such as anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low potassium, and low white and red blood cell counts 
  • Watch for dizziness, fainting, and feeling cold all the time
  • Sleep problems
  • Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting),
  • Dental problems such as enamel erosion, cavities, discoloration of teeth from vomiting, and tooth sensitivity
  • Dry skin and hair, brittle nails, or muscle weakness
  • Poor wound healing, and impaired immune functioning

Remember, early intervention is key to recovery, and seeking help from a medical professional or a certified eating disorder professional (CEDS) can make a huge difference in the outcome. They can support you or your loved one, seek help and offer guidance throughout the journey to recovery.

Below are some additional resources!

  1. Eating Disorder Foundation (EDF)
  2. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
  3. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
  4. Eating Disorder Care

Be Your Own Valentine: Self-Care is True Love

Valentine’s Day can be a day filled with excitement, happiness, and love. But it can also be a day filled with pressure, high expectations, grief and/or loneliness. We all have different experiences when it comes to Valentine’s Day, and while some people feel joyful, connected, and fulfilled, others may find themselves feeling lonely, isolated or unsupported. Whatever your situation, it is important to remember that self-care is true love. 

Self-care is a practice that involves taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s about treating yourself with kindness, respect, and compassion. It’s about recognizing your worth, accepting your flaws, and embracing your uniqueness. Easier said than done, I know. But, when you care for yourself, you are more available to care for others. 

Taking the time to nourish your body, mind, and soul can feel like a tall order. But it can be done through a variety of activities like: movement, sleeping-in, ordering take out, positive affirmations, reading, spending time in nature, leaving work early, or taking a relaxing bath. Self-care helps you to recharge and replenish your energy, which, in turn, makes you feel better and more equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Being your own Valentine means making a conscious effort to put yourself first. It means treating yourself with the same love and care that you would give to someone you care about deeply. It means taking the time to understand your needs, setting boundaries, and making yourself a priority. When you prioritize your self-care and self-love, you will find that you are able to be more resilient, confident, and fulfilled in all areas of your life.

So, this Valentine’s Day, why not be your own Valentine and treat yourself with kindness, respect, and love? Do something special for yourself, something that makes you feel good and brings you joy. Whether it’s cooking your favorite meal, taking a yoga class, or eating your favorite chocolate, take the time to focus on yourself and your well-being.

Self-care is essential to our well-being. Be your own Valentine, make sure to show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day.

New Year, Same You! Rejecting Diet Culture’s Obsession with Resolutions

As we welcome in the new year, it’s natural to reflect on the past and consider ways we can improve ourselves in the future. What isn’t natural is diet culture’s intense obsession with you becoming an all “new you!” As if you are an appliance, not a living, breathing, human being! 

The diet/wellness world takes advantage of the natural new start to ram some disordered ideas down your throat. The New Year’s Resolution train is a large binge/restrict cycle we all go through one a year and it is toxic! You are encouraged to binge through the holidays because the looming “resolutions” will restart the clock and you’ll cleanse all your “past sins” with your new habits. 

This promotes not only an unhealthy relationship with food, exercise, and goal setting, but promotes the narrative that in order to live the life you want you to need to change all of you. It’s so much pressure and filled with so much inferiority rhetoric. 

Again, I am all for personal growth, self-reflection, trying new things and setting goals to get there, but it doesn’t have to come with the all-or-nothing, black and white, thinking of the New Year’s Resolution world. Change can happen any day of the year, and you don’t need a “new you” in order to live a life that feels good to you. 

Instead of stressing out about large goals and drastic “lifestyle” changes, why not try being kind to yourself, giving yourself permission to fail – failing is a crucial part of learning –  and remember that change is a process, not a destination. It can be messy and uncomfortable, there will be setbacks, but when you see every day, every hour, every moment as a chance to begin again, you can be present with your growth. 

Instead of becoming a “new you,” maybe we should focus on being more loving and accepting of ourselves as we grow, change or maybe stay the same. All options are ok. 

As we enter the new year, remember to be kind to yourself and embrace who you are. You are enough, and you have the power to make positive changes in your life every day, not just on January 1st.

So here’s to a happy and fulfilling new year, filled with self-love and acceptance. 

7 Tips to Support Recovery During the Holiday Season

The holidays are touted to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for people in recovery, it can feel like the most stressful time of the year because the holidays can present many challenges to recovery. Holidays mean irregular schedules which can derail useful routines and practices people have to support their recovery. Holidays mean lots of food and usually lots of diet talk coupled with New Year Resolution promises. Holidays mean interacting with family, which can be supportive, but sometimes family can present tricky dynamics. All of this and the forced joyfulness of the season can be incredibly stressful for anyone, but especially those with eating disorders or mood disorders. So, here are some tips to support yourself during this holiday season.

1. Connect With Your Care Team

As we head into the holiday season, be sure to connect with the professionals that support you with recovery – a therapist, dietician, trainer, and any other professional support. Discuss potential “triggers,” anxieties, and any “fear foods” that you might be encountering. Brainstorm strategies to support yourself through any challenging situation you might predict.

2. Sculpt Your Schedule

Look ahead and create a schedule that provides enough “down time” and/or normal routines as possible. You may not be able to control other people or the food they bring, but you can control how many festivities you attend, how long you stay, and how much additional activities you’re willing to take on. You CAN also schedule self-care time and treat it just like you would an important meeting. It is non-negotiable. Your self-care is important.

3. Fire Up Your Friends and Family

Make a list of friends and family members who are supportive and helpful when challenges arise: people who can add connection and compassion as your ED demands isolation and black and white thinking. Reach out to these people beforehand and talk about ways they can support you through the season.

4. Hone Your Healthy Boundaries

You know what situations, topics and people who provide the most challenge for you. You might ask your family and friends to avoid diet talk or negative body talk while they’re around you. You might limit your interactions with certain stressors or time spent at certain holiday events. Remember, boundaries are a way to love yourself and others at the same time. They are not barriers to love, but instructions on how people can love you best. You are allowed to set healthy boundaries!

5. Step Up Self-Care Practices

Know that you might need more care. Holidays are hard and no matter how much you prepare unexpected things might arise and make them harder. Allowing yourself time in a safe environment, doing something that replenishes you is vital.

6. Charge Up Your Compassion

Have compassion for yourself. Recovery is hard. Holidays are hard. Unlearning diet culture is hard. It takes time and you won’t do everything perfectly and you’re not supposed to. Not being perfect is deeply human. Find ways to add compassion to your day with self-talk or writing down compassionate affirmations. Whatever way feels most supportive.

7. Shift the Focus

You also get to enjoy the holiday season! So, be mindful and present. Connect with family, friends and traditions you love. Eat food you enjoy! Play music that connects with your soul! Maybe start a practice of gratitude (if you don’t have one already) to really reinforce the moment. It will never be the holiday season in 2022 again, so savor the fun and happy parts. Record them. Remember them. You deserve happiness too!

Meeting You Where You Are: Health At Every Size Personal Training

I am Abigail Ladd, an anti-diet health coach, and Health at Every Size fitness professional. I have worked in the fitness industry for 15 years training people of all ages in multiple modalities. However, it was only in the last 5 years I walked away from the traditional “health & fitness” model towards the anti-diet and Health at Every Size frameworks driven by my own recovery from an eating disorder. This shift not only improved my relationship with my food and my body, but it has also made me a better trainer and coach to my clients and truly support them wherever they are with their fitness goals. 

While you may have heard of Health at Every Size or HAES, you might not fully understand what it is. So, let’s define it right out of the gates: 

Health at Every Size is a set of principles that was established in 2003 by the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). These principles reject the idea that weight, body size and BMI are sole indicators of a healthy body. Instead, they are merely data points in a complex, nuanced system. We cannot determine someone’s health based on the size of their body. HAES also rejects the idea that weight loss is the panacea of the diet industry and some parts of the medical community claim it is, because people of all sizes experience varying levels of health – not just throughout the world, but also throughout their lifetime. Health isn’t a stagnant thing. After all, every time you get a cold or the flu, your health status has changed. 

As a personal trainer, I have had lots of conversations about Health at Every Size with colleagues in the industry because HAES brings out all the feels on either side of the discussion.

Critics of HAES describe it as “endorsing or glorifying obesity” and “giving up on your health.” First, the portrayals of fat or “obese” people in our media are far from “endorsing and glorifying”, in fact they are full of shame, collective disgust and often verbal abuse of fat people. Fat people are treated terribly and we all know it, which is one of the many reasons people are so afraid to become fat. There is not a multi-billion dollar industry promoting being fat, but there is a multi-billion dollar industry glorifying thinness and disordered eating. So, if we as a society want to be worried about glorifying a body type with unhealthy eating behaviors, we should all have our eyes trained on Diet Culture.

Second, health is not synonymous with thinness. We all know people who are thin, who manage health conditions and we all know people who are fat and manage no health conditions…and vice versa. More to the point though, health isn’t a moral imperative or something you “owe” anyone. Your health status is no one’s business but your own. Additionally, weight loss does not automatically correlate with improved health outcomes. But, health behaviors like stress management, eating nutritious food, and exercise, do correlate with improved health regardless of any change in weight. 

So, putting weight at the forefront isn’t “health promoting” because it is the wrong focus. 

Usually the main reason someone wants to hire a personal trainer and health coach is weight loss. Now, this can be coded in many ways: be healthy, have more energy, feel confident, be stronger, play with my kids more. However, when setting goals with my clients I ask: “If I help you be healthy, have more energy, feel confident, be stronger, play with your kids more, but your body size doesn’t change, will you be ok with that?” most of my clients say “no,” because what they really want is weight loss. They want to look the part. Now, there are many reasons people believe a thinner body will give them health, confidence, energy, strength and make them a better partner, parent or family member, but all of that is marketing. Thinness doesn’t mean you’ll get any of that and, more often than not, the behaviors required to make someone thinner than their natural frame – extreme food restriction, exercise routines and/or constant weight fluctuations are incredibly damaging to one’s health. 

We don’t know if a person’s body size will change as a result of adding in health behaviors. If we did, no one would have to try oodles of diets. They’d only need one. Bodies are diverse and nuanced. But we do know how to build a person’s strength, manage and increase their energy, build confidence, and increase your endurance so you can play with your kids for longer periods of time.

So, with Health at Every Sizes personal training, we do not pursue weight loss and  it’s not “on the back burner” because it’s not a reliable data point to set a goal. Your body might change in size and it might not. However, we can improve your strength, endurance, mobility, stability and your relationship with food. A Health at Every Size approach means we’re not trying to “fix” your body we’re working on the best way to support your body sustainably, so you can support it and yourself as your body changes throughout your life. 

When people think their bodies aren’t valuable as they are, regardless of size, they treat them terribly with crash diets and over exercising. But, when we acknowledge that bodies are inherently worthy and valuable, it is a lot easier for people to care for their bodies because they know how precious they are.

To find out more about my fitness services check out: