How to recognize your Colleague may have an Eating Disorder
Bulimia nervosa is the eating disorder which is most commonly recognized by the sufferer’s binge eating, followed shortly thereafter by purging. Those suffering from this disorder will often engage in short periods of uncontrollable eating and afterwards induce vomiting with the hope that it will compensate for the intake of calories and prevent gaining weight. There is also a second form of bulimia which is more difficult to recognize. With the second type, sufferers employ other types of behavior to prevent weight gain. These other behaviors may include extreme periods of exercise or fasting. Both types of bulimics generally maintain average, or slightly above average, body weight and are often difficult to recognize. This is particularly true in the case of colleagues, who you may see only during work hours. Although bulimia is not always easy to spot, there are some telltale signs that a colleague may be suffering from an eating disorder.
1. Evidence of Binging and Purging
This is perhaps the most easily recognizable sign of bulimia. During binges, the sufferer may eat a large amount of food and will often hesitate to eat with others. Once binging begins, the sufferer may feel unable to stop and will often eat to the point that they are in physical discomfort. This will often be followed by a trip to the restroom or some other private place. As the condition worsens, sufferers may feel the need to purge even after small meals or snacks. Purging has physical side effects that are easily visible if you know what to look for.
- Frequent restroom trips after, or even during, meals
- Swollen, puffy salivary glands (chipmunk cheeks)
- Calluses, sores, or scars on the hands and knuckles as a result of inducing vomiting
- Raspy, scratchy s sounding voice
- Evidence of diuretic, laxative, or enema use
- Preoccupation with eating or exercise
- Recurring odor of vomit in restroom or even on the individual
2. An Excessively Negative, Distorted Body Image
Everyone has something that they’d like to change about their looks. Consistent dissatisfaction with appearance, weight, and body shape is not normal however. Signs of low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression that all seem to stem from appearance could be a sign that your colleague suffers from bulimia or some other eating disorder. These symptoms can trigger other telltale signs as well, such as frequent work absences or becoming obsessive about exercise to the point where it distracts the sufferer from every-day tasks.
3. Frequently Fluctuating Weight
While many people gain and lose weight frequently, particularly with the abundance of diet pills and fad diets on the market. This is also a sign of bulimia however. Weight fluctuations of 10 or more pounds may occur during alternate periods of binging and purging. Rapid weight loss may also be the result of fasting to make up for a recent binge.
While these are certainly not all of the signs associated with bulimia and other eating disorders, they are some of the most common. Eating disorders of any type are very serious and potentially life threatening if left untreated. Even if you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with a colleague, discussing your suspicions with someone who is closer to them could help them get the treatment that they need.