Eating disorders have become increasingly more common, with nearly 30 million Americans estimated to have one in their lifetime. If you, or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it may be difficult to know what steps to take to help.
Being able to recognize the warning signs of someone with an eating disorder is an important first step. Common symptoms may include preoccupation with weight, dieting and control of food, noticeable fluctuations in weight, discomfort eating around others and mood swings. If eating habits begin to affect someone’s happiness, concentration or quality of life, it may be time to seek professional help.
Consider these additional guidelines and resources to help someone living with an eating disorder find their path toward recovery.
- Encourage them to open up
Whether they tell a loved one or a health professional – or both – having a support system may be essential for helping with eating disorder recovery. Create a safe space and consider asking how they’ve been feeling, the habits they’ve developed and how others may be able to help support them.
- Find a medical professional
Seeking out professional help as early as possible is important, as a doctor can help provide an initial evaluation and determine the level of care that will be most helpful. The doctor will likely ask questions about their eating habits and perform a medical exam that looks at body measurements, heart rate, skin health and other diagnosing factors of an eating disorder. A doctor may also order bloodwork to evaluate things like blood sugar, electrolyte levels and kidney function. Based on these exams, the doctor will assess the condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan or provide a referral to a specialist.
- Get help tracking progress
Consider looking for tools to help, like an app that helps manage treatment. One option, called Recovery Record, may help those overcoming an eating disorder to take control, in collaboration with a treatment team. The app uses an evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach by encouraging individuals to track their meals, thoughts, feelings and triggers. You can choose to share this information with your care team, who can help monitor their progress, boost accountability and provide support between office visits. The app became available this month to eligible UnitedHealthcare members and providers.
It may be a difficult journey for those struggling with an eating disorder. By helping to monitor their habits, understanding their mental health and leading with support, it may help them take positive steps toward a healthier relationship with their body.