One of the biggest fears people with eating disorders have is getting caught. They know their friends and family members will pressure them into getting treatment for their conditions, and so they use a variety of ways to hide them. Unfortunately, some of the tricks people with eating disorders employ seem reasonable, which sometimes results in their disorders escaping detection. Here are two such tactics.
Claiming a Food Allergy
People with anorexia and other restrictive-type food disorders limit not only the amount of foods they eat but also the type. For instance, someone may only eat low-calorie vegetables and avoid breads, meats, cheeses, and other foods that tend to have more than number of calories they find acceptable. As a way of explaining why they may refuse food that's offered or why they're such a "picky eater", some anorexics will claim to have food allergies.
Food allergies are common. Up to 15 million Americans suffer from them, and over 170 foods can cause allergic reactions. So it doesn't seem at all unreasonable for a person to claim to have one, which can make this excuse difficult to dispute without medical evidence showing the claim is not true.
However, questioning the person about the nature of his or her allergy can help you determine if it's real or not. If the person is unable to adequately explain how the food negatively affects them (e.g. gluten can cause intestinal distress in some people), they don't have a plan in place to counteract an allergic reaction (e.g. EpiPen) if they come in contact with the banned food, and/or the foods they claim to be allergic to don't seem to have anything in common (e.g. contains nuts), they may not be telling the truth.
Joining Numerous Sports Activities
Another thing some people with eating disorders do is join numerous sports activities or do a lot of exercise. This accomplishes several things. First, it provides them an easy way to explain their sudden weight loss. Second, it can provide cover for binge eating or not eating at all (e.g. claiming to eat at practice when they didn't).
Fitness is a highly prized attribute in American society, so it may seem reasonable for someone to constantly work out, especially if the person was overweight when they began or had always been active. However, if the exercise seems compulsory or the person gets inordinately upset at missing a workout, there may be a more serious issue.
To accurately diagnose whether someone has an eating disorder, these behaviors must be looked at in the context of other symptoms the individual may be displaying, such as a preoccupation with food and wearing baggy clothes. For help determining if your loved one has a problem or to obtain treatment for the person, contact a center for eating disorder treatments.