By: Nikki Nies
**Disclaimer: The following post is by no means disregarding the very real ubiquitous nature of allergies and eating disorders. While I try to write a variety of topics, the point of this post was to other more aware of “new trends” and the unfortunate concept of masking an eating disorder with a default allergy. As with all posts, my intention is to encourage healthier behaviors. If you do decide to read the following post, please read with a grain of salt.**
There isn’t much scientific research explaining the mechanisms behind the possible link between declaring one has an allergy to a particular food or food group, when in fact it’s masking a more serious condition. An eating disorder. There’s a new wave of bloggers and speakers, sharing their story on how they were able to successfully disguise their restrictive eating with the claims of allergies. General practitioners have seen an increase in patients declaring a food allergy after watching a celebrity share his or her success with his or her own said allergy. However, the practitioners said 94% of patients didn’t know the difference between an allergy and an intolerance and allergies impacting only 25% of patients.
While allergies are a very serious, life long modifier, today we’re talking about the pseudo allergies and underlying reasonings. With so much focus on outward appearance and diet tips that fail to deliver what’s promised, one can see how easily it is to become determined to mimic the “perfect” persona our society dictates is the only accepting method in society.
People are less judgemental regarding allergies to not eating cheese than stating one’s not eating cheese cause of the extra weight it may put on. People don’t argue with declarations of being lactose intolerant or going vegetarian. While not all vegetarians have eating disorders, there’s a history of using vegetarianism for weight loss and restrictive eating.
Often times, restrictive starts out as an experiment, seeing if one can live without gluten or stating ethical reasons for not eating meat. When someone sees a new eating pattern helps shed off the pounds, it only fuels the continuation of a certain eating pattern.
Friends and family need to look out for loved ones and be aware of any recent changes to behavior. Keep in mind these 6 tips that may signal an eating disorder:
- Withdrawal or change in physical activity–becoming weaker and tired more quickly and/or often
- Listen to what’s being said: Are more negative comments being stated? How does the person describe him or herself?
- If it’s a family member, schedule regular meals and a sit down dinner when possible: When there’s no structure of eating, it’s easy for people to “fall through the crack” and not eat; making family bonding is also an important part of human development and a sense of security
- Notice changes in food restrictions: i.e. won’t eat bread anymore; a sudden interest in cooking and/or preparing own meals
- Go off instincts: If you feel there’s been a change, but not sure specifically what, follow up on your hunches
- Try to engage loved ones in how he or she feels instead of assuming; provide an open dialog to increase comfortably and a sense of security
Seeing your primary care physician if you suspect a food intolerance or allergy is highly advised. Before jumping to conclusions about what you can and can’t eat, getting tests done can calm any concerns you have.
Finding help for those with eating disorders is crucial, it’s important to know the family doesn’t have to do it alone. More often than not, an eating disorder has nothing to do with food, but restrictive eating is a way to gain back control that someone feels has been lost in another area of life. Keeping in mind your own daily eating habits and signs of an eating disorder for loved ones can better ensure treatment can be provided.