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Food, Mood & Anxiety: 13 Signs You Have an Eating Disorder

It’s no secret that I’m a strong advocate for eating real food; choosing what you put in your mouth can have a huge effect on the environment, your community, AND your mood. Sure, we feel better if we have some lean locally raised, grass-fed protein and lots of fresh organic veggies for dinner, but the effect food has on mood goes well beyond just eating what we know is good for us.

Research studies show that in as little as two days, foods rich in B vitamins, folate, selenium, and healthy fats can actually trigger neurological responses from the brain, releasing important happy mood-affecting chemicals like tryptophan and serotonin, as well as reduce feelings of fatigue and anxiety. Even your gut flora (the bacteria in the stomach and intestine) can affect how you feel emotionally.

Likewise, if we don’t get enough of the right foods (i.e. processed sugar, simple carbs, hydrogenated ingredients, refined sodium, caffeine and alcohol), we can suffer from a malnourishment of these mood-boosters, creating serious risk for all kinds of mood disorders. Especially with things like sugar where we get a quick surge of energy which quickly becomes a quick drop in energy, immediately making us irritable and cranky.

In fact, regularly consuming unhealthy foods can cause more than a bad mood – it can trigger dangerous negative thinking and body image issues which leads to various types of eating disorders including bulimia, anorexia, emotional eating, binge eating and body shaming.

None of these are normal, natural, or okay.

And you deserve better than that.

If your mood is constantly in a dip or you have a lot of anxiety around food, you may have an eating disorder. To help you discover if your relationship with food is healthy or not, here are 13 common but very important warning signs and symptoms – red flags – that you may have an emotional eating disorder:

1. Constant preoccupation with food and calories
2. Sudden, rapid or frequent changes in weight
3. Jumping between zero and excessive exercise
4. Constantly weighing yourself before and after meals or exercise to check “the numbers”
5. Withdrawal from social activities and refusing to eat in front of others
6. Refusing to eat alone
7. Hiding food wrappers or lying about your intake of food or alcohol
8. Bingeing and/or purging, food restriction of entire food groups, prolonged fasting/cleansing
9. Fear of gaining weight
10. Using diet pills, diuretics or laxatives to control body weight
11. Chronic fatigue before or after meals
12. Eaters guilt after having a treat
13. Skipping meals to make up for alcohol calories

This is going to sound a little “after school special”, but if you or someone you know is dealing with any of these eating disorder symptoms, speak up. Get help. Learn how to handle these body image issues around food and how to be inspired from health-positive sources so you can enjoy your relationship with food.

You aren’t alone.

And your mood, body and mind will thank you.

Kristy Gardner


Kristy Gardner is a writer, photographer and the author of Cooking With Cocktails: 75 Spirited Recipes (Countryman Press). She’s written & photographed with Edible Communities, The Taste Canada Food Writing Awards, and CountryMan Press and has presented at The Food Blogger’s Online Summit. Kristy lives in Vancouver, B.C. and has a penchant for farm fresh cocktails, carbs, hiking in the backcountry, bad ’80s films, bourbon, and pigs.

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