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Early Recognition and Intervention of Eating Disorders


By Columnist Eleni Psillakis – Eating Disorder Educator and Filex 2016 Inspiration Award Winner:

23379474945_e52fc1d434_bPhoto credit: Eating small amounts can be a sign of an eating disorder (DSCF7148) via photopin (license) –

There is a misconception that eating disorders are only prevalent among people who are extremely underweight and female. This way of thinking presents two problems. The first being that if a person is extremely underweight and have problems with extreme diet and exercise behaviours, then they may have been suffering for an extended period. The second is that it is not only people with that are extremely thin that suffer from eating disorders. Body shape and gender does not determine unhealthy thought patterns that translate to unhealthy behaviours. To understand some of the early signs and symptoms to look for is important in recognising these issues.

The sufferer may not even know that they have a problem, or that they are using unhealthy dieting and exercise behaviours to deal with another matter. This behaviour in itself raises an issue. As a parent and fitness professional who has suffered from an eating disorder, I wonder how many habits and attitudes towards food and exercise are unknowingly ‘taught’ to children and clients if someone has not addressed their behaviour.

In my case, lying and using any excuse to cover my lack of eating and excessive exercise became second nature to me. Therefore, before any signs of disordered behaviour is apparent, there are indications. These symptoms include unusual changes in mood, such as depression, irritability, anxiety and low self-esteem. It may be helpful at this point to be mindful of any circumstances that may cause these feelings and discuss these before unhealthy dieting and exercise become the way of dealing with them. Insomnia may accompany these moods, as well as the loss of a menstrual cycle for women. Other behaviours are the avoidance of eating with others and food that was previously enjoyed, lying about having eaten or binge behaviour, and a range of ritualistic actions may emerge, such as cutting food into small pieces, eating only at set times or only eating food prepared a certain way.

It may also be noted that the person has rapid weight loss or weight gain, fainting, dizziness and is using laxatives and purging accompanied by comments that they are feeling full or bloated. This behaviour may include trips to the bathroom after meals. Eventually, telltale signs may be bad breath, stained teeth and calloused knuckles. There may also be a preoccupation with recipes and cooking for others, while other interests are no longer a part of their day. Food and exercise regimes become the focus and any interruption to these causes extreme distress.

Further Information

The signs and symptoms are not limited to those mentioned in this article. Further information may be found at:

The Centre for Eating and Dieting Disorders:  http://cedd.org.au

Eating Disorders Victoria: http://www.eatingdisorders.org.au

The National Eating Disorder Collaboration: www.nedc.com.au

The Butterfly Foundation: http://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au 

Awareness of the signs and symptoms before they become ingrained behaviours is the key. But it is NEVER too late to get help and recovery is possible.


If you believe that you or someone you know may be feeling the same, then for help or advice, please contact your GP and visit:

Shape Your Mind Psychologists: http://www.shapeyourmind.com.au

The Mind Muscle Project

The Mind Muscle Project : Ep 92 – The psychology of eating, how eating disorders and body image issues manifest and how to overcome them with Inger and Eleni of Flex Success

Inger and Eleni share their lifetime suffering from body image issues and eating disorders, how they overcame them and how they coach other men and women to overcome them today. Coaches under Dean Mckillop from Flex Success, these women integrate a psychology and a physiology approach to nutrition. Learn about how to uncover eating disorders and what you can do about them.

Direct download: Ep_92_-_flex_success.mp3
Category:general — posted at: 10:01pm AEST


About Our Eating Disorder News and Review Columnist – Eleni Psillakis

IMG_0727Combining over 27-years experience in the fitness industry, education and a lived experience of eating disorder, Eleni Psillakis is raising awareness of eating disorders as serious mental illnesses. In this time as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, secondary and tertiary educator, she is aware of the fine-line that may be crossed from healthy to unhealthy diet and exercise habits.

Using resistance training to gain weight to her 39kg frame at age 19, Eleni physically recovered and went on to compete in women’s bodybuilding. However the underlying emotional issues and thought patterns resurfaced 25-years later when her marriage broke down and she was diagnosed with clinical depression. Antidepressants and 8-years of psychological counselling, assisted with unlearning of negative thought processes that Eleni had of herself for most of her life. These were nothing to do with body image, but self-worth.

Resistance training again helped the process of stopping her thoughts racing during this time of depression and she stepped back onto the competition stage gaining a top 3 place in her division for each of the 5 competitions since. It was the psychological help that has made the difference this time around.


In 2016, Eleni received the ‘Inspiration Award’ at the prestigious FILEX health and fitness convention, an event that recognises excellence within the industry. Eleni won the award due to her commitment in promoting awareness of eating disorders and dedication to educating others in how to overcome feelings of self-loathing.


An Insight to Anorexia and Other Eating Disorders for Fitness Professionals”, a seminar that Eleni has written, has been approved by Fitness Australia for continuing education.

Eleni Logo

Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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