What is Atypical Anorexia?
Atypical anorexia nervosa often slips under the radar because the person doesn’t look super thin. So, imagine someone dealing with all the anorexia symptoms, but they don’t fit the “underweight” criteria on the BMI scale, and they might not even appear “underweight.”
Interestingly, people with atypical anorexia have usually been “overweight” before. But then, they get laser-focused on losing weight and start going all-out on dieting and exercising. This puts major stress on their bodies, even if they now fall into the “healthy weight range.” If it’s a woman, she might stop getting her period and her vital signs can get seriously low.
The fucked up thing is that what’s supposed to be a “healthy” weight is actually unhealthy for them.
When those with atypical anorexia are on the road to recovery, it might mean they’re moving from what’s normally seen as a “healthy weight” to a range that’s considered “overweight.” Or they could even go from “overweight” to “obese.”
Here’s the thing, though: atypical anorexia is just as serious as the usual kind. The rate of hospitalization for both types is equally high, showing they’re equally seriously ill.
And guess what? The emotional toll and how it messes up their lives? It’s often even worse because we live in a fat-phobic society.
Even though the atypical anorexia nervosa diagnosis is new, cases have been popping up for years. These days, around a third of those seeking treatment for anorexia fit this atypical description.
Symptoms of Atypical Anorexia
Many of the signs of atypical anorexia nervosa are similar to those of regular anorexia…
People dealing with atypical anorexia might not look super skinny, but they’re still severely restricting their eating, similar to those with regular anorexia. This shows up in their bodies through:
- Noticeable weight loss, even if they’re still in the normal weight range.
- Skin that’s yellowing or drying out.
- Pain in the tummy area.
- Stomach and digestion problems.
- Getting sick more easily.
- Trouble going to the bathroom.
- Feeling tired and low on energy.
- Low blood pressure and heart rate.
- Dizziness and fainting.
- Feeling the cold easily.
Behavioral & Emotional
The main difference between atypical anorexia and regular anorexia is the weight factor. But many of the emotional and behavioural symptoms are pretty similar. One big thing to note, though, is that people with atypical anorexia might think they’re “not sick enough” or use their weight to believe they’re “healthy” or “fine.” If they’re not super underweight, their issues might go unnoticed.
Look out for these behaviours and feelings:
- Focusing a lot on weight, size, and how they look.
- Feeling bad about themselves or seeing their body in a distorted way.
- Being super scared of gaining weight or having fat.
- Thinking a ton about food, what’s in it, and how it affects their body.
- Avoiding eating or trying to hide eating from others.
- Getting really emotional and moody.
- Having trouble concentrating and thinking clearly.
- Experiencing severe anxiety around food
Long-Term Effects of Atypical Anorexia
Some people might think atypical anorexia isn’t as serious because it’s “atypical,” but that’s not true at all. It often leads to the same health and mental issues as regular anorexia, such as:
- Harming important organs.
- Losing or damaging bones and muscles.
- Not being able to do normal daily things.
- Heart problems.
- Feeling more and more depressed and even thinking about suicide.
- Worst case, death.
Also, studies show that those with atypical anorexia were actually considered “obese” before their disorder started. This means they might not reach out for help before getting underweight.
What determines your natural set point weight?
Some people can’t understand how someone can be anorexic and be “fat” or a “normal weight” and I get it… there was a time when I didn’t understand either.
Anorexia is stereotyped as someone who looks like a walking skeleton. And whilst this might be the case for most, it’s not the case for all. We all have different body types and body compositions and some people naturally have larger bodies. That’s just the way it is.
And you cannot control your body size unless you live with a restricted eating disorder for the rest of your life.
Here are 4 factors that have created your unique natural set point weight. I share them with you to help you see that although it might suck if you’re in a bigger body because of the world we live in, there’s nothing you can do about it apart from accepting and embracing your natural authentic body. Which is 100% possible and extremely freeing and liberating.
1. Genetics and prenatal factors
A mother’s diet and lifestyle choices matter a great deal and may influence a baby’s body composition.
The genes you inherit from your parents determine your set point weight.
There are over 400 genes that have been identified as playing a role in body composition. These genes are pretty common and are found in around 85% of the population. These genes play a role in weight gain or loss by affecting:
Often, the genes that result in weight gain are called “thrifty genes.” This is because they can be traced back to our ancestors. It was important in times past that people survive off of stored body fat for periods. This is why these specific genes are so common.
2. How you were birthed into the world
Though the reason is unknown, children born via C-section seem more prone to obesity later in life.
This is also true for formula-fed infants, who tend to be heavier than breastfed babies.
This may be because the two groups develop different gut bacteria, which can affect fat storage.
It’s important to note that these factors are generally not made by the choice of either the mother or baby.
3. Medications or medical conditions
Many medical conditions can only be treated with pharmaceutical drugs.
Weight gain is a common side effect of many such medications, including diabetes medications, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.
These drugs may increase your appetite, reduce your metabolism, or even alter your body’s ability to burn fat, increasing your rate of fat storage.
Additionally, many common medical conditions can predispose you to weight gain. A key example is hypothyroidism.
4. Your previous and current environment
In some areas, buying fresh foods high in nourishment is simply not an option. These areas are often called food deserts and are located in urban neighbourhoods or rural towns without ready access to healthy, affordable food.
This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and fresh food providers within walking distance. Those living in these regions are often poor and may not have access to a vehicle to travel far to buy groceries. An inability to buy healthy and fresh foods limits your diet substantially and limits your choice.
Other environmental factors may play a role as well, including artificial light from electric light bulbs, computers, phones, and televisions. Even though the link between screen use and weight gain has been well established, most studies chalk this up to a lack of exercise.
However, nighttime exposure to light and changes to your inner circadian rhythm may also contribute to weight gain.
When it comes to your natural set point weight, multiple factors are at play, many of which are beyond your control, including genetics, childhood habits, medical conditions, and hormones.
Are you suffering?
If you resonate with what I’ve shared and are suffering in silence because you don’t think you’re “sick enough” PLEASE take this as a sign to reach out for help.
An eating disorder is serious and has a dramatic and dangerous effect on your mental and physical health REGARDLESS of your body size. There is more to life than thinness, I promise. Let me show you.
Big love and hugs,