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Body Image and Eating Disorders

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders include extreme thoughts, emotions, & behaviors surrounding weight, food, & body shape. There is a pronounced disruption in eating behaviors & weight management as well as intense anxiety about body weight & size. Eating disorders are often a dangerous response to stress. They are serious emotional & physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females & males. The most common eating disorders are described below:

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Restricted eating, self-starvation & excessive weight loss
  • Intense fear of & obsession with weight gain & the idea of becoming “fat”
  • Persistent behavior to prevent weight gain
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image
  • Body image is distorted- person may feel fat despite being underweight
  • Inability to appreciate the severity of the situation

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Cycle of binge eating followed by purging
  • Binge eating involves eating large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Feeling out of control during the binge
  • Purging may include: Self-induced vomiting, abusing laxatives / diuretics, fasting, abusing diet pills, or excessively exercising
  • Extreme concern with body weight & shape

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Recurrent binge eating episodes which involve periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full
  • Sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. feeling like you can’t stop)
  • Binge eating episodes often associated with:
  • Eating more rapidly than usual
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after a binge
  • May involve fasts, repetitive (yo-yo) dieting & feelings of shame or self-hatred

Other Eating Disorders

  • Other Eating Disorders can include some combination of the signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, and/or binge eating disorder. While these behaviors may not be clinically considered a full syndrome eating disorder, they can still be physically dangerous & emotionally draining.


Adapted from the DSM-5 & National Eating Disorders Association (2015): www.NationalEatingDisorders.org.

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