In Depth


Disordered eating happens when a person’s feelings about food, weight and body image affect their life to the extent that their health, safety, and well-being are in danger. What may start out as a desire to get in shape or lose a little weight can lead to eating disorders that have serious health complications.

What are some eating disorders?

1) Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa usually happens with teenage girls, but can also occur in adulthood for both men and women. Anorexia affects more women than men. People with anorexia are obsessed with being thin. They constantly weigh themselves and count calories obsessively. A person suffering from anorexia nervosa can get to the point where they are starving themselves, and even though they are incredibly thin, they feel that they are fat. They also may use excessive exercise as a way to lose weight. People that have anorexia are not just dieting as a way to lose weight and be healthy, but as a way to deal with deeper problems.

2) Bulimia Nervosa

People with bulimia are also obsessed with their weight and appearance, but often are of a normal weight. Bulimia also affects more women than men. These people tend to overeat and ush out their bodies using vomiting, diuretics, and/or laxatives. They may also use obsessive exercise to lose weight. Bulimia differs from anorexia. People suffering from bulimia continue to eat, often overeat, rather than starve themselves. Health professionals often call this pattern a cycle of binge and purge. To be considered bulimic, by the National Institute of Mental Health, a person must be participating in this eating behavior at least two times a week for at least three months.

3) Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating is when a person eats an excessive amount of food within a limited period of time. People who have a binge eating disorder feel a lack of control over their eating during this time period. Binge eating occurs when people eat either much faster than normal; eat until they feel uncomfortable; eat when they’re not hungry; eat alone because they’re embarrassed by what they’re doing; feel disgusted with themselves; feel depressed about their eating; and/or feel guilty for the way that they’re eating. To be classi ed as a binge eater by the National Institute of Mental Health a person must binge eat at least two days a week for at least six months. Unlike bulimics, people who binge-eat don’t purge by vomiting or use laxatives or diuretics. Many people with this eating disorder are overweight.

You might be thinking that the whole world has an eating disorder, or wondering if you have one. Well, it’s reported that about five to ten million Americans are struggling with an eating disorder, though many cases are never reported or treated. Many behaviors associated with eating disorders are basically healthy. SisterTalk encourages weight loss and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. By contrast, eating disorder problems occur when the behaviors of exercise and weight loss become obsessive. Weight loss, exercise, and a distorted body image become the symptoms of a deeper problem.

It’s not surprising that there are problems with anorexia and bulimia in the United States. The media promotes thinness everywhere. Check out television and magazines; the look is thin. The average model does not have the body type that many of us do. To try to attain this look is very unrealistic for many. It is essential to enjoy your life and be accepting of your body type. A healthy diet and physical activity are all part of a healthy and happier lifestyle.


What can be done to treat an eating disorder?

  • In the case of anorexia and sometimes bulimia, weight loss must rst be stopped and weight restored. This must be done in a supervised fashion, often in a clinic or hospital.
  • Patients must have psychological treatment. Issues concerning poor body image, conflict resolution, and low self- esteem, among others, can all contribute to a person’s eating disorder.
  • People with eating disorders need to be treated continually to help them fully recover or achieve remission.

Treatment includes counseling for nutritional needs, healthy but not excessive exercise, and treatment of emotional and mental health issues.

Many people that have eating disorders don’t realize or admit that they do. There is often a feeling of embarrassment or shame, and they may be afraid to talk about what’s going on. Some people don’t have what would be considered a clinical disorder, but have some borderline eating behaviors and attitudes.

Don’t let it become an obsession. If you or someone you know needs more information about eating disorders, talk with a medical care provider or call: National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237, or the National Institute of Mental Health at 1-301-443-4513.