Disordered Eating and Body Image

What is it?

While you may regularly adjust you diet and exercise routine to changing life-style demands, occasionally these adjustments can become detrimental to your physical and mental health. Disordered eating encompasses a cluster of behaviors related to food and exercise, such as restricting calories, binge eating, or purging calories. These are behaviors that disrupt the bodies ability to regulate and make use of proper nutrition. When disordered eating behaviors occur regularly over a period of time, they may become an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.  Disordered eating can start for a variety of reason, some of which are related to negative body image, a desire to change your body, or difficult emotions related to your physical or emotional sense of self.

What Symptoms Might You Notice?

  • Excessive restriction of calories for the purpose of weight management
  • Extreme or excessive time exercising with the goal of weight management
  • Spending a lot of time worrying about food or body image
  • Focusing on your appearance to determine your self-worth
  • Spending a lot of time and effort to change or “fix” your appearance
  • Abrupt weight loss/gain
  • Changes to other bodily systems such as absence of a menstrual cycle, increased fatigue, increased irritability, and inability to consume foods your previously could

How Prevalent is Disordered Eating?

Anorexia affects 0.8% of the US population, Bulimia, 0.8%, and Binge Eating Disorder, 0.28%.  However, disordered eating (restricting, bingeing, or purging that does not meet criteria for a formal diagnosis) is thought to impact over 13% of girls between ages 12 – 10.

Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and they are at a higher risk of dying, in part because they are often diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t have eating disorders.

For more statistics on eating disorders visit NEDA's Statistics and Research


Things you can do to help with disordered eating:

  • Maintain focus on a healthy diet and activity plan and seek help from a nutritionist if you have questions
  • Practice healthy coping skills to reduce stress, such as journaling, painting, doing puzzles, and spending time with friends
  • Become aware of the ways in which you talk to yourself about your appearance and comparisons to others. Be wary of the internal bully!
  • Identify aspects of yourself that you are proud of, with a focus on non-physical qualities
  • Follow healthy, body-positive social media rather than posts that make you feel inadequate

Apps that help:

  • ThinkUp: A platform to record your own or listen to recorded positive, motivational statements and phrases
  • Rise Up + Recover: An app to log eating plans, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in order to monitor your progress toward a healthy balanced lifestyle and find positive motivation to keep moving forward.

When Food is More Than Just Food

What is a healthy relationship with food?

Trust your hunger and make peace with food