Category: Eating Disorder

Patient with a doctor

Am I Anorexic? Questions to Ask Yourself

If you are asking yourself, “Am I anorexic?” there’s a good chance you are. It can be helpful to know exactly what the eating disorder is and how to recognize the potential warning signs.

Patient speaking with a doctor

The Physical Side Effects of Anorexia (Short-Term & Long-Term)

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, severe food and caloric restriction, and a distorted body image.1

Anorexia vs. Bulimia: The Key Differences

Anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are both serious eating disorders that impact mental, physical, and emotional health.

Tips to Practice Healthy Eating 

When people hear the word “diet,” they may automatically think that the recommendations of the eating plan are healthy. But, in many cases, that’s actually far from the truth.

Types of eating disorders

How to Spot the Signs of an Eating Disorder 

The signs of an eating disorder can vary widely, depending on the type of eating disorder and the specific physiology, medical history, and present circumstances of the person.

Still, some signs are more common across all those factors.

Eating disorder test

Eating Disorder Test | Do I Have a Problem?

Eating disorders are dangerous mental health conditions that can lead to a number of physical and emotional complications if left untreated. But determining when it’s time to seek treatment can be tricky.

Patient with a doctor

Levels of Treatment for Anorexia

There are many levels of anorexia nervosa treatment. Often, the best way to begin is by talking to an eating disorder specialist and determining what kind of therapy will work best for your health and circumstances.

Person struggling from an eating disorder

Signs of Anorexia—What to Look For

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that impacts mental, physical, and emotional health. As such, it can have a range of signs and symptoms, impacting someone’s overall wellness and behavior.

Effects of not eating

The Effects of Not Eating

Periods of fasting have long been part of many religious, traditional, and cultural practices, but in recent years, the idea has become more widely adopted and used not as a spiritual tool but as a way to control diet and lose weight.

Patient at doctor's office

Mental Side Effects of Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder which can manifest in any number of ways, including as a variety of mental health concerns.

Eating disorder coverage

Cigna Eating Disorder Coverage

If you or a loved one are struggling with bulimia nervosa (BN), anorexia nervosa (AN), binge eating disorder (BED), or other eating disorders, you may need specific types of treatment in order to make the fullest recovery possible.

What Causes Eating Disorders? Genetics vs. Environment

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN) and (BN) were once thought to be primarily socially driven, caused by factors like low self-esteem and a desire to keep up with certain beauty standards.

Why Can’t I Stop Eating? Binge Eating, Compulsive Eating, and How to Help

Many eating disorders, including bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED), are marked by episodes of compulsive eating or eating large amounts of food even when not feeling hungry or already feeling satisfied.

Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms: Is Your Loved One Struggling?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is one of the newest entrants to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the list of all officially recognized mental health problems. But the condition is already considered the most common eating disorder in the United States. [1]

Gender dysphoria

What is Gender Dysphoria, and How is it Related to Eating Disorders?

People who experience gender dysphoria (also referred to as gender identity disorder) may engage in these behaviors to try to change parts of their bodies to more closely align with their gender identity. These disordered eating behaviors can progress into a clinical eating disorder.

Person looking out the window

How to Stop Binge Eating

Everyone overindulges every once in a while, but binge eating is different. These episodes are an extreme form of overeating, involving large amounts of food consumed in relatively short periods of time.

A binge eating episode can leave you feeling uncomfortable, but if this behavior starts recurring, it can lead to more concerning issues.

Person holding flower in garden

Dual Diagnosis: Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse 

Eating disorders and substance use disorders frequently occur together. The conditions operate through similar genetic, biological, and environmental mechanisms, and often work in complex ways to maintain one another. 

Eating disorder symptoms

30 Eating Disorder Symptoms That Are a Cause for Concern 

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that can manifest in any number of ways, causing a range of physical, behavioral, and emotional consequences.

Still, some of the most common eating disorders have a number of more-predictable symptoms. And learning to spot them can be crucial if you think you or a loved one may have one of these conditions.

Definition of eating disorders

What Is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder isn’t just a person “choosing” to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors. It is a serious mental health condition which can have serious consequences if left untreated.

Harms of diet culture

The Harms of ‘Diet Culture’ & How to Resist 

“Diet culture” has made an increasing mark on society over the years.

While sometimes cloaked in the language of “wellness,” this system of beliefs and social expectations, in fact, revolves around the idea that there exists an “ideal” body type. And rather than achieving a healthier lifestyle at any shape or size, the goal of diet culture is achieving this idealized body type, regardless of a person’s natural physiology or health history.

Whether well hidden or directly addressed, this concept is not only pervasive but can be dangerous, spreading ideals and ideas that may promote disordered eating behaviors, as well as encourage low self-esteem, poor body image, and other factors that often lead to eating disorders.

What is Diet Culture?

Diet culture is an umbrella term that refers to a number of different beliefs which revolve around the concepts of body weight, shape, and size. Often, these beliefs are tied to different methods for achieving an “ideal” body weight, shape, and size.

Almost always, diet culture promotes a thin body—or possibly a “fit” body—as the ideal type and will equate this body type with not just optimal health but moral virtue.

Most diets promoted by these beliefs focus heavily on how to lose weight and speak little, if at all, about the potential health consequences involved in essentially forcing the body to become a certain size.

Diet Culture Beliefs

Diet culture is typically very black and white. There are “correct” types of bodies and inferior types of bodies. There are also foods that are widely considered “good” and foods that are widely considered “bad.” This false dichotomy can involve certain foods, such as chocolate, or an entire food group, such as carbs.

Strenuous exercise is also often part of these weight-loss programs. Rather than focusing on the joys of moving the body, exercise is presented in diet culture as a means to “earn” a treat or “burn off” a certain number of calories.

Essentially, diet culture centers all aspects of self-worth around physical appearance in general and a specific body type in particular. This sets up the idea that all other body types—and the people occupying them—are, by extension, less than ideal.

This concept can easily be internalized, leading someone to believe they’re lazy, unworthy, or generally “lesser” if they don’t look a certain way. It can also lead someone to take extreme measures to lose weight, which can, unfortunately, sometimes lead to the development of eating disorder behaviors.

Negative Effects of Diet Culture

Diet culture does not promote a healthy relationship with food or exercise, and it can contribute to disordered eating, harmful thoughts and behaviors, and other mental health concerns. 

Dieting, especially the restrictive dieting generally promoted by diet culture, can lead to unhelpful thought and behavioral patterns. In fact, dieting is often considered one of the most common forms of disordered eating. [3, 4] 

It’s generally not healthy to cut out entire food groups or to eat only during limited hours of the day. This kind of unhealthy relationship with food can lead to yo-yo dieting or extreme weight swings, which are accompanied by their own set of health concerns, particularly around cardiovascular health. [3]

And when eating is no longer pleasurable but rather seen as the means to an end, people also may start to fixate on nutritional facts or eating habits. This is a driving factor in many eating disorders.

Diet Culture and Eating Disorders

The tenets of diet culture commonly propagate eating disorders, make eating disorder symptoms worse, or complicate recovery for those who have previously struggled with these mental health conditions. [5] 

The perpetuation of an “ideal” body type, particularly one that is especially thin or fit, has been linked to worsening fatphobia and weight stigma. [1] This preoccupation with “fatness” and fear of being considered fat can manifest as fat shaming, or it can be internalized by people in bigger bodies, who may grow to believe they are the “wrong” shape or size.

Even those in smaller bodies may experience low self-worth when attempting to measure up to an “ideal,” which is often unattainable.

Low self-esteem of this kind, especially when chronic, is thought to be the primary prerequisite for developing an eating disorder, whether it’s binge eating disorder (BED), anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), or other common eating disorders. [2]

And frequent dieting is also widely considered to be one of the biggest risk factors for BED, which is thought to be the most common eating disorder in the United States. [6]

How to Spot Diet Culture

One of the most insidious aspects of diet culture is how easily its agendas can be hidden.

Many diets, companies, or influencers may claim they’re promoting “wellness” or a healthier lifestyle when they’re actually spouting the harmful beliefs of diet culture. Diet culture has become so embedded in popular culture that it’s possible these people and companies may not even be aware of the ideals they’re actually promoting.

Diet culture ideals often masquerade under different language. Buzzwords like “clean eating,” “wellness protocol,” “detox,” “cleanse,” or “reset” are often referring to measures that are actually designed to obtain an “ideal” body rather than optimal health. [7]

“Clean eating,” “detox,” and “cleanse” are common buzzwords that promote diet culture.

Similarly, diet culture often sets up false dichotomies and operates in very black-and-white terms. There are “good” and “bad” foods, “good” and “bad” body shapes, “healthy” or “unhealthy” diets, or “clean” and “unclean” meals. [7]

And when there are numerous rules around what “can” and “can’t” or “should” and “shouldn’t” be consumed, that’s usually diet culture talking. This can look like everything from restrictions on how much or when food can be eaten to the types of food that can be eaten to rules around the number of calories, fat, protein, or other nutritional values that can be consumed. [7]

Still, perhaps the best way to spot diet culture is to look for the focus. If a diet, company, or influencer is preoccupied with body shape, weight, or size rather than overall well-being, there’s a good chance they’re promoting diet culture ideals.

How to Resist Diet Culture (And Still Be Healthy)

Diet culture is unfortunately extremely prevalent in today’s society, with its tenets delivered both overtly and subliminally through various aspects of pop culture and media. But it’s still possible to resist these social messages and to build an individual healthy and happy relationship with your body.

Recognize and Resist

Resisting diet culture involves education, awareness, and acceptance of the fact that bodies can be healthy (and unhealthy) in any shape and size. Learning how to spot these unhelpful messages and ideals is a great place to start. Once you realize you’re actually reading, seeing, or listening to messages related to diet culture, you can tune them out completely, knowing their true harmful nature.

Prune the social media accounts you follow to minimize diet culture messaging in your feeds.

To this effect, it may also be helpful to go through your social media feeds with an eye toward pruning. Unfollowing accounts that regularly promote diet or diet culture ideals is an easy way to reduce these messages in your daily life, and you can also look for accounts that promote true body positivity and well-being.

Change Your Perspective

Just as diet culture uses certain words to create a black and white world where there is only one “ideal” body, you can use your own terms to reintroduce shades of gray to the conversation.

It may feel almost ingrained to comment on someone else’s body or looks, but even complimenting someone on losing weight or “looking skinny” can reinforce diet culture ideals. Instead, try to focus on comments about someone’s achievements or step back from talking about body- or weight-related topics all together.

Don’t just look at exercise as a way to burn calories or lose weight.

A perspective shift on exercise can also be helpful for creating a more positive relationship with your body. Rather than look to workouts as ways to create a caloric deficit, focus on moving your body in ways you enjoy or that feel good.

And rather than thinking about all the things your body isn’t, think instead about all the wonderful things it can do. Everything from swimming to stretching to dancing and even hugging loved ones is something that can bring so much joy to this life, and our bodies should be appreciated as the vessels that make these things possible.

Do Your Research

In terms of working on more internal factors, you may want to investigate the idea of intuitive eating. This philosophy promotes a more natural and healthy relationship with eating and doesn’t paint any meals or ingredients as inherently good or bad.

The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement has additional ideas on how to resist diet culture and better respect yourself and others.

In a culture so fixated on achieving perfection, tuning out the negative messages and embracing all the positive aspects of food, movement, and our bodies themselves may be the most radical resistance of all.

Resources

Tran R. (2021, May 16). The Distasteful Truth About Diet Culture. The UCSD Guardian. Retrieved September 23, 2022.

Silverstone PH. (1992). Is chronic low self-esteem the cause of eating disorders? Medical Hypotheses; 39(4):311–315.

Which Diet is Right for You? (2020, July 15). Heart Foundation. Retrieved September 23, 2022.

Disordered Eating & Dieting. National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC). Retrieved September 23, 2022.

Chastain R. (2022). Recognizing and Resisting Diet Culture. National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved September 23, 2022.

Howard CE, & Porzelius LK. (1999). The role of dieting in binge eating disorder: etiology and treatment implications. Clinical Psychology Review; 19(1):25–44.

Adams M. Diet Culture and How to Spot It. Halsa Nutrition. Accessed March 2023.

Patient and doctor

Medical Complications of Eating Disorders

The specifics of how an eating disorder affects a person is based on any number of individual factors, including the types of eating disorders they’re struggling with, their medical history, and any mental health concerns, among others.

Looking for treatment

Anorexia Hotlines

Eating disorder hotlines can offer a great extension of help for people struggling with these mental health conditions, or those who are looking for eating disorder treatment centers where they can find further help.

Body image

The Impact of Eating Disorders on Body Image

Negative body image and eating disorders are closely related, with negative body image being one of the most well-understood precursors to the development of an eating disorder.

Looking for treatment

Food Addiction Treatment Hotline

Food addiction is an issue we’re only beginning to understand and thoroughly research, but there are a number of resources that can help with this condition and other associated disorders.

How to help someone with an eating disorder

How to Help Someone Who Has an Eating Disorder 

Watching a friend, family member, or loved one struggle with an eating disorder can be incredibly difficult. Though you want to help, you may be unsure how to help someone with an eating disorder.

Substance use and eating disorders

Eating Disorders With Substance Use Disorder 

Eating disorders and substance use disorders (SUDs) often coexist.

Researchers say up to 50% of people with diagnosed eating disorders use illicit drugs or alcohol, while 35% of people who are dependent on alcohol or drugs have an eating disorder. This represents rates 5 times and 11 times greater than what’s seen in the general population, respectively. [1]

Eating disorder among people of color

Eating Disorders Among People of Color 

Over the years, certain stereotypes have developed around eating disorders, including the idea that they primarily affect white women and girls. Of course, this isn’t actually the case. Disordered eating behaviors and the negative self-image and poor self-esteem that often drives them impact people of all genders, races, and ages.

Food Addiction: A Misleading (and Harmful) Term

As science, medicine, and culture continue to evolve, more attention has been paid to the concept of addiction and the biological and psychological mechanisms that lead to these types of unhelpful, compulsive behaviors.

Choosing the Best Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, you’ll likely want to enroll in a treatment program as quickly as possible. And while it’s important to get help in a timely manner, some time should be taken to consider the type of treatment facility you choose.

Person looking into the distance

Amenorrhea and Anorexia

Amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual periods in biological women. 

Certain scenarios have been known to naturally bring about this condition, including pregnancy, breastfeeding, certain hormonal contraceptives, and menopause. But sometimes, amenorrhea is a sign of a deeper problem.