• Haley Dixon, Dietetic Assistant

Eating Disorders and Body Image

Eating Disorders

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating Disorders are illnesses that are marked by irregular eating habits and severe distress regarding one's body weight, shape, size, and image. Irregular eating habits may include inadequate or excessive food intake, which can ultimately lead to damage of an individual’s well-being as well as physical consequences of one's health. A common misconception of eating disorders is that the illnesses only afflict females. In reality, both males and females are susceptible to eating disorders.

Type of Eating Disorders:

The most common forms of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa (AN):

AN is characterized by intense obsession with one's body weight and poor self image. The individual may partake in restrictive eating, sometimes to the point of starvation. Many attempt to lose weight when they typically are extremely underweight.

Bulimia Nervosa (BN):

BN is characterized by reoccurring binge eating followed by behaviors that attempt to compensate for the overeating. These behaviors include forced vomiting, excessive exercise, or extreme use of laxatives or diuretics.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED):

BED is characterized by loss of control over one's eating. Binge eating differs from bulimia nervosa because episodes of binge-eating are not followed by compensatory behaviors.


What exactly causes an eating disorder? There is not one answer. An eating disorder may take root in many different causes, but generally believed to be a combination of biological, physiological, and environmental factors. Biological factors include irregular hormone functions, genetics (a strong association between generational eating disorders has been proven through research), and nutritional deficiencies. Physiological factors include negative body image and poor self esteem. Environmental factors include dysfunctional family dynamics, professions and careers that emphasize thinness and weight loss, such as ballet and modeling, aesthetically oriented sports, such as rowing, diving, gymnastics, wrestling, and long distance running, family and childhood traumas, cultural or peer pressure, and stressful life changes. All of these factors can combine and increase the incidence of an eating disorder.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Chronic dieting while being hazardously underweight

  • Constant fluctuations in weight

  • Obsession with calories and fat content of foods

  • Practicing in ritualistic eating patterns, like cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, or hiding food from others

  • Constant fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others, but refuse to eat the meals.

  • Depression

  • Lethargy and irritability

  • Avoidance of social functions, family and friends. Therefore, may be isolated and withdrawn

  • Alternating between periods of overeating and fasting


Due to the incredibly individual nature of every eating disorder incidence, the treatment also differs. Treatment is used to tackle the root causes of the disorder and employs a variety of strategies to pursue rehabilitation. These strategies include medical care and monitoring, nutrition, therapy, and/or medications. Each strategy addresses a different facet of the complex illness and aims to improve the quality life and health of the patient.

Body Image

Simply put, body image is the way you view yourself. Every time you see yourself in the mirror, your thoughts are what comprise your body image. How you feel about your height, body shape, weight, size, and in your body while in moving throughout the day are all a part of your body image.

We all have days that we do not feel our best, but chronic negative body image is a major topic of concern. If you spend most of your days feeling down about you look and feel in your body, you are may be suffering from negative body image.

Negative body image consists of a distorted view of yourself, including a warped perception of your size, seeing your size or weight as a sign of personal failure, viewing other people as attractive as you see yourself as unattractive and unworthy, feeling ashamed and anxious of your body, and experiencing discomfort and awkwardness with your body.

A positive body image is the exact opposite and arises from the practice of self love. You view your body as it truly is, do not connect your value as a person to your size and body, and feel comfortable with and proud of your body. Eating disorders often occur as the result of negative body image and establishing positive body image is the one of the biggest steps to recovering from these illnesses. In general, having a negative image can absolutely affect the quality of life and happiness of an individual, even without a diagnosed eating disorder. It is extremely important part of overall health as well as well-being to practice self love and appreciation.

Body Acceptance

Remember Ospreys, stay healthy and treat your body with the love and respect. You deserve it!

Until next time!

Additional Links:

1. UNF Counseling Center

2. National Eating Disorders Association

3. Eating Disorder Hope

4. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

5. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

#eatingdisorder #anorexia #bulimia #counselingcenter #bodyimage

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