Body Image/Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a range of conditions involving an obsession with food, weight and appearance. This obsession negatively affects people’s health, relationships and day-to-day living. To be diagnosed with an eating disorder, a person must have both disordered eating and psychological disturbance.

Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia have an intense and irrational fear of gaining weight and having body fat. They may believe they’re fat, even when well below the normal weight for their height and age. Anorexia is the most fatal eating disorder: some people may die of complications related to starvation, while others die of suicide.


People with bulimia go through cycles of bingeing and purging. Bingeing involves eating large amounts of food quickly. This makes people feel physically ill and anxious about gaining weight. Then they purge, which can involve vomiting, depriving themselves of food, over exercising or using laxatives and diuretics.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

People with binge eating disorder overeat compulsively, consuming huge amounts of food, often all at once. Like the other disorders, people with BED often feel out of control and powerless to stop the behaviour.

Signs & Symptoms

Anorexia Nervosa

Short-term symptoms include:

  • Extremely restricted eating (e.g., avoiding mealtime, eating only certain foods)
  • Extreme thinness
  • A constant pursuit of thinness and an unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
  • An intense fear of gaining weight (e.g., frequently weighing themselves)
  • A distorted body image (e.g., seeing themselves as overweight when they are not).

Long-term symptoms may include:

  • Bone thinning
  • Mild anemia
  • Muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Fine hair growth all over the body
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing and pulse
  • Heart damage
  • Brain damage
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Lethargy, sluggishness or feeling tired all the time
  • Changes in menstruation
  • Infertility.

Symptoms include:

  • A frequently inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals), which can lead to stroke or heart attack.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Symptoms include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time
  • Eating even when full
  • Eating fast during binge episodes
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
  • Feeling distressed, ashamed or guilty about eating
  • Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss.

For more information, visit

Body Image/Eating Disorder Resources

  • National Eating Disorder Information Centre website which provides information about eating disorders and disordered eating, as well as referrals and support. –
  • This site allows you to assess your current lifestyle and eating habits to see if you are on track or if some changes are needed. You can learn to make wise choices with the help of these dietitian-approved practical tools. –
  • Help Guide provides practical, motivating information you can use to help yourself and others. From abuse and addictions to stress and schizophrenia, this website covers a wide range of topics. –
  • The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks (Author: Thomas Cash)
  • 10 Simple Solutions for Building Self-Esteem: How to End Self-Doubt, Gain Confidence, & Create a Positive Self-Image (Author: Glenn R. Schiraldi)
  • More Than a Body: Your Body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornament (Author: Lindsay and Lexie Kite) –
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