It’s Not About the Food

For so many adolescent and young women, their peers and social media play a huge part in their body image. The positive affirmation they receive from likes, followers, and comments about their physical appearance and weight feels good. On the other side, peers can be shaming on these platforms and it is painful to see negative comments about yourself . Both are happening on social media, in schools, and other areas in their life. Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are ways to cope with what they are feeling in the moment. 

When most people think about eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors, they think of girls just not eating, binging and then throwing up their food (purging), or just overeating. It is so much more than that. Disordered eating behaviors are more often not about the food at all. Many people who struggle with eating disorders often love food and/or cooking. The disordered eating behaviors are just symptoms of other things going on. For some, the stress in their life is so high that they feel what goes into their body or not is the only thing they can control. Others may find comfort in the feeling of fullness or emptiness. Other symptoms are  negative body image, low self-worth, and body dysmorphic thoughts. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Body Dysmorphia) occurs when someone is fixated on one or more flaws of their physical appearance that are not noticeable to others. This often includes body checking, mirror checking, excessive grooming, seeking outside validation for their appearances, and comparison to others (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). This is different from eating disorders because it is not dependent on weight. Below the main types of eating disorders are described in terms of diagnosis of disorder. The functions of each eating disorder vary depending on the person.

Types of Eating Disorders: 

Anorexia Nervosa 

  • When someone restricts energy/food intake leading to significant low body weight
  • When someone has a BMI of 18 and below
  • Has an intense fear of gaining weight and being fat 
  • In females, there may be a loss of their period. 

Atypical Anorexia 

  • Has a pattern of restriction and intense fear of gaining weight with a BMI over 18. 

Bulimia Nervosa 

  • A pattern of binging on food (see specifics in Binge Eating Disorder explanation) with a behavior to compensate for the overeating. 
  • Compensatory behavior is called purging. Purging includes inducing vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications (ex. diet pills), fasting, and excessive exercise. 
  • A significant link between weight and self-worth. 

Binge Eating Disorder 

  • When someone has a pattern of eating an amount of food that is significantly larger than what most people would eat in a short period of time. 
  • This includes eating quickly, feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amount of food when not hungry, and feelings of embarrassment, guilt, shame, depression, and disgust after eating 
  • (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

If you think you might be or are struggling with disordered eating behaviors or are a caregiver to someone struggling, please call and make an appointment with Ali Marino, MS, LMFT. Call Hurley Counseling, 251-222-8880.

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