The Range of Eating & Body Concerns

It can be useful to think of thoughts, actions, and feelings related to eating and body image as part of a continuum. The left side of the continuum pictured above represents healthy eating, where food is not an issue, individuals feel comfortable in their bodies, and they engage in healthy eating and exercise behaviors. On the far right side of the continuum is where eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa would fit. Between these two anchor points is an area we refer to as disordered eating, a large middle area where many individuals would fit. See below for some of the common signs and symptoms of disordered eating. We have given some examples of typical thoughts and behaviors at various points along the continuum. Keep in mind that individuals may move up and down this continuum at various points in their life. Where do you fall?

Signs and Symptoms of Disordered Eating

  • Restricting calories or food intake
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Drug use to control eating or weight gain
  • Frequent weighing
  • Emotional discomfort after eating
  • Pre-occupation with food and calories
  • Rigidity in eating and exercise schedule
  • Excessive weight-lifting to increase muscularity
  • Strained interpersonal relationships because of food, eating patterns, or rigid exercise schedules
  • Frequent weight fluctuation
  • Throat problems
  • Puffy cheeks
  • Swollen glands
  • Callused knuckles

Abbreviated DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above normal weight for age and height (<85%)
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat even though underweight
  • Disturbance in the way one experiences own body weight or shape; undue influence of weight on self-esteem; denial of seriousness of low weight
  • Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle)

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating and purging, at least twice a week for 3 months
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain. (Vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise)
  • Undue influence of weight on self-esteem
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)
  • Most but not all symptoms of Anorexia or Bulimia have been met
  • Binge Eating Disorder: Recurrent episodes of binge eating without regular use of compensatory behaviors
  • Repeatedly chewing and spitting out, but not swallowing, large amounts of food
  • Regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors after eating a normal amount of food (e.g., two cookies)