What is an Eating Disorder and How do I know if I have One?
The incidence of eating disorders has increased over the last 30-40 years. It is estimated that approximately 5% of women and girls have a diagnosable eating disorder. At any given time, 10% 15% of women have symptoms of these disorders. These women may not meet the diagnostic criteria eating disorders, but experience serious symptoms associated with them. It’s important to view eating behavior on a continuum. A person does not either eat normally, or have an eating disorder. There is a gray area on this continuum between normal eating and a diagnosable eating disorder. (See Eating Disorders Continuum).
Results from a 2003 study at Duke indicate that 23% of women and 5% of men at Duke experience disordered eating (Staples B., Bravender T., 2003). Where is the line between normal eating and disordered eating?
An individual has disordered eating, when her behaviors, attitudes or emotions about food, weight, body shape, and/or exercise have a negative impact on her quality of life.
Normal eating can be:
· Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full.
· Not being concerned about what others think about how much you eat
· Not feeling guilty about what you eat
· Not seeing food as either “good” or “bad”
· Spending time planning meals, but it doesn’t take over your thoughts,
· Having realistic feelings and perceptions about your body weight, shape and size.
· You allow yourself to eat foods that are not always healthy for you, but can enjoy them.
· Not having rules or counting carbs, fat grams, or calories to decide what to eat.
· Bottom Line: normal eating is flexible eating.
What can cause eating disorders?
There is not one cause of an eating disorder, but many risk factors have been identified.
Having one of these risk factors doesn’t mean that someone will have an eating disorder.
However, the more risk factors someone has, the more at risk the person is for developing an eating disorder.
Eating disorders and disordered eating are usually
not about food. Usually, it’s a way to control
something in your life (what you eat and/or how much
you exercise), when you feel like you don’t have
control over another part of your life. For example,
a person I
In addition to being something we think we can control, restricting intake, binging, exercising, and self-induced vomiting is thought to actually change someone’s brain
Risk Factors For Eating Disorders:
· 1 st degree relative has a mental illness, including alcoholism
· Perfectionist personality
· Participation in a sport that emphasizes weight – ie. gymnastics, wrestling, track
· Exposure to media
· A life changing event – divorce or death
· Career emphasizing thinness – model
· Homosexuality (in men)
· Female gender
· Higher socioeconomic status
· Early puberty in girls
· Appearance-obsessed peers
Warning Signs of Disordered Eating:
One cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder
just by looking at them. A person may
Below is a list of warning signs:
· significant weight loss or gain
· avoid eating food in front of you
· become withdrawn
· categorize food into “good” or “bad”
· calculate number of fat grams/calories/carbs
· talk/worry about size and shape
· weight herself often
· exercise out of guilt or to lose weight instead of for health/enjoyment
· OVERALL: relationship with food negatively impacting quality of life.
Health Consequences of Eating Disorders
Why are people so concerned about eating disorders?
In addition to the psychological
Health Consequences Associated with Disordered Eating:
· Loss of bone mass – can lead to osteoporosis
· Dehydration – can result in kidney failure
· Heart failure – from the break down of heart tissue and electrolyte imbalances
· Tooth decay
· Gastric/esophageal rupture
· High blood pressure
· High cholesterol
· Heart disease
· Gallbladder disease
· Increased mortality rate due to risk factors
à Extreme cases can be fatal
Duke OnCampus EBIC (Eating and Body Image Concerns) Resources:
1. Medical evaluations
– Duke Student Health – appointments available by
919-681-WELL, ask to be scheduled with Dr. Dev Sangvai.
with a dietitian or health educator at Student
Health or an