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Moravian University
Counseling Center

Disordered eating/Body Image 

Disordered Eating & Eating Disorders

One of the most common, yet least discussed, issues facing college students is disordered eating. White the habits associated with disordered eating may not be severe enough to warrant the label of an "eating disorder," they are still serious and have the potential to be very harmful. Many practices that most people consider normal are actually symptoms of disordered eating. 

Disordered eating can often lead to a full on eating disorder. Eating disorders are complex conditions. Although eating disorders all have food and weight issues in common, most experts now believe that eating disorders are caused by people attempting to cope with overwhelming feelings of painful emotions by controlling food. Unfortunately, this will eventually damage a person's physical and emotional health, self-esteem and sense of control. Eating Disorders most commonly refer to Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. 

Anorexia Nervosa involves a significant fear of gaining weight or becoming fat and a restriction of food intake to the point of significant weight loss. 

Bulimia Nervosa involves binge eating episodes during which the person eats large amounts of food and feels unabel to control the eating

Binge Eating Disorder describes a pattern where a person eats a large amount of food, going beyond the feeling of fullness. 

Body Image Distress

Almost everyone has negative thoughts about their body from time to time. In our image focused culture, it's difficult to not compare ourselves to others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy. But for some, these thoughts become intrusive and persistent, and can distort the way they perceive their own body and potentially lead to unhealthy behaviors with food and/or exercise (as discussed above) 

Know the warning signs 

Most people falling victim to eating disorders began with a negative body image and had a history of disordered eating patterns. It is very important to understand some signs of disordered eating and body image distress. Examples of disordered eating and body image distress can include: 

  • Feeling guilty when you eat
  • Comparing your eating habits to those around you
  • Defining your self-worth based on how you've eaten that day
  • Socially isolating yourself based on perceived weight and/or appearance problems
  • Turning to weight and food obsessions or exercise to fix other issues 
  • Over-exercising to make up for food eaten
  • Blaming social problems on your weight and food issues

Getting Help 

People who struggle with body image distress, disordered eating, or eating disorders often experience a number of behavioral, emotional, psychological, social, and/or physical symptoms. These symptoms can cause great disruption and challenges in a college student's life. Seeking help early can prevent more severe problems from forming. The Counseling Center is able to help you explore your eating and body image concerns and together you can identify the best plan of care and treatment. 

Additional Resources 

Websites/Articles