Eating disorders: myths & facts


Myth:Eating Disorders are about food and being thin
Fact: Eating Disorders have very little to do with food and the body

Myth:People are either anorexic, bulimic, or binge eaters
Fact: Eating Disorder categories cross over more often than not

Myth:Eating Disorders only affect white, adolescent, females
Fact: People of all ages, races, classes, genders and sexual orientation can be affected by Eating Disorders

Myth:Eating Disorders are not very serious
Fact: Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health issue

Myth:Eating Disorders are resolved when people show up to food and regulate their weight
Fact:Though people may be physically restored and show up for food, this does not mean they are not still deeply affected by the Eating Disorder

Common Eating Disorders


Eating disorders are mental health issues that manifest themselves in a variety of unhealthy eating and weight control habits that become obsessive, compulsive, and/or impulsive in nature. Though these manifestations show up in patterns or practices with food and the body, eating disorders are not exclusively about food and the body. In fact, eating disorders are about issues of control, trauma, self-worth, depression, anxiety, or some other psychological symptom.

Eating disorders are generally defined as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. It is important to note that though some people experience these disorders exclusively, many people tend to experience a combination of symptoms from the various disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa
Characterized by a person’s obsession with controlling their eating and refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height.

  • Significant weight loss without any logical reason, such as illness

  • Significant reduction in eating accompanied by repeated denials of hunger

  • Dieting when not over healthy weight range

  • Signs of starvation (can include thinning or actual loss of hair, appearance of fine, white hair on the body, frequent bloated feelings, yellowing palms or soles of feet and/or a dry, pasty skin

  • Abnormal menstrual periods in women

Bulimia Nervosa
Characterized by cycles of bingeing and purging. People with bulimia may well have a weight that is regarded as “normal”.

  • Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging

  • Feeling out of control while eating

  • Vomiting, using laxatives, diet pills, or diuretics, exercising excessively, and skipping meals

  • Frequent dieting

  • Using body weight and shape as the main measure of one’s self worth

Binge Eating Disorder

Characterized as recurrent episodes of binge eating without being associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise).

  • Eating large amounts of food frequently and in one sitting

  • Feeling out of control and unable to stop eating

  • Eating quickly and in secret

  • Feeling uncomfortably full after eating

  • Feeling guilty and ashamed of binges

Over-Exercise Disorder
Over-exercise disorders, like eating disorders, are used to provide control, soothe anxieties, offer structure, maintain self-esteem, and purge the body.

Because exercise is honored in our society as being representative of those who are healthy and disciplined, often over-exercise disorders goes unnoticed.


  • Maintains a high level of activity and is uncomfortable with states of rest or relaxation.

  • Justifies that a high level of activity is necessary and reasonable for optimum health.

  • Depends on the activity for self-definition and mood stabilization.

  • Has an intense, driven and competitive quality to the activity.

  • Is self-perpetuating and resistant to changing the activity, compelling continuation despite injury, isolation and/or other life commitments.


Helpful ED Resources

National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC)

National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED)

Sheena’s Place

Eating Disorders of York Region

Bellwood Health Services

Homewood Health Centre


Hospital for Sick Children

Toronto General Hospital

North York General Hospital