Eating disorders involve extreme disturbances in eating behaviors—following rigid diets, bingeing on food in secret, throwing up after meals, obsessively counting calories. But eating disorders are more complicated than just unhealthy dietary habits. At their core, eating disorders involve distorted, self-critical attitudes about weight, food, and body image. It’s these negative thoughts and feelings that fuel the damaging behaviors.
People with eating disorders use food to deal with uncomfortable or painful emotions. Restricting food is used to feel in control. Overeating temporarily soothes sadness, anger, or loneliness. Purging is used to combat feelings of helplessness and self-loathing. Over time, people with eating disorders lose the ability to see themselves objectively and obsessions over food and weight come to dominate everything else in life.