Worried Someone Has an Eating Disorder


Thinking your friend may have an eating disorder?

Here we’ll take a closer look at what an eating disorder is and how you can offer support to your friend


What is an eating disorder?

The term eating disorder is used to describe a group of illnesses where a person has a distorted view of body shape and weight and extreme disturbances in eating behavior. A few common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.

Helping someone you think has an eating disorder

Helping someone who is not ready to change their behavior may be difficult and it is ultimately their decision to get help. If eating disorders go undetected or undiagnosed, they could become physically and emotionally damaging, and even life-threatening.

If you are worried about someone who may be struggling with an eating disorder, it may be a good idea to talk with the person you are concerned about. Letting them know that you are open to listening to them, without being judgmental, may help to make them more open to discussing what is going on. If you approach the person you are concerned about, it may be helpful to remember that you are talking to them as a friend and not a therapist. Some other things you may want to consider include:

Finding an appropriate time to talk. Timing can be an important part of talking to someone about sensitive issues. If possible, try to choose a time when you feel relaxed and your friend feels relaxed. Try to avoid talking with them during a time where they may be on the defensive or threatened. Otherwise, you may end up getting a bad reaction and creating distance between the two of you.

Be informed. It is a good idea to have general knowledge about some of the characteristics of eating disorders. By doing your research, you may be better equipped to understand the reasons for the reactions you may receive. For example, denial that they have an eating disorder and a belief that they are fat are two characteristics of eating disorders. Therefore, it is normal for those who are experiencing an eating disorder to become angry and not want to talk or listen to you. Being informed may help you to handle their reactions better. Knowing more about eating disorders may also insure that you are seeing the right ‘signs’ of an eating disorder before you talk to your friends. The related articles found at the bottom of this page are another way to get more information.

Offer your support. It can be scary when you realize you need help for an eating disorder. Knowing you have a friend you can trust can always be helpful. Let the person know that you are concerned about their health and when they are ready to get help, you can help them find someone to talk to. Also let them know that you could accompany them to discuss the situation with a counselor, psychologist or doctor.

Remember that your friend might be guarded or defensive when you first bring this up to them. It’s normal for people with eating disorders to have trouble admitting to others—and themselves—that they might have a problem.

If the problem persists even after your speak with your friend, you might want to consider talking about it with someone you trust like a family member, your friend’s family, a teacher or a counselor. You might feel anxious about telling others at first, but remember that you’re not betraying your friend’s trust—you’re only helping them. You can also call the Boys Town (for everyone) National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 or Lines for Life’s YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491 to speak with someone who is available to listen to your concerns 24/7.


Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Comfort Eating


Comfort Eating

A brief look at what comfort eating is and how you can manage it

What is comfort eating?

It is not uncommon for people to eat when they feel sad, angry, hopeless, bored or lonely. Eating may even make you feel better in the short term. Some foods, such as chocolate, affect the chemicals in the brain that regulate your mood. For that reason, you often feel better right after you have eaten chocolate but these feelings usually don’t last for very long. Eating as a response to certain emotions, particularly if you are not hungry, is known as comfort eating.

Eating your favorite food occasionally when something upsets you is OK and many people are likely to do this from time to time. Comfort eating may become a problem if you regularly feeling sad, angry, hopeless, bored or lonely and continue to use food to cope with these feelings. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to talk to someone about your feelings and find healthy solutions for managing these emotions. If you are eating when you are not hungry and you feel guilty after eating, it may also be a good idea to talk to someone.

You can contact your medical doctor, dietitian or nutritionist, or psychologist, counselor or other mental health professional for more information. By talking to one of these professionals you should be able to work out some of the reasons why you may be comfort eating and discuss different ways to manage this behavior.

Other ideas for managing your eating

If you are concerned about overeating in response to certain emotions, here are some recommendations about what you can do in addition to finding a professional you can talk to:

Be aware. It is helpful to look at your eating patterns and try to understand what is causing you to eat for comfort. Sometimes, when food is readily available or already on the plate, we may not even realize how much or why we’re eating. This is called ‘unconscious eating’. It’s possible you may be eating because you are feeling sad or stressed. If you experience these feelings often, then you may need to find other ways of managing these feelings. Keeping a diary about what you eat and how you feel before and after you eat can help you to see what triggers your eating. Mindfulness exercises may also be beneficial.

Explore other ways for managing feelings. Comfort eating involves eating to help you deal with your feelings. Try to find other coping strategies to deal with your feelings such as exercising, drawing or writing. Expressing yourself can help you release your emotions in a positive way.

Make a plan for dealing with boredom. Many people have a tendency to eat when they are bored. If you find yourself doing this regularly, it may be useful to find some other activities to participate in when you are bored. You could call a friend, participate in sports, read a book, or go for a walk.

Eating healthy food. If you are using food to cope with your feelings, this may be a long-standing pattern and it could take time to adopt other methods to manage your concerns or stress. A change you could make right away is to eat healthy foods rather than those high in fat or sugar.


For more information on health eating habits, check out the nutrition website provided by the US Department of Agriculture.

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Dieting, Weight Loss, and Finding Peace in Your Body


Dieting & Weight Loss

A closer look at the misconceptions of weight and health, finding out your body’s natural weight, and learning to find peace with the body you already have

From diet tips in magazines to snack food commercials that emphasize calorie counts and weight loss above all else, the pressure to be thin and the resulting “fat phobia” can be hard to avoid. We often pick up messages from the media about how we should look and the measures we need to take to get there. This message says to us that we aren’t good enough as we are, a message that can be detrimental to our self-esteem. The contradictory information around dieting, weight loss and body image can make it difficult to know what is healthy and how we can eat well, live in and celebrate our bodies as they are.

Body weight and health

Despite what popular culture tells us, body weight alone is not an indicator of health. This means that someone can be at a higher weight and be healthy, or at a lower weight and be unhealthy. To say that everyone who appears overweight is unhealthy or that anyone who looks thin is healthy is an inaccurate generalization. To accurately assess health, we have to take into account a person’s natural set point weight range (see more below), height, muscle mass, bone structure, body fat, genetics, activity level, eating patterns, and relationship to food.

There is also strong evidence of childhood trauma or traumatic experiences being associated with obesity and the development of binge eating disorder. It’s important to remember that body weight is not only associated with physical health, but also with mental health. If you think your body weight may be connected to trauma in your past and it’s something you’d like to heal from, it’s important to talk to a trusted mental health professional.

Natural set point weight range vs Body Mass Index (BMI)

Set point weight theory says that our weight, like our height, settles at a natural range due to our inherited biology and genetics. Once settled, this is the weight range that our body will continue to work to maintain, despite our efforts to alter it. Therefore, the vast majority of people who lose weight on diets will regain that weight. Although our body will gravitate towards its set point, movement within a range is normal due to fluctuations in activity level, seasonal changes in eating patterns, or illness. Because of the variance among set points, standardized weight charts can be misleading and unhelpful.

On the other hand, Body Mass Index or BMI (sometimes also referred to as Ideal Body Weight) is the ratio of your weight (in kilograms) to your height (in meters) squared and is defined as a measure of body fat based on weight and height. Because BMI does not take into account muscle mass, bone structure, genetics, biology, metabolism, or activity level, BMI can portray an inaccurate, unhelpful picture of your physical health.

So how do I know what a healthy weight is for me?

Throughout your growing years, your body is still building bone and muscle, so your weight increases steadily. If your body is still growing, you may not have reached your natural range yet. However, if you have yourself weighed at the doctors, they can tell you where your height and weight averages for your age range. This may give you some insight, but remember, you’re growing. Your body can experience a lot of fluctuations in a short amount of time.

For the rest of you, one way to think about a healthy weight for yourself is to ask what weight range your body has naturally settled in for long periods of time. Pay special attention to times when…

  • Maintaining this weight was natural (e.g., you did not have to under or overeat to achieve it)

  • You were eating well (in good health, not preoccupied with thoughts of food)

  • You had the physical and mental energy to do the things you wanted

The weight your body settled at during these times is likely your healthy weight range.

I want to lose weight, is there a healthy way to do so?

That depends.

If you’re eating a variety of foods according to your body cues, exercising for fun and health, and maintaining your current weight, your body is probably at a healthy weight for you. In this case, it is unlikely that there’s a healthy way to lose weight because your body is already at a healthy weight.

Trying to lose weight at this point is likely to disrupt your internal body cues, slow your metabolism, increase likelihood of binging, decrease body image, increase obsessive thoughts about food, lower self-esteem, and/or increase risk of developing an eating disorder.

Instead, you might benefit from focusing on the feelings driving the desire to lose weight and improving your body image through self-acceptance and compassion. You can also change things up while still maintaining healthy habits by trying new recipes or attempting a new sport.

Perhaps instead of losing weight, you actually mean you’d like to become more fit. Muscle mass itself is heavier than fat, so if you start working out and building muscle mass, you may see an increase in weight with a decrease in body fat. That’s another reason not to become obsessed with the number on your scale. It is just the relationship your body has to the gravitational pull of this earth. If you decide you’d like to become more active, try following some fitness plans online or meeting with a personal trainer at a gym for more information. Moving your body and working towards a specific goal with it (so long as it’s coming from a healthy place) can increase your self-confidence and strengthen the relationship you have with yourself.

If you believe your body is at a higher (or lower) weight than might be natural for you, you might want to change your eating or activity patterns. This type of weight change might occur due to inactivity, over or undereating, illness, or disconnection from your internal body cues. In this case, try not to focus on weight loss (or gain), but rather on restoring health.

You may want to try:

  • Practicing intuitive eating

  • Avoid dieting through set foods and restrictive eating

  • Being mindful while experimenting with small, simple changes will be helpful in this process

Check out our Eating Well & Feeling Healthy article for more information.

Can your set point ever change?

Although our natural set point weight range tends to be rather steady, certain conditions can shift it over time. Chronic dieting, aging, overeating, or not getting enough activity can all increase your set point. Having a poor diet or overly restricting your caloric intake can cause a person’s metabolism to slow, resulting in lower calorie requirements to maintain the same weight. For people who have experienced increases in their natural set point, restoring their set point may be possible through increasing awareness (mindfulness) of internal body signals (e.g., hunger, fullness), the experience of eating, and through becoming more active if not already so.

Recovering from an eating disorder and wanting to lose weight

If you’ve recovered from an eating disorder, developing a healthy relationship to food, eating and your body was hopefully a part of your journey. If you’re engaged in eating well, listening to and respecting your body, then chances are your body is at a healthy weight and the urge to lose weight is an important emotional signal to pay attention to and understand.

For example, we are often taught that when we feel uncomfortable in our body, we should do something to change our body. Sometimes we transfer emotions to our body and try to resolve them through the way we eat or treat our bodies. These are important issues, but they are not resolved through weight loss.

If, on the other hand, you are not engaged in eating well and are having difficulty listening to your hunger and fullness cues, it might be tempting to turn to a diet or weight loss to structure your experience and “get things back on track”. The issue with this, however, is that diets ultimately alienate us from our bodies, overriding our body cues and making it difficult for us to eat intuitively and mindfully.

Rather than focusing on a diet or weight loss, if you’re struggling, try shifting your focus to restoring connection to and trust in your body, restoring health, and if needed, seeking out support from others—including, if necessary, a therapist, nutritionist, or doctor.

Steps for seeking support around weight loss

If you’re curious about losing or gaining weight or have questions around your natural set point, it’s a good idea to consult a health care professional. Your local doctor, nutritionist or dietitian should be able to help you with this information. With support, you can focus on mapping out  healthy, sustainable ways of eating that don’t just measure success through weight loss.

If you are working on changing your eating patterns, it may be helpful to check out community health centers or a nutritionist for information about what products or programs they offer. Before spending money, become fully informed about the weight loss program and check out the safety and credibility of the program or product you’re considering. If you have a complaint about a program or product, address your complaint directly to the company involved, so they are aware of the problem and have an opportunity to fix it.

Finally, if you ever find yourself becoming obsessed by the desire to lose weight or maintain a certain weight, it’s important to seek help. There are often underlying emotional issues behind this drive and support can help you address both the emotional and physical components.

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

A closer look at body dysmorphic disorder and its symptoms, causes, and ways to cope with it

What Is It?

Let’s face it - at one time or another you’ve wished a part of your body looked a little differently. It might be that you think your thighs are too big, your skin is not perfect, or your nose has a little bump in the middle that EVERYONE can notice.

This kind of thinking is pretty common and relatively normal, whether it’s true or not. However, these thoughts become a problem when they start to rule your life. You become preoccupied with the part of your body that you think is not okay, and these beliefs can interfere with the quality of your life. This kind of obsessing over a part of your body is known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (or BDD).

How BDD might affect you

There are many different types of behaviors and symptoms that you might experience if you have BDD, however you don’t necessarily have to experience all of them.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Frequently checking out how you look in mirrors

  • Picking at your skin

  • Constantly making sure you look clean and well groomed

  • Frequently touching the part of your body that you don’t like

  • Trying to hide or disguise the body part or yourself

  • Avoiding going out or being with others because you feel so self-conscious about an aspect of your appearance

  • Feeling depressed or anxious

  • Feeling suicidal

  • Trying to ‘fix’ the body part through exercise, medication, surgery, and other sorts of treatment

If you are concerned that these behaviors and feelings sound familiar, it is important that you speak to a doctor or psychologist, counselor or other mental health professional to find out more.

Why does it happen?

BDD does not have a single cause. It is often due to a variety of different physical and mental health issues.

Some causes might be:

  • Having low self-esteem and negative beliefs about yourself

  • Thinking negative thoughts such as “everybody hates me because I’m ugly” or “I’ll never be anything if I don’t look ‘perfect’”

  • A cultural emphasis and fixation of the ideal body

  • Not being able to cope well with stress

  • Feeling a lack of control in your life

  • Feeling as though you cannot manage difficult emotions any other way

  • Having relationship problems with family members or peers

  • Having been sexually abused or traumatized

  • Genetics and body chemistry could be relevant in some cases

Seeking support?

If you are concerned that you might have BDD, it is important that you see a doctor or a mental health professional to talk about and find out more about the best treatment options. Getting the right assistance can help you enjoy your life again.

Some treatment options may include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be really helpful when dealing with BDD. It can give you a feeling of power and control over your thoughts, enabling you to learn ways of overcoming the tendency to think negatively

  • Response prevention is a type of treatment that helps you develop other ways of coping with the urges to participate in the behaviors that result from your BDD;

  • Medication from your doctor can sometimes be useful in reducing the intensity of your negative thoughts and behaviors.

BDD can sometimes exist with other psychological problems such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety. Therapy for these problems may also help your BDD.

Other things that might be helpful

  • Expand your ideas of beauty. Take a look at your local art gallery or in books at the library or bookstore. What do the people look like in these pictures? What makes them beautiful? What makes you want to look at them?

  • Join a support group. It may be helpful to share your experiences with people who are going through similar situations.

  • Write in your journal. Physically writing out your feelings can slow down your thought process and help you understand why you’re feeling the way you are. It can also be a relief to let those feelings out, so you no longer feel like you have to carry them around. Not only can you use pen and paper, but there’s lots of apps and websites that allow you to vent and post about your feelings anonymously.

  • Write down some positive affirmations. Put positive notes around the house or carry them with you. Writing them in dry erase marker or eyeliner on the mirror also works great. Some examples might include: “I am beautiful just as I am”, “I am good enough”, or “My body is strong, just like me”.

  • Write a list about the things that you like about yourself. It can be anything from being a good friend to liking your big toe! This can be particularly hard when suffering from BDD and low self-esteem. Be gentle with yourself. If you really can’t think of much, ask your friends why they like you.

  • Write a list of the things you like about your friends. You probably wouldn’t think the same things of your friends as you might about yourself. What are some things you admire about your friends? Are those things deeper than just looks?

  • Take the time to do nice things for your body. Give yourself a massage, take a bath, or go on a long walk. Find ways to bring self-care into your life, however that looks for you!

  • Make a list of things you can do to distract yourself from unhealthy behaviors. Imagine all the things you like to do or take a fair amount of your attention to accomplish and write them down. When you’re upset, turn to this list and start trying out some of these coping strategies.


For more information:

  • For more details about BDD, check out the Mayo Clinic website.

  • If you are feeling suicidal, it is important for you to share these feelings with your doctor or a mental health professional. You can also reach out to Lines for Life’s Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for someone who will listen. You might also find the Wanting To End Your Life article to be a helpful tool in helping you cope in a positive way with these feelings.

Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Binge Eating


Binge Eating

A closer look at what binge eating is and tips for managing it

What is Binge Eating?

Most people overeat every now and then and it is common to occasionally feel as though you have eaten too much. However, regularly consuming large amounts of food when you are not feeling hungry, usually to the point of feeling too full, and at a much faster rate than usual is known as binge eating. Binge eating is similar to bulimia except that the person does not get rid of the food after eating.

Some of the characteristics of binge eating include:

  • Feeling that eating is out of control

  • Eating what most people would consider to be a large amount of food

  • Eating to the point of feeling uncomfortable

  • Eating large amounts of food, even when you are not really hungry

  • Being secretive about what is eaten and when

  • Being embarrassed by the amount of food eaten

  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty about overeating

If you think one or a number of these characteristics describe your eating habits, you may want to speak to a medical doctor, a nutritionist, dietitian, psychologist, counselor or other mental health professional.

Causes of binge eating

No one knows for sure what causes binge eating. A number of different factors are thought to contribute to the problem. These include physiological factors (such as our brain chemistry), social and cultural factors (including the thin body ideal or previous trauma), dieting, and emotions such as anger, boredom, depression and feeling worried or stressed. People often overeat as a way to make themselves feel better or to distract themselves from their problems.

Dieting may aggravate binge eating. Dieting involves setting rules about what to eat and when to eat. If those rules are occasionally broken, for example, by eating a food you are not allowed or eating more than you should, some people think that their diet is ruined. As a consequence, they eat all they want and plan to start their diet again the next day.

Effects of binge eating

There are a number of physical and emotional effects of binge eating. Some of these include:

  • Not getting enough vitamins and other nutrients. Often the food that is eaten during a binge is high in fat and sugar and low in important nutrients. This may lead to other health difficulties.

  • Depression may occur as binging often increases feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness.

It is not uncommon for people who have a problem with binge eating to be overweight or obese, although it is also possible for people to be within their healthy weight range.

Being obese may contribute to the onset of certain chronic health problems such diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease, cancer, and bone and joint problems.

Suggestions for getting help

The reasons for binging are complicated and it may be difficult to manage your binging on your own. Managing your eating habits may include speaking to a professional. It may be helpful for you to talk with a medical doctor, dietitian, nutritionist or mental health professional. They should be able to help you work out the best way to manage your binging. There are a number of options for doing this and by talking it through you can find the best one for you. There are also things you can do to help yourself get your eating under control.

Some suggestions include:

Eating regularly. It may be helpful to eat small meals regularly so that you are giving your body enough nutrients throughout the day. It’s also important to start developing a routine, so your body can intuit when it’s time to eat. Having a structural eating plan is key to avoiding binging.

Avoid skipping meals. If you can, try to avoid missing meals. Skipping a meal may make you hungry later on in the day which could result in binge eating.

Pay attention to your feelings. Often times, binge eating has a psychological component to it. It’s important to pay close attention to the feelings you have when you’re triggered and considering binging. This will give you a starting point of understanding the tie between eating and your emotions.

Eating a balanced diet. If possible, avoid going on diets which suggest that you leave out certain foods or only eat at certain times of the day. When you deny yourself food, you’re more likely to restart the cycle of restricting, binging, and feeling guilty. If you’re having strong cravings for triggering foods, plan to enjoy that food at a later date in the week when you’re not feeling so impulsive. Also, having good eating habits can promote good health, a better sense of how full you are, and can reduce your risk for chronic diseases.

Have a distraction. Having something else you can do when you feel like binging may also be helpful. This may be going for a walk, hanging out with friends, reading or listening to music. Check out our Developing Coping Strategies article for more suggestions.

Move your body! Putting your body in motion everyday can be helpful. If you haven’t exercised before, it may be a good idea to talk with your medical doctor about the type of exercise that would be suitable for you. Exercise doesn’t have to mean just going to the gym for a run on the treadmill or lifting weights. Find a way to move your body in a way you enjoy. Perhaps that means going on a hike with friends, dancing your heart out in your room, riding your bike around town, or taking your dog for a walk.

In your journey of recovery, it’s important to become in tune with your body and the signals it gives. Notice how you’re feeling when you eat, how you feel when you move your body, and how you feel when caring for yourself in other ways. Your self-care routine (which can be as simple as showering and getting enough sleep) will help you grow more in tune with your needs and what makes you feel like the best version of yourself!


For more information:


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Body Image

Loving the body you’re in

Learning to love your body is a process, but will be the biggest investment of your life. Here we unpack our perceptions of our bodies and how to turn them around if they prove to be unhealthy.

What is body image?

Body image is your own attitude towards your body. It’s how you see yourself, how you think and feel about the way you look, and how you think others perceive you. Your body image can also be influenced by your own beliefs and attitudes, as well as those of society, social media, and your peers.

Types of body image

There are two types of body image, healthy and unhealthy:

  • Having a healthy body image means that you’re comfortable in your own skin and are happy with the way you look.

  • Having an unhealthy body image means that you have a skewed perception of your own body, such as seeing your body as bigger or smaller than it is in reality or not being perfect on the outside.

You may think that what you look like on the outside defines who you are or what your worth is, but in reality, you are more than just your body!

Why can people have an unhealthy body image?

In mass media and society, you come across images of models who are extremely thin or ripped, bodies that have little to no body hair on them, and people with flawless skin. People of all ages, sizes, and genders are being bombarded with images that might make them feel bad about themselves or skew what they think their body should look like. You may feel obligated or pressured to look like these images portrayed in the media or popular culture because it is seen as what you SHOULD look like.  As a result, a lot of men and women try to control—sometimes in unhealthy ways—their appearances to look a certain way.

The history of the ideal body shape

In actuality, the ideal body shape has changed greatly over time, and this ideal often has more to do with what your body shape says to other people than what it actually looks like. For example, during the potato famine in Ireland, it was very stylish to be plump; as it showed that you and your family were wealthy and could afford food. Today, it is stylish to be slim and well-toned because it shows that you have the money for a gym membership or a personal trainer. Same reason but entirely different shape!

Steps to self-acceptance

Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their body, but having an unhealthy body image can damage your self-esteem and confidence. Once you feel bad about the way you look, you may be inclined to think that you, as a person, are not as worthy. No matter what you look like, you are beautiful the way you are! Having a healthy body image will help you feel more comfortable in your own skin and more confident with your body. Here are some ways to gain self-acceptance and feel comfortable about your body:

  • Relationships: Surround yourself with people in your life who you find supportive, affirming, and accepting of who you are. If you’re not sure if a particular person fits this description, pay attention to how you feel about yourself after spending time with them. Take note of whether you leave feeling warm and supported or whether you leave feeling not good enough in some way.

  • Avoid “fat talk”: Try to avoid conversation that emphasizes how you or other people look. Talk about all the amazing things you can do and things you’re interested in! Remember and remind your friends that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and are no less capable and deserving than anyone else.

  • Develop media literacy: Learn to detect and challenge the powerful messages in the media which promote a narrow ideal of beauty and value, which emphasize our bodies as objects. Following hashtags, pages, groups, and content creators on social media that align with positive values is far better for your mental health than seeing demoralizing, objectifying content in your feed. Some examples of hashtags you could follow include #bodypositivity, #loveyourbody, #bodyhairdontcare, and #selfacceptance.

  • Stand up for your rights! Activism is a great way to protest messages in the media and culture that contribute to body dissatisfaction. By taking action, you are helping the cause and telling yourself, “I matter, I’m worth it, and these messages aren’t okay!” You have the right to be happy with who you are, as you are. Don’t let anybody take that away from you.

  • Be compassionate to yourself and others: How we treat ourselves impacts our self-acceptance and our comfort in our own skin. Treating yourself kindly generates compassion and this compassion fuels more kind self-care. Some great ways to be kind to yourself and your body include: pledging not to diet (eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full), engaging in exercise that is fun and empowering, and listening to your body when it needs rest or comfort.

  • Describe yourself without referring to your physique: Think about the wonderful parts of your personality. People will come to see you as you see yourself and will describe you as you describe yourself. This goes for how you talk about your friends too!

  • Find your own style: Wear what you want to wear and don’t avoid wearing things because of the perception of others. You’ll never fully avoid people making their own judgements, so you might as well enjoy life to the fullest while you can. Wear that bikini you’ve been eyeing at the store! Wear those clunky boots you swear came out of the 90’s! People will see you being in tune with your own vibe and may be inspired to do the same. Be fierce when it comes to being yourself.

Getting help

If you are feeling inadequate about your body or yourself in general, it may be worth talking to someone about it. This may be a family member, friend, teacher or counselor. If you feel that you might be trying to control your weight in unhealthy ways, please check out our articles on anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and overcoming an eating disorder.


Information for this article was also provided by:

  • SAMHSA Family Guide, Body Image

  • South Carolina Department of Mental Health

  • Teen Matters


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa

A closer look at possible causes, symptoms and treatments of bulimia

What is bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder. People diagnosed with an eating disorder usually have distorted views of their body image creating extreme disturbances in their eating behavior.

People experiencing bulimia regularly binge eat and purge. Binge eating involves consuming large amounts of food in relatively short periods of time while feeling out of control when taking in food. Binge eating is also usually followed by feelings of guilt and anxiety about becoming fat, which results in the desire and need to get rid of the food. This is called purging.

Some common ways to purge include:

  • Excessive exercising to burn calories

  • Throwing up

  • Taking laxatives, diuretics or diet pills

  • Not eating for several days after the binge

Symptoms of bulimia

As with anorexia, you can’t tell by someones weight if they have an eating disorder. It’s important to look closer at the physical, behavioral and mental symptoms present. Some of the common signs of bulimia include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food

  • Lacking control when eating

  • Being secretive about what is eaten and when

  • Visiting the bathroom after eating

  • Over-exercising

  • Continual fluctuations in weight

  • Being very self-critical

  • Moodiness

  • Depression

  • Regularly tired/lacking energy

  • Sore throat

  • Decaying teeth

If you are experiencing a number of these signs, it may be helpful to go and talk with someone you trust like a family member, teacher, counselor or local doctor.

What causes bulimia?

Like other eating disorders, bulimia is a combination of physical and mental health difficulties; the cause is not clear. However, a number of factors may be associated with bulimia. These may include:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

  • Cultural emphasis on slimness

  • Preoccupation with body image ideals

  • Difficult or tension-filled relationships with friends or family

  • Loss and grief

  • Brain chemistry

  • Physiological and psychological effects of dieting

  • Stressful events

  • Difficulty with coping

Suggestions for Treatment

The reasons that people experience bulimia may differ from person to person and the options for treatment may also differ depending on the situation and person. Whatever the reason, if you think you have bulimia, know that you deserve help and support.

You can talk to your local doctor about what treatment options are available and which may be best for you. If necessary, your doctor can also refer you to a mental health professional and a nutritionist. These professionals will talk with you about your food, weight beliefs, behaviors, and explore reasons why you may have developed these beliefs and behaviors. This can be done in a group situation or in a one on one situation. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor or therapist as to which is the best option for you.

It is also a good idea to challenge negative self-talk and reframe common thinking errors to develop a new way of thinking about yourself.


Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com



Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia Nervosa

A closer look at possible causes, symptoms and treatments of anorexia

What is anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. The disorder is primarily characterized by excessive weight loss and self-starvation, or a refusal to eat the amount of food required to maintain a healthy body weight. Anorexia is often found in people who have also been diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder, causing them to desire a body much different than their own.

Anorexia nervosa is often found in younger populations, specifically recognized in girls aged 15 to 18. It can also occur in older populations, and can often be seen as an issue in the lives of celebrities. “Manorexia” is a term that has been penned to describe men with anorexia.

What causes anorexia?

While an exact cause can be difficult to determine, anorexia nervosa is generally caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Anorexia nervosa is also a psychological disorder, where people, who develop this disorder, tend to have certain personality types, such as perfectionism, neuroticism and low self-esteem. Recently. studies have reported a connection between body image issues and popular culture that have been pervasive direct link between the two.

Other Common Causes

  • Broken relationships

  • Stress

  • Exposure to new situations

  • Loss

  • Genes

  • Extreme dieting

  • Abuse and trauma

  • Peer pressure

  • Crisis

  • Family history of addictive personalities

What are the warning signs?

Some people with anorexia nervosa may show off their weight loss with revealing or tight-fitting clothing, but not everyone is comfortable showing off their bodies. Another common practice is to wear baggy clothing to cover up the amount of weight they have lost, to stay warm (less body fat means less insulation for body temperature regulation), or in shame of their bodies. Remember, not every skinny person is dealing with an eating disorder and people of all body types can be struggling with anorexia. Other warning signs include:

  • Eating very little, if at all

  • Extreme weight loss

  • Using ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food

  • Withdrawal from social situations, especially those involving food

  • Frequently using the excuse that they ate before hanging out

  • Frequent comments about or preoccupation with food, calories and fat

  • Thinning hair or development of lanugo; soft, thin hair covering the body

  • Forgetfulness or lack of concentration

  • Depression

  • Excessive exercise or strict adherence to an exercise program

  • Only eating alone

  • Excluding certain types of food from one’s diet, such as carbohydrates or foods high in saturated fat

  • Irregular or nonexistent menstrual cycles in women

How is anorexia nervosa different from other eating disorders?

Anorexia nervosa is similar to other eating disorders, like bulimia nervosa and binge eating, in that it is generally connected with a distorted body image and altered eating habits. Even if all the evidence points to the contrary, a person with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or a binge eating disorder will convince themselves that they are overweight. No matter how much weight they lose, they will always think they have to lose more.

However, anorexia is different from the other two because of the severe restriction of the amount of food consumed. People suffering from anorexia may go through periods of binge eating or purging, but these episodes may occur less often than with people suffering from a different disorder.

How to get help

If you think you or a friend might have any one of these symptoms, there are options available to aid in reversing the disorder. Besides therapy—both group and personal—there are body image resources out there. Visit our Overcoming an Eating Disorder article to learn more about what you can do.

Your own personal body image may not be the only issue causing the disorder. Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder, which means treatment from a mental health professional may be necessary to address the root causes of the disorder, not just the effects. The sooner a person receives treatment, the easier it will be to recover. Also, the way that other people see a person takes a toll on how they see themselves. It is important to surround yourself with people who support you getting better.

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Overcoming an Eating Disorder

Recovering from your eating disorder

Recovering from an eating disorder can be difficult. If you or someone you know is trying to overcome an eating disorder, you might find that other physical and emotional issues can come up during the process. But in the long-run, recovery from an eating disorder can lead to a healthier life overall.

What is “recovery”?

There are different meanings for recovery. For some, recovery means the end of their eating disorder symptoms (e.g. starving, bingeing, excessive exercising, purging). For others, recovery is the end to the physical symptoms as well as an end to feelings of fear, guilt and hate about eating or even having an eating disorder.

Complete recovery which may seem difficult, and it is most definitely possible, can be associated with a strong sense of peace and contentment. Most people who want to overcome an eating disorder find it is helpful to have the support of a mental health professional and nutritionist.

How long does it take to get to recovery?

There is no simple answer to this. Overcoming an eating disorder may be shorter for some people than for others. It is not uncommon to experience relapses (a return of eating disorder symptoms, unhelpful thoughts and behaviors) during the recovery period. Try to remember that anyone can recover and the length of time to recover will vary for different people.

What are the positive effects of recovery?

The benefits and value of recovery may be difficult to see when you are currently facing an eating disorder. For many people, the behaviors associated with the eating disorder act as a reward or serve a purpose in life. Therefore, it may be difficult to see the reasons for stopping these unhealthy behaviors.

Recovering from an eating disorder is healthier emotionally than life with an eating disorder. Overcoming an eating disorder will allow you to feel positive about yourself and at peace with your life. Without an eating disorder, you’ll also have more energy to be engaged in life—like in school, work or other activities.

Health benefits

Overcoming an eating disorder can also help you be physically healthier. Eating disorders can severely damage your body and lead to long-term health problems, including heart issues, bone and hair loss. The sooner you begin to change harmful behaviors, the greater your chances of possibly reversing or lessening these effects.

Some people, depending on the type, length, and physical symptoms of their eating disorder, may experience long-term health issues. These can include issues related to fertility, bone fragility/density (osteopenia/osteoporosis), weakened heart muscle, damage to the digestive tract (usually caused through the misuse of laxatives), and other organ damage.

Some of these health problems can be fixed with time and/or appropriate treatment, while other health problems will only be able to be managed. It is important to talk to your doctor about these issues—if there is a problem, it is best to know what you’re dealing with and what can be done to manage or fix it.

Underlying emotional issues

Some people find that when they let go of their eating disorder behaviors and symptoms, they still experience problems such as depression, anxiety, social phobia or obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

One of the main reasons these issues arise during or after recovery is that they are usually the underlying causes of the eating disorder. Your eating disorder may have been a way for you to bury or cope with these issues. When you remove the disorder, the underlying issues no longer have their usual outlet—the coping mechanism has been removed.

So, if you find that you are experiencing one or more of these problems while working on overcoming your eating disorder, it is important that these issues are also addressed. You might want to talk to a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist to help you deal with these underlying issues.


Overcoming an eating disorder could very well be a rocky road, often a case of two steps forward and one step back. The number of times you fall back into your eating disorder is not important; what is important is that each time that you take a step back, you don’t let yourself dwell for too long. Try to pick yourself up and begin where you left off. It might be a slow and frustrating process, but you will still move forward, and that is what will get you there in the end.

Often something might trigger your relapse. It could be something as “big” as a break-up or a death or as “small” as the tone in someone’s voice or an unanswered text. Being able to identify your triggers might be helpful because it could allow you to look at how you originally responded to the situation, and to think about how you might respond in a more positive way next time. Identifying these things can be hard at first and may take some time, but with practice you will become a pro and you will be able to catch yourself in the moment.

Remember that you don’t have to go through recovering from your eating disorder alone. The changes you will make are complex and not easy. Most people who are working to overcome an eating disorder have mental health professionals and nutritionists who support them in making the necessary personal changes. If you’re having a hard time or find yourself relapsing, it’s important that you talk to someone to get the support you need. This could mean reconnecting with a mental health professional you worked with earlier, or establishing a new contact. Friends or family members can also be helpful.

Tips to help with overcoming an eating disorder

There are many solutions—both large and small—that might help you along the journey of recovering from an eating disorder. Below are some recommendations that can help.

Therapy. There are many options for therapy and you should find one that is suited to you. This might include individual counseling with a mental health professional, group therapy, or—if your eating disorder has led to serious physical problems—treatment by a doctor in a hospital or medical setting. You can talk to a mental health professional or doctor about which type of treatment might be best for you.

Keep a recovery journal. Fill it with positive and affirming thoughts. Write about why you want to recover, what your eating disorder gives and takes away from you, where you will be in 5 or 10 years if you stick with your eating disorder instead of giving it up, where you will be if you do give it up, and/or anything else that will help to get and keep you motivated.

Spend time with positive and supportive people. People who are comfortable with themselves and their bodies and who have a healthy relationship with food could be a positive influence and great to have around. Spending time with people who possess these qualities that you admire and aspire to develop within yourself will really help you in your recovery.

Talk to other people recovering from eating disorders or people who have already recovered.  Mutual support can be incredibly inspiring and motivating. It also might be helpful to you because they understand what you are going through; they ‘get it’. And there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing someone else make progress, overcome the eating disorder and enjoy life. Your mental health professional or doctor can probably suggest groups you can join or people you can talk to.

Surround yourself with motivational and positive content. If you’re on social media of any kind, you are constantly being bombarded with information and images as you scroll through your feed. Take the time to customize the content you see by following uplifting groups, pages with motivational messages, and tags that correlate to your recovery process.

Question your own ideas of beauty. Often, our ideas of what’s beautiful are shaped by images that we see in the media which really aren’t based in reality at all. It is important that you question the “beauty” that you see on T.V. or in magazines, and recognize that most people don’t look like supermodels, nor should they! Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Have a keepsake, a reminder to keep you motivated. Keep something special around where you can see it and that will serve as a reminder about why you want to recover. Don’t ignore it when you are feeling bad or unmotivated, this is the time when you need to pay the most attention.

Read recovery-oriented books. Finding these books can help inspire you and keep you motivated. Check out the health section of your local library or bookstore or get a recommendation from your mental health professional.

Find a hobby. Get out there and live. Is there something that you used to love doing but have stopped? Is there something you have always wanted to try but have let your fear get in the way?

Do things that nourish your soul. This could be anything from engaging in volunteer work to reading a great book. It doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Experiment with different ways to nourish your soul and remember that a part of recovery is getting to know yourself all over again (or for the first time!).

Hospitalization. Remember that there are options for hospitalization for an eating disorder through a clinic or hospital ward when it is medically or emotionally needed or helpful. Sometimes a brief hospital stay helps give you the “jumpstart” you need to start on the road to overcoming an eating disorder. Hospital stays can also be helpful if physically you are dangerously weak as a result of your eating disorder.

Something to keep in mind

The most important thing to know and remember about recovery is that it is possible. Not just for everyone else except you, but for everyone including you. It takes an enormous amount of persistence and courage, but it is possible and it is definitely worth it.

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com