Eating disorders aren’t about food.

Though they are related to food. Someone with an eating disorder has irregular and potentially harmful habits around their intake of food. But the reason why is usually much deeper.

Eating disorders can vary in severity from a general nuisance to a life-threatening illness. But you don’t need to suffer alone.

Mahaya Health offers a variety of natural treatments for eating disorders.

What Is An Eating Disorder?

Generally speaking, health disorders are either physical or mental. A thyroid disorder may impact your mental health, for example, but it’s primarily thought of as a physical illness.

When it comes to eating disorders, however, they’re largely both.

There’s a feedback loop that happens between the psychological and physiological aspects of eating disorders. It may begin with a preoccupation with one’s weight, or the attempted suppression of difficult emotions. This leads to the unhealthy eating behaviour exhibited in eating disorders, which may lead to weight problems, a preoccupation with eating (or not eating), and social withdrawal, which can heighten the original problems.

There are several different known eating disorders. Here are a few of the more common ones:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, is characterized by two different habits.

One is avoidance, leading to restricting your diet, avoiding certain foods, or avoiding eating altogether. or exercise excessively to lose weight.

The other involves acts of purging, with can include vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, or exercising excessively.

In either case, you may feel symptoms similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, related to both food and weight loss.

Some of the common symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Being underweight
  • Extremely restrictive eating habits
  • A fear of gaining weight
  • Low self-esteem, usually attached to one’s perceived weight
  • Unrealistic/distorted body image

Over time, anorexia can lead to severe health complications. Because of the lack of nutrients consumed, you may experience many of the symptoms of malnutrition. These can include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Irritability
  • Brain fog
  • Reproductive dysfunction
  • Thin bones prone to breaking
  • Thin and brittle hair and nails

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging.

Like anorexia, those with bulimia generally have a distorted body image and overarching obsession with food. However, the habits through which it manifests are different.

If you have bulimia, you’ll be prone to frequent binging events. A binge is an episode where you eat a very large amount of food in one sitting, generally foods you try to avoid. In some cases, you may even recognize you’re binging, but you have difficulty controlling how much you’re eating or stopping, even if you recognize you’re full.

After a binge, you’ll purge in an attempt to either rid your body of what you just ate, or to compensate for it in another way. These behaviours include forcing yourself to vomit, or taking laxatives or diuretics, or fasting or excess exercise.

The symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • A lack of control around food habits
  • Low self-esteem, usually attached to one’s perceived weight
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Sore & damaged throat
  • Damaged tooth enamel
  • Digestive issues
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Dehydration

Binge Eating Disorder

Like anorexia, binge eating disorder generally begins during adolescence and early adulthood, and like bulimia it’s characterized by episodes of heavy binging as well as feeling a lack of control.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • A lack of control around food habits
  • Shame or guilt associated with food – binging in secret
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Unhealthy weight

Other Eating Disorders

Pica is another eating disorder, characterized by the urge to eat things that are not considered food, like paper, hair, cloth, and even dirt.

Purging disorder is similar to bulimia, in that those afflicted will use vomiting, laxatives, or other forms of purging to control their weight. However, the binging element of bulimia is not present.

Rumination disorder is a newly recognized condition. Those with rumination disorder frequently regurgitate the food they’re eating. Unlike bulimia, though, those with rumination disorder often re-swallow the food.

OSFED, or other specified feeding or eating disorder, is an umbrella term that refers to any other condition that mimics eating disorder-like symptoms, but doesn’t fit into any of the above categories

What Causes Eating Disorders?

Research is ongoing into the causes of an eating disorder. While we haven’t yet been able to pinpoint the specific cause, we do know there are a number of factors at play, listed below.

Societal Influences

It’s no secret that society maintains an unrealistic beauty standard.  However, though we’re all subject to these messages, only a small portion of us develop eating disorders. This suggests that societal influences might not cause an eating disorder, but it might exacerbate someone who’s already at risk.


Certain personality types are more prone to developing an eating disorder than others. In particular, those with the following temperament are more likely to develop an eating disorder:

  • Perfectionism
  • Emotional instability
  • Neuroticism
  • Impulsiveness
  • Rigidity or inflexibility
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stubborn persistence
  • Obsessive thoughts

Genetics & Biology

If one of your close relatives had an eating disorder, you’re at greater risk for developing one yourself.  This is because certain genotypes are associated with eating disorders.

Past Traumas

A significant number of people with an eating disorder also struggle with some sort of traumatic past.

Survivors of trauma may face feelings of guilt, shame, and a lack of control, all of which are associated with eating disorders. In some cases, your eating disorder may be a way for you to regain control of your situation.

Poor Coping Mechanisms

If you’re experiencing distressing emotions, you’ll need to find a way to cope with them. In many cases, an eating disorder can be that coping mechanism.

If you’re suffering from an eating disorder, there are a number of supports you can reach out to for help in recovery.

A psychotherapist can help you understand your symptoms and where they’re coming from as well as understand the underlying emotional issues behind your eating disorder. The goal is to help you develop healthier coping mechanisms and move away from your eating disorder habits.

Meanwhile, however, your eating disorder may have done some damage to your body.

Depending on the nature of your eating disorder, you may experience malnutrition, chronic pain, tissue damage, digestive disorders, hormonal imbalances, depression, anxiety, and more. Whatever your health issues are, Mahaya Health has a team of healthcare practitioners ready to help.

Eating disorders can be frightening, lonely, and life-threatening illnesses, but with appropriate treatment and a team of supports you can take steps towards recovery.

Start building a healthier life in body and in mind.