The Connection Between Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

Tuesday, Dec 13  •  


Body Image

How we feel about ourselves determines how we treat ourselves. If we think we are inadequate somehow, we won’t offer ourselves the kindness and comfort that we would if we had a positive image of ourselves. Such thinking is at the core of body image issues and subsequent eating disorders.

Negative Body Image

Body image is the subjective image one has of their own body, which can be both realistic and very different from reality. It depends on an individual’s personal beliefs, how they perceive your body, and how they feel about it. External factors such as societal judgment or beauty standards might also affect how you view yourself.

This self-perception can affect your mental and physical health and your relationships. Hence, a healthy body image is crucial to living a healthy life.

People dissatisfied with their appearance can develop harmful coping habits to feel better about themselves. This “normative discontent” can be the cause and symptom of eating disorders that are so prevalent in these times. Research shows more women than men have negative body images and believe they should lose weight. 

Eating Disorders In People With Negative Body Image

While not all people with negative body images develop eating disorders, and not all eating disorders spurn from negative body image issues, there is a direct correlation between the two.

Eating disorders are categorized as mental illnesses and are often caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People who value their looks, the shape of their bodies, and weight are at risk of developing eating disorders to manage their body weight.

The most common eating disorder is binge eating disorder (BED), and over 60% of the patients with BED over-evaluate their shape and weight. Those with BED think they are heavier and more out of shape than they are. This over-evaluation of weight and shape is a common symptom in people diagnosed with bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

Body Image Issues and Treatment

By establishing a connection between negative body image and eating disorders, we can prevent, mitigate, and manage its lingering side effects. People uncomfortable with their appearance are susceptible to developing unhealthy relationships with food.

Not eating enough or binge eating only to purge afterward has serious consequences on health. It can lead to malnutrition, impact body organs such as the heart and kidneys, and exacerbate body image issues.

Fortunately, various treatment options are available for individuals with negative body image that leads to eating disorders. These include:

  • Mental health counseling
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Psychiatric treatment
  • Holistic and equine therapies

Are you or a loved one needing treatment for an eating disorder? Avalon Hills has a world-class eating disorder treatment program that can help you reclaim a healthy body image and life. Visit our website or call 435-938-6060 to speak with an admissions specialist.