Freedom from Emotional Eating, Food & Weight Obsession

Is It an Eating Disorder?

Do You Think About Food, Weight or Diets, A Lot?
It may be an eating disorder when your thoughts about food, or dieting, or your concerns about your body become more important than everything else in your life.

It may be an eating disorder when those thoughts get in the way of you doing things that you enjoy, when they interfere with the normal activities of your life, including friendships, school, going out, etc… If that’s happening, then you probably need some help.


Eating disorders can cause health problems and be life threatening.

More girls and women suffer from eating disorders than do boys or men, but boys do get eating disorders, too.

Eating Disorders begin most often in adolescence.
Surveys show more than 50 % of high school and college-age women are unhappy with their body shape and size, with an estimate of up to 20% having an eating disorder at any given point in time.

There are several different types of eating disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.


Anorexia is when a person starves herself/himself to be thin. Usually the person has become about 15% below a healthy body weight and doesn’t ever feel like she/he is thin enough. People with anorexia have a huge fear of being fat. Someone with Anorexia has a distorted body image.

There Are Two Types Of Anorexia

  • The Restricting Type
    The Restricting type of Anorexia is simply dieting and fasting to lose more and more weight. Sometimes a person with this type of Anorexia uses too much exercise as their way to lose weight.
  • Binge Eating/Purging Type
    In the Binge Eating/Purging type of Anorexia, whenever a person feels he or she has eaten too much (that may be only a small amount of food, in actuality, but still feels like too much),the person deals with the fear of gaining weight by either vomiting, over exercising, using laxatives, diuretics or enemas, or any combination of these purging behaviors.

Health Consequences
Often, a girl’s menstrual cycle stops. Increasingly, all the person thinks about is food, eating, body size and weight. In addition to obsessing about food and body, a person may also show the signs of malnutrition: weakness, dehydration, low blood pressure, always being cold, growing fine hair all over the body, erosion of enamel on the teeth, kidney damage, yellow skin, stomach problems, and even heart failure. Anorexia has one of the highest death rates of any mental disorder.


With Bulimia, there is also an obsession with food and being thin. A person eats large amounts of food in short periods of time and then gets rid of it by, either vomiting, exercising, use of laxatives or diuretics, or a combination of several of these purging methods. People struggling with Bulimia usually do all of this secretly and feel terribly ashamed and guilty about their behaviors. Still, they can’t seem to stop.

You Can’t Tell Who Has Bulimia By What He or She Weighs
Sometimes people with Bulimia are under a healthy weight, some people who binge and purge maintain an average weight, and some people with bulimia are overweight.

Some people with Bulimia find their weight goes up and down. Others stay pretty much within the same weight range. Eating Disorders are rarely about “weight”.

“Weight” is just the thing everyone focuses on, so they can avoid focusing in on other things (like feelings) in their life that may be bothering them, or that may feel out of their control.

Health Consequences
There can be serious health problems because of the binge/purge cycle: vomiting can cause tooth enamel and gums to erode, salivary glands to swell and blood vessels to break in the eyes. The heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, thyroid, colon, esophagus, and stomach can be damaged. There can be neurological problems and excessive bleeding.


Binge Eating Disorder is the eating disorder where people eat large amounts of food in short periods of time, or over long periods of time, and feel out of control while doing this. Often the binge only stops when a person is uncomfortably full. Thoughts about food, eating and body size or weight, take over the person’s life. People with binge eating disorder usually binge alone and feel disgusted and guilty about doing it. Still they can’t seem to stop. Unlike people with Bulimia, people with this disorder don’t do anything to compensate for the amount of food they eat (like vomit, over exercise, use laxatives or diuretics). The never-ending cycle of dieting can lead to the painful cycle of binge eating.

Health Consequences
Some health problems that can happen because of Binge Eating Disorder are: high blood pressure, diabetes, and skin ruptures. You could also experience problems with your joints, breathing, gallbladder, pancreas and heart.


This is when a person’s thoughts and behaviors around food, eating, and body, interfere with living a normal life, but don’t necessarily fall neatly into any of the other eating disorder categories.


Below are some questions developed by ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.) to help you determine whether or not you are at risk for an eating disorder.

As you take this test, please keep this in mind…If you are in any way troubled by how you deal with food, eating, or your body, it is a good idea to find help. On our Resources page, you’ll find many ways to locate appropriate help in your community.

The easiest way to take the test is to check off the statements that apply to you and then print it out. Then read the explanatory paragraph at the end.

Your visit to this Web site is anonymous. We do not know who you are, we do not collect this data, so be as honest with yourself as possible.

  1. I worry about what I will eat.
  2. If I gain weight, I get anxious and depressed
  3. I would rather eat by myself than with family or friends
  4. Other people talk about the way I eat.
  5. I get anxious when people urge me to eat.
  6. I don’t talk much about my fear of being fat because no one understands how I feel.
  7. I have a secret stash of food.
  8. When I eat, I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop.
  9. I lie about what I eat.
  10. I don’t like to be bothered or interrupted when I’m eating
  11. If I were thinner, I would like myself better.
  12. I like to read recipes, cookbooks, calorie charts, and books about dieting and exercise.
  13. I feel guilty when I eat.
  14. My eating habits and fear of food interfere with friendships or romantic relationships.
  15. I binge eat.
  16. I am hardly ever satisfied with myself.
  17. I have fasted to lose weight.
  18. I have missed work or school because of my weight or eating habits.
  19. I tend to be depressed and irritable.
  20. I avoid some people because they bug me about the way I eat.
  21. When I eat, I feel bloated and fat.
  22. I enjoy cooking for others, but I usually don’t eat what I’ve cooked
  23. Even though people tell me I’m thin, I feel fat.
  24. I get anxious if I can’t exercise.
  25. My menstrual periods are irregular or absent. (female)
  26. My sex drive is not as strong as it used to be. (male)
  27. I do strange things with my food (cut it into tiny pieces, eat it in special ways, eat it on special dishes with special utensils, make patterns on my plate with it, secretly throw it away, give it to the dog, hide it, spit it out before I swallow, etc.)
  28. I get anxious when people watch me eat.
  29. I vomit or take laxatives to control my weight.
  30. I want to be thinner than my friends.
  31. I have stolen food, laxatives, or diet pills from stores or from other people.
  32. In romantic moments, I cannot let myself go because I am worried about my fat and flab.
  33. I have said or thought, “I would rather die than be fat.”
  34. I have noticed one or more of the following: cold hands and feet, dry skin, thinning hair, fragile nails, swollen glands in my neck, dental cavities, dizziness, weakness, fainting, rapid or irregular heartbeat.

About Your Responses

As strange as it seems in our thin-obsessed society, none of the above behaviors is normal or healthy. The more items you have checked, the more serious your problem may be. Please check with your physician or a qualified mental health counselor to assess medical and/or psychological risk.

Sometimes it’s hard to talk about these behaviors with anyone, let alone ask for help. So, if you decide to seek help, try this. Answer the questions listed above. Then print the questionnaire and take it to an adult you trust. Having the questionnaire in hand may make it easier for both of you to begin this very, very important conversation.

People do recover from eating disorders, but almost all of those who do, need professional help to get back on track. Asking for help is hard to do. (It even takes courage to take this test.) If you need help, we hope you will seek it out so you can begin to feel better.

Test Reprinted with permission of ANRED,