Can Someone Have An Eating Disorder Without Body Image Issues?

In this blog, we will explore eating disorders without body image issues, we will cover topics like eating disorders, body image, its issues, types, symptoms, signs, treatment, and frequently asked questions.

Can Someone Have An Eating Disorder Without Body Image Issues?

Yes, a person can have an eating disorder without having body image issues. 

In the relentless pursuit of looking good according to the standards set by society, we often indulge in some abnormal eating habits. Body image issues are often seen as the root cause of eating disorders. However, it is not necessary for every person with an eating disorder to have a negative body image. 

So let us first understand the relationship between eating disorders and body image and then get to a detailed description of the matter.

What are eating disorders? 

Eating disorders are a group of psychological illnesses that lead to the development of poor eating habits. They may begin with a preoccupation with food, body weight, or body form.

Eating disorders can have serious physical and mental health impacts if left untreated, and in extreme cases, they can even lead to death.

Eating disorders can show themselves in a number of different ways. The majority, on the other hand, involve severe dietary restriction, eating binges, or purging behaviors like vomiting or excessive exercise.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

What is body image?

Body image refers to people’s subjective perceptions of their own bodies, as opposed to how their bodies actually seem.

Body image is made up of beliefs, thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and behaviors, and it is a complicated construct. Our physical health, emotional health, and relationships are all affected by how we view ourselves and our bodies.

A positive body image requires an objective evaluation of one’s appearance as well as the ability to separate one’s worth as a person from how one looks.

Negative body image 

It is characterized by unhappiness with one’s appearance and the use of actions including dieting, checking, and/or avoidance to alleviate the discontent. Childhood is a common time when children develop a negative body image. 

According to studies, over 50% of preadolescent girls and 30% of preadolescent boys detest their bodies, whereas 60% of adult women and 40% of adult men have a negative body image.

Rodin and colleagues used the phrase “normative discontent” in 1984 to characterize unhappiness with body size and shape. It was discovered to be so common among women than it was labeled “normative” or “normal.”

A recent large-scale study of Icelanders aged 18 to 79 found that about 43% were unhappy with their body weight and that over 71% said they needed to reduce weight.

Despite the fact that boys had a higher average BMI, in every age group, more girls than males were unhappy with their body weight.

Body image issues in eating disorders

Eating disorders can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Poor body image is one of the contributors to eating disorders. This is because most people determine their self-worth based on their looks. 

They tend to reevaluate their shape and weight. But it is not necessary fr this symptom to be present in all eating disorders. 

A diagnosis of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa is associated with a self-evaluation that is disproportionately impacted by body shape and weight. Anorexia is also associated with a change in how one feels about one’s shape of the body, the weight of the body, as well as an inability to identify the severity of one’s condition. 

Binge-eating disorder (BED), the most frequent eating problem, does not necessitate over-evaluation of shape and weight. According to research, only around 60% of BED patients fit the criteria for over-evaluation of shape and weight. 

Patients with BED who have a preoccupation with body shape and weight, on the other hand, appear to have a more severe form of the disorder. 

Patients with ARFID are usually unconcerned about their appearance or weight.

Let us understand these types in detail :

Types of eating disorders 

Anorexia nervosa 

Even if they’re dangerously underweight, people with anorexia perceive themselves as overweight. They tend to keep a close eye on their weight, avoid particular foods, and carefully limit their calorie intake. 

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa can look like:

  • Comparing your weight with other people and constantly considering yourself as underweight 
  • Following a restricted diet 
  • Continuous fear of gaining weight even if they are underweight 
  • Body shape influence their self-confidence and self-esteem 
  • They deny the fact that they are underweight 

Bulimia nervosa 

Bulimia patients commonly consume unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time.

Typically, a binge eating experience lasts until the person is entirely satisfied. During a binge, the person is frequently unable to stop eating or control how much food they ingest.

Purging procedures include forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and intense exercise. Purging assists the individual in overcoming the shame and guilt associated with binge-eating.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include : 

  • Recurrent binge eating episodes in which a person feels out of control 
  • Recurrent purging episodes to avoid gaining weight 
  • Self-esteem dependent on body weight 
  • Fear of gaining weight 

Binge eating disorder 

During binges, people with binge eating disorders consume unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time and lose control.

People with binge eating disorders do not count calories or participate in purging behaviors like vomiting or excessive exercise to compensate for their binges.

Common symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating large quantities of food even when not hungry
  • Feeling shame and guilt while talking about binge eating behaviors. 
  • No compensation for binging behaviors by vomiting or using laxatives etc. 

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

A new term, “avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder,” has replaced the phrase “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood,” a diagnosis traditionally reserved for children under the age of seven.

ARFID is most common in infancy or adolescence, however, it can last until adulthood. Furthermore, it has an equal impact on men and women.

A lack of appetite or a dislike for specific odors, tastes, colors, textures, or temperatures can induce disturbed eating, which is a sign of this disease.

The following are some of the most common ARFID symptoms:

  • Avoiding or restricting food intake that prevents the person from consuming enough calories 
  • Avoid eating with others such as parties or weddings 
  • weight loss or stunted growth for age and height 
  • nutrient deficiencies or reliance on supplements or tube feeding

Eating Disorders Without Body Image Issues

People can be suffering from eating disorders without body image issues because not everyone who is suffering from an eating disorder has distortions in their perception of their body.

There have been several instances of people sharing their journeys of eating disorders and telling others that it was not that they did not like their bodies or had body image issues but they liked having a sense of full control over their bodies.

People with ARFID might not suffer from body image issues as they feel that they are completely fine and just have a specific taste or preference for food, might not feel hungry, might like keeping a restrictive diet that is not linked to body image or body dysmorphia in any way.

People can also develop an eating disorder due to their unhealthy coping mechanisms, family history of eating disorders, and also in response to a traumatic event.

Let us understand it a little more in the next section. 

Causes of Eating disorders without body image issues

Coping mechanism 

The research to study coping in men was conducted on men who had been starved. Before their starvation, these individuals were in perfect health and had no evident issues with food or eating. 

However, after the starvation experience, the men reported higher levels of anxiety surrounding food, including anxieties of gaining weight. 

Their hunger had produced an obsessive relationship with food, as the brief scarcity had caused significant concern over what they ate when they ate it, and what it would do to their bodies.

Eating disorders have an element of obsession attached with them a result of which they become a common coping mechanism. 

In some ways using an eating disorder as a coping mechanism is the same as being addicted to drugs, alcohol, or sex. In this situation, addictive behavior can take several forms, including exercise, weight loss, dietary restriction or elimination, and bingeing and/or purging. 

These behaviors become associated with happy emotions, resulting in an overabundance of endorphins. When a person meets their daily calorie goal, completes a high-intensity workout, or consumes the whole contents of their refrigerator in an hour, it’s similar to when a drug addict injects or a gambler lays a bet. 

Trauma response 

Eating disorders can be a complicated reaction to trauma, offering a way to erase oneself while also shouting for attention. Eating disorders are a means for many people to disappear, whether it’s due to shame, guilt, grief, or fear. 

However, when the body begins to reflect the trauma within, especially for individuals suffering from anorexia, they often give a very visual call for aid. 

For individuals experiencing trauma, the body becomes a location of anguish and terror with eating disorders giving a mechanism to punish and degrade the flesh as a proxy for what is being experienced in the mind.

Genetics and hereditary factors

Finally, there is mounting evidence that eating disorders, like other forms of disordered thinking such as depression, anxiety, bipolar illness, and schizophrenia, may have a genetic component. 

While research on eating disorders is limited, family, twin, and adoption studies have revealed a strong hereditary proclivity, with individuals who have a family member with an ED being 7–12 times more likely to develop one themselves ( Lyons 2017). 

Key takeaway

There are plenty of movements advocating for individuals to love their bodies. This may not be an achievable goal for every individual. 

A more realistic idea will be to learn to appreciate and accept your body. Whether or not a person is suffering from disordered eating, improving one’s body image is a worthwhile goal for therapy.


We discussed various aspects of eating disorders, types of eating disorders, eating disorders without body image issues, and also mentioned the causes of eating disorders without body image issues. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs): Can Someone Have An Eating Disorder Without Body Image Issues?

Can you have an ED without body dysmorphia?

While body dysmorphia and eating disorders are widespread, this does not indicate that having one illness definitely means having the other. Eating disorders usually start before BDD, and the longer an eating disorder and body dissatisfaction exist, the more likely BDD will develop.

Can you look healthy with an eating disorder?

To be clear, it’s impossible to appear as if you have an eating disorder—or, for that matter, as if you’re in recovery. Weight loss, weight gain, and, believe it or not, no weight change can all be the result of disordered eating.

What does orthorexia look like?

Orthorexia Nervosa is a disordered eating pattern marked by a strong desire to eat “clean” and “pure” foods to the point where the person gets obsessed with it. Perfectionism and isolation is frequently linked to orthorexia Nervosa. 

What is restrictive anorexia?

A person with anorexia nervosa-restrictive subtype drastically restricts their calorie intake, and weight reduction is primarily achieved through dieting, fasting, and/or extreme activity. In the last three months, no recurrent bouts of binge eating or purging have been seen.

What is Hypergymnasia?

Anorexia Athletica (also known as Exercise Bulimia and Hyper gymnasia) is an eating disorder in which patients obsessively compulsively over-exercise to control their caloric intake. 

What causes gourmand syndrome?

Some patients get “gourmand syndrome” when a specific portion of the right hemisphere of the brain is affected by trauma, stroke, or tumors. The disease is characterized by “a preoccupation with food and a preference for fine eating,”


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