Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are conditions where individuals are obsessed with food, eating and their body size. This obsession takes over their everyday behaviours and daily thoughts. Individuals with eating disorders use unhealthy behaviours to try to gain control over their lives.

Here are some statistics on eating disorders:

  • According to a 2002 survey, 1.5% of Canadian women aged 15–24 years had an eating disorder
  • According this same survey, 28% of girls in grade nine and 29% in grade ten engaged in weight-loss behaviours and disordered eating behaviours
  • Eating disorders rank as the third most common chronic illness in adolescent females (Canadian Pediatric Society)


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Anorexia Nervosa is characterised by persistent energy intake restriction, intense fear of gaining weight and disturbance in self perceived weight or shape. For some people, restricting their food and weight can be a way of controlling areas of life that feel out of their control and their body image can come to define their entire sense of self worth.

A person with AN is unable to maintain what is considered to be a normal and healthy weight. They could also have lost a considerable amount of weight in a short period of time.

Even when people with AN are underweight, starved or malnourished they still possess an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight.

There are two types of anorexia nervosa

1. Restricting type: People with this type of anorexia place severe restrictions on the amont and type of food they consume. This can manifest in different ways including some or all of the following:

  • Restricting certain food groups (e.g. carbohydrates, fats)
  • Counting calories
  • Skipping meals

 2. Binge-eating/Purging type: People with this type of anorexia place severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they consume. In addition, the person       will engage in binge-eating and display purging behaviour such as self-induced vomiting, or laxatives to compensate for eating food.


Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours. In addition, people with bulimia place an excessive emphasis on body shape or weight in their self-evaluation. This can lead to the person’s sense of self-esteem and self worth being defined by the way they look.

A person with bulimia can become lost in a dangerous cycle of eating out of control and attempts to compensate which can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and disgust. These behaviors can become more compulsive and uncontrollable over time, and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about eating (or not eating), weight loss, dieting and body image.

These behaviours are often concealed and people with bulimia can go to great lengths to keep their eating and exercise habits secret. As a result, this type of eating disorder can often go undetected for a long period of time.

What are compensatory behaviours?

  • Vomiting
  • Misusing laxatives or diuretics
  • Excessive exercise
  •  Fasting
  • Use of any drugs, illicit, prescription and/or “over the counter? inappropriately for weight control (inappropriate use refers to use that is not indicated and for which the drug has not been prescribed).

Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder involves two key features

  • Eating a very large amount of food within a relatively short period of time (for example within two hours)
  • Feeling a sense of loss of control while eating (e.g. feeling unable to stop yourself from eating)

Binge-eating disorder is characterised by regular episodes of compulsive eating. Unlike bulimia, a person with binge-eating disorder will not use compensatory behaviours, such as self-induced vomiting or over-exercising after compulsive eating. Many people with binge-eating disorder are overweight or obese.

People with binge-eating disorder often feel guilty or ashamed about the amount, and the way they eat during a binge-eating episode.

Professional support and treatment from healthcare professionals specializing in the treatment of binge eating disorders, including psychologists, nutritionists, and doctors, can be the most effective way to address binge eating disorder.


Orthorexia is a disorder characterized by an obsession of healthy eating which could eventually lead to many dietary restrictions, therefore causing some detrimental effects on the well-being and health of the person.

Unlike other eating disorders such as anorexia, binge-eating disorder or bulimia, the obsession in people suffering from orthorexia revolves around the quality of the food instead of the quantity of the food to be consumed. Motivated by the desire to be healthy, an individual with orthorexia will develop rigid food rules such as:

  • Elimination of certain groups of foods (such as any foods with sugar or fats)
  • Permission to eat only certain foods that are deemed pure and healthy
  • Intense feeling of guilt and stress if the person eats his or her forbidden foods
  • Many hours spent per day thinking about their dietary intake
  • Obsessive checking of ingredients list and nutrition facts of foods
  •  Increased isolation and avoidance of outings involving foods

As a result of the rigid and restrictive behaviour, several detrimental health issues could arise, including dangerous weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and anxiety.


Also known as muscle dysmorphia, this condition is characterized by an obsession of working out in the sole objective of increasing muscle mass. The person suffering from bigorexia often perceives himself as being too small and has a negative body image of himself.

Here are some common warning signs of bigorexia:

  • Working out excessively
  • Intense feeling of guilt or anxiety if a workout session is missed
  • Prioritizing training sessions over other spheres of life such as work, family, leisure activities, etc.

Taking a host of supplements such as steroids to gain muscle mass

Avoidant Restrictive
Food Intake Disorder

Also recognized as extreme picking eating, this disorder is associated with a low and/or limited food intake causing a persistent failure to meet the adequate requirements in nutrients and energy.

Unlike anorexia, whereby the individual limits his food intake due to the presence of a negative body image, people with ARFID tend to avoid eating certain foods because of the absence of interest in the food, disdain of some sensory characteristics of foods (texture, smell, etc.) or the fear of choking or vomiting if they do not like the food.

In children with ARFID, weight gain and growth are hindered while in adults, weight loss can occur. In both adults and children, nutritional deficiencies and a host of detrimental health consequences (physical and psychological) could arise.

Other Specified Feeding
or Eating Disorder

This category of disorder encompasses the eating disorders that do not meet all the criteria for anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. For instance, a person could be severely restricting his or her food intake but that person could still appear to be at a “healthy” weight.   Another example could be someone having occasional binge-eating episodes (less than once a week) and therefore not meeting the specific criteria for a binge-eating disorder diagnosis.

In both cases, those individuals do not fall into the anorexia or binge-eating disorder category. However, there is still a great amount of distress and suffering leading to behaviours and thinking patterns which could be damageable for the mental and physical health. Therefore, it is very important that people suffering from unspecified eating disorder seek help.

Weight Issues / Obesity

Resolving weight issues is not as simple as decreasing food intake and increasing physical activity. This would be like putting a Band-Aid on a serious injury; it would be a temporary solution and the real problem would not have been addressed.

Instead, it is important to dig deeper into the reasons why we eat a certain way. Why do we always eat past the feeling of being satiated? Why we always turn to food as a reward when we are happy or for comfort when we feel sad or anxious? Why do we lose control when we eat chips, chocolate or cheese?

At Nutrivie Santé, we help you identify the real reasons why you eat past your satiety and why you sometimes lose control while eating certain foods. We give you actionable strategies to be more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues, to decrease emotional eating and to eat healthily without restriction. In that way, you will be able to get back to your natural weight and maintain it in the long term (unlike most diets where you will just end up doing the yo-yo).

relationship with food

  • Have you been on numerous restrictive diets where you lost weight and gained it all back after?
  • Do you often wake up and tell yourself that you will have a good day by eating well?
  • Do you constantly think about food: what you should and should not eat?
  • Do you choose foods that are low in calories (for example: salads, low-fat yogurt, diet drinks) and eat them as a way to control your weight despite not enjoying those foods?
  • Do you categorize food as good and bad?

Those are just a few warning signs among many others that indicate that you could have an unhealthy relationship with food. Disordered eating patterns put a great burden on your shoulders and cause much distress and guilt as well as impacting negatively your physical and mental health.

Negative Body Image

Also referred to as distorted body image, someone with negative body image issues will criticize severely his or her body weight, shape and appearance. As a result, shame and a low self-esteem could arise, leading to increased self-isolation or the need to hide his or her body.

Here are a few common warning signs:

  • A rigid exercise regimen whereby the person imposes himself to workout instead of focusing on well-being and pleasure
  • Weighing oneself often and the number on the scale often impacts one’s mood or behaviour or the complete avoidance of going on the scale for fear of seeing a number deemed unacceptable
  • Comparison of one’s body weight, shape and size with other people and envying the appearance of some other people
  • Avoidance of looking at oneself in the mirror because that person does not like the way he or she looks or on the opposite, there could be an obsessive self-scrutiny in the mirror

Having a negative body image can lead to disordered eating patterns and even an eating disorder. Treatment with a dietitian and a psychologist can be beneficial for someone having body image issues.



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