February 25, 2019

Learning to Love Your Body: How Body Dysmorphia Can Lead to Eating Disorders

Weight loss problem concept. Side profile view photo portrait of stressed scared nervous sad unhappy upset lady looking at her abdomen denim jeans standing at white roomBy Kelly Montague, Athletic Trainer

Athletics and physical activity is a great outlet for individuals to challenge their bodies and improve their health. Being fit comes with the common misconception that as a result of this lifestyle you will be slim with toned muscle definition. A healthy body comes in all shapes and sizes, and the realization and acceptance of this is a legitimate struggle for some.

Body dysmorphia is a mental disorder that alters the way an individual views themselves physically. This can lead to unhealthy eating habits that in the long run can cause exponential harm to a person’s health and well-being.

Disordered eating refers to behaviors or patterns that involve abnormal eating on a regular basis. This could be joining in “fad diets” like gluten free, keto or veganism when they are chosen more so for weight loss and not food intolerances or physician-recommended diets. This is not saying these lifestyle choices mean a disordered eating pattern is present, but it makes the individual at risk for developing one if it becomes obsessive. Disordered eating, if not well controlled, can become a diagnosable eating disorder, which is defined as a psychological disorder that involves disturbed or abnormal eating patterns and is typically a result of body dysmorphia.

There is a variety of eating disorders, but all pose threat to your health as they are either restrictive or excessive in regards to caloric intake and affect the amount of nutrients your body needs to survive. Some commonly known eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Whether an individual is severely restricting their daily caloric intake, going to extreme measures to try to “undo” calories eaten or is secretly eating excessive amounts of food, they need help with gaining control of their eating habits. Being able to spot signs of unhealthy habits can make a huge difference to someone struggling with an eating disorder.

What are some signs of a potential eating disorder?

  • Dramatic weight loss or fluctuation along with often denying feeling hungry
  • Withdrawing socially, especially with situations involving food
  • Negative self-talk and comparison when it comes to body image
  • Low energy and loss of menstruation for females
  • Dizziness, dry skin, brittle nails, fussy or fine body hair
  • Reoccurring disappearance after eating
  • Discolored teeth

Eating disorders do not discriminate against age, sex, size or race and should not leave an individual feeling like they are alone in their struggle. If you or someone you know needs help with controlling an eating disorder, you can seek help by consulting with your doctor or with the National Eating Disorder Association hotline toll free number at 1-800-931-2237.

Kelly Montague, MS, LAT, ATC, is an athletic trainer for Mission Sports Medicine and provides services for Asheville Middle School. 

Sports medicine is the field of medicine dealing with fitness, injury treatment and prevention, and wellness as it relates to sports. Sports medicine providers strive to maximize function and minimize injury in athletes and other physically active individuals, by focusing on strength training, conditioning and healthy lifestyles. Mission Sports Medicine forms our region’s most comprehensive sports medicine program for athletes 17 board certified sports medicine physicians, 9 fellowship trained sports medicine physicians and more than 45 additional subspecialists. Learn more about Mission Sports Medicine.