Eating Disorders: Myths vs. Facts

MYTH: Eating disorders only affect white teenage girls of high socioeconomic status

FACT: Eating disorders do not discriminate. While the majority of eating disorders diagnoses are with people between ages 12 and 26, eating disorders affect people regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. Approximately 20 - 30% of eating disorders are in the male population.

MYTH: Someone chooses to have an eating disorder and, therefore, can decide when to stop their eating disorder.

FACT: No one chooses to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not a choice. Eating disorders are medically and psychologically complex and impacted by biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

MYTH: If you could make someone “eat” or “not eat,” they would not have an eating disorder or need treatment.

FACT: Eating disorder behaviors are not about food. Eating disorders are mental disorders where the person suffering uses food, calories, weight, or exercise to cope with psychological and behavioral issues. Treatment includes a combination of psychiatric, medical, and nutrition therapy.

MYTH: Eating disorders are a phase and not that serious.

FACT: Eating disorders are serious. More than 30 million Americans, from kids to older adults, are suffering from eating disorders, and death from an eating disorder happens approximately every 60 seconds.

MYTH: It’s easy to identify someone with an eating disorder; therefore, if they look healthy, they do not have an eating disorder, or the eating disorder is not that serious.

FACT: Many people with eating disorders look healthy yet may be extremely ill. Eating disorders do not discriminate on gender, age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation; they also come in all shapes and sizes. While anorexia is characterized by extremely low weight, people who have bulimia, binge eating disorder, and EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified) are often normal weight. People who suffer from eating disorders can be any weight and can also fluctuate in weight.

Eating disorders thrive in secrecy. If something seems off with your child, friend, or loved one, consult with a professional specializing in eating disorders as soon as possible.

Featured Recipe
Pear, Walnut, & Goat Cheese Flatbread


  • 2 whole wheat flatbread (i.e. Flatout Thin Pizza Crust)

  • 2 ounces of herbed goat cheese (at room temperature)

  • 1.5 firm pears (or apples), thinly sliced

  • ½ cup California walnut halves and pieces

  • 1 tablespoon honey


Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Lay the flatbread on top of the foil. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the two flatbreads. Top with pear slices.

Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, until the edges turn crispy and the pears begin to brown. Top with finely chopped walnuts and add a drizzle of honey.


Serves 2

Nutrition Per Serving: 240 calories, 15 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 400 mg sodium, 31 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 14 grams protein

Be Inspired
Eating Disorders: When to Seek Help

The earlier an eating disorder is detected, and treatment can begin, the greater the chances for recovery.

This isn’t intended to be a checklist, as eating disorders will present differently depending on the individual and the stage of the eating disorder. Generally speaking, someone with an eating disorder won’t have all the signs and symptoms listed below. Instead, this list is a general overview of behaviors that might indicate a problem.

  1. Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting

  2. Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.), or cutting out entire food groups (no sugar, no carbs, no dairy, vegetarianism/veganism)

  3. Appears uncomfortable eating around others

  4. Food rituals (e.g., eating only a particular food or food group [e.g. condiments], excessive chewing, doesn’t allow foods to touch)

  5. Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals

  6. Withdrawal from usual friends and activities

  7. Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance

  8. Extreme mood swings

  9. Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)

  10. Menstrual irregularities — missing periods or only having a period while on hormonal contraceptives (this is not considered a “true” period)

  11. Difficulties concentrating

  12. Feeling cold all the time; cold, mottled hands and feet, or swelling of feet

  13. Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting)

  14. Dental problems, such as enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth sensitivity

  15. Dry skin and hair and brittle nails

  16. Fine hair on the body (lanugo)

  17. Cavities, or discoloration of teeth, from vomiting; swelling around the area of salivary glands

  18. Muscle weakness

  19. Yellow skin (in the context of eating large amounts of carrots)

  20. Impaired immune function and poor wound healing

If you have concerns about yourself or a loved one, please contact the NEDA Helpline and seek professional help.
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