Eating Disorder & BMI
Women Fitness|May - June 2021
Expert Guide on Identifying Eating Disorders & Time to Take Action

Harriet Frew, an Eating Disorder Therapist and trainer in eating disorders and body image, promotes a healthy relationship with food and your body.

Women Fitness Team got in touch with her to gain answers to questions frequently asked on eating disorders- link to BMI, identifying signs and seeking guidance.

Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are the three main eating disorders. Can you highlight a generic difference between the three and its relation with BMI?

An eating disorder is a serious mental health condition which describes behaviour that focuses on an individual’s abnormal relationship with food and is usually accompanied by a strong desire to change weight and body shape. Self worth has become disproportionately valued around ability to control weight and shape and restrict food intake.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder, characterised by a strong desire to lose weight. This is achieved by strictly limiting food intake or through excessive exercise. People with anorexia may also use purging after eating using vomiting or laxatives (purging sub-type).

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder, in which people often strive to control or restrict their food intake to manage weight. However, the strict control is often unsustainable, and this is commonly followed by bingeing (eating quickly, large quantities of food in a discrete period of time, usually in secret). People with bulimia feel much shame and guilt for these eating episodes and then compensate for the bingeing through “purging” with vomiting or using laxatives, over-exercise or further food restriction. People with bulimia are often close to normal weight, though they typically have a distorted body image, and their weight may fluctuate regularly.

Binge eating disorder is more common than the other eating disorders and more evenly distributed between men and women, most of whom are mature adults.

Again, binge eaters aim to eat a restrictive diet which is often unsustainable, and this is commonly followed by bingeing (eating quickly, large quantities of food in a discrete period of time, usually in secret). This behaviour usually involves a great deal of shame and anguish. Someone with binge eating disorder does not purge and can experience intense weight fluctuations.

BMI Range With Eating Disorders

Below BMI 17.5 = anorexia nervosa

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