Terms You Should Know About Eating Disorders

girl with empty plate

Anorexia Nervosa

An eating disorder characterized by a loss 15% or more of original body weight, usually referred to as anorexia. It stems from contributing genetic factors, depression, low self-esteem, and distorted body image.

Bulimia Nervosa

Characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting to compensate for the effects of binge eating. Although most people with this disorder can maintain a normal weight, it exerts a tremendous strain on virtually every major system and organ in the human body.

Binge Eating Disorder

Differs from bulimia because its sufferers do not purge their bodies of excess food after bingeing. Most people with this disorder are obese and have a history of weight fluctuation. Recent research shows that binge eating disorder occurs in about 30% of people participating in medically supervised weight control programs.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

A measure of body fat based on height and weight. It provides a reliable indicator of healthiness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

BMI ranges for children and teens are defined so that they take into account normal differences in body fat between boys and girls and differences in body fat at various ages.

Compulsive Exercise Disorder

When exercise interferes with a person's daily functioning, isolates that person, and/or becomes the all-consuming focus of one's thoughts. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Forcing exercise even if when feeling ill or injured.
  • Becoming anxious, depressed, combative, lethargic, or angry if a regiment is missed.
  • Calculating how much to exercise based on calories and fat consumed.
  • Preferring exercise over social interaction or being with friends.
  • Having trouble remaining idle because of the lack of calorie burning.
  • Focusing on weight gain if a day is skipped in a regiment.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

A general classification for a person who does not fit specifically into one of the medical diagnostic categories. One common element to all eating disorders is low self-esteem. Those with EDNOS characteristics may constantly shift between different eating disorders. This shifting or switching can complicate providing a specific professional medical diagnosis for the patient.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Known as the health food disorder due to the Orthorexic's preoccupation with health food. It causes the sufferer to become more and more obsessed with the types of foods they are consuming, resulting in constriction placed on their eating habits. Most people suffering from Orthorexia never succumb to death, yet suffer social isolation and depression.


Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are larger than what is considered healthy for a given height according to the BMI. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

  • An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
  • An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

National Eating Disorders Association
National Institute of Mental Health
Eating Disorders Online