Five myths about eating disorders explained

Eating disorders are made up of several serious – potentially life threatening – conditions. There are still many myths surrounding the subject, so here we address some of the most common misconceptions.

Myth: People with eating disorders are underweight

Fact: Eating disorders can cause certainly cause people to become underweight. But a 2003 study found that 80-85% of people with eating disorders are not underweight. Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other specified eating disorders can have a wide range of symptoms, and people with a range of body shapes can have an eating disorder.

Myth: Not eating is the most common sign of an eating disorder

Fact: Avoiding meals and excessive calorie counting can be a sign of an eating disorder such as Anorexia. But there are many other warning signs to be aware of. These include:

Becoming obsessive about food

General changes in behaviour

Distorted beliefs about body size


Poor concentration

Lying about eating habits

Spending time in the toilet after meals

Excessive exercising

Anorexia sufferers account for around 10% of those with an eating disorder.

Myth: Eating disorders only really affect women

Fact: Although the majority of people with an eating disorder are women, anyone can be affected. Statistics show that 11% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder – and 25% of people who show some signs of an eating disorder – are men.

Myth: Having bulimia means you overeat and then make yourself vomit

Fact: Bulimia is an illness which involves binge eating and then purging. Often people with bulimia do purge by inducing vomiting. But other methods, including taking laxatives or diuretics, excessively exercising and fasting – or a combination of these – might also be used.

People with bulimia often feel out of control or disconnected from their eating when they binge, and may eat foods they would normally avoid.

Myth: Binge eating disorder simply means overeating

Fact: Binge eating disorder is a serious condition which is far more complex than simply overeating. Like with bulimia, people may feel disconnected from what they’re doing when they’re binge eating, and may even forget what they’ve eaten afterwards. It’s not just a case of overindulging or having large meals – a binge will often happen in private and can result in feelings of guilt or shame afterwards. Other signs may include a preoccupation with food, mood swings, emotional withdrawal and a reluctance to eat around others.

If you think you or someone close to you may have an eating disorder, it’s important to seek help. Speak to your GP, or visit, where you’ll find a wealth of information and support.