"People get hung up on weight. I think it's because we use weight as a surrogate for health." — Michael Spigarelli

Weight needs to be less than 85 percent of what it would be for an average individual of similar height and size.

They need to have an intense fear of gaining weight.

They must deny or downplay the seriousness of their being underweight.

If they have ever had a period, they must have skipped at least three consecutively.

Health risks include:

Muscle loss

Weakness, fainting and feeling tired

Heart problems

Sources: Michael Spigarelli, division chief for adolescent medicine in the department of pediatrics at the University of Utah; National Eating Disorders Association

Bulimia Nervosa:

"It is difficult on people because they feel like they do not have any self-control." — Michael Spigarelli

A combination of bingeing — eating twice as much food as a normal person would or eating normal food twice as fast — and some sort of inappropriate behavior to prevent weight gain, such as throwing up, laxatives, exercising or sweating.

It can’t just be a one-time thing to qualify for a diagnosis.

Excessive worry about body weight and shape.

Health risks include:

Tooth decay

Swollen and possibly ruptured esophagus

Irregular bowel movements

Sources: Michael Spigarelli, National Eating Disorders Association.

Binge eating disorder:

Repeatedly eating a lot of food in a small time period.

Uncontrollable feeling during binge eating.

Guilt, depression or revulsion toward their actions.

Also shown by eating in secret, eating past the point of feeling full, and eating although not hungry.

Health risks include:

Increase in blood pressure

Heart problems


Source: National Eating Disorders Association

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified:

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“I think that just because they don’t come into the clinic doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have depression or anxiety issues.” — Josh Novak, doctorate candidate for Marriage and Family Therapy at BYU; formerly had an eating disorder.

Symptoms match those for anorexia, other than extremely low weight.

Symptoms match those for bulimia, other than frequency.


Chewing but not swallowing a lot of food.

Health risks include:

Emotional and psychological trauma

Source: National Eating Disorders Association

"If something does not seem right, but your experience does not fall into a clear category, you still deserve attention." — National Eating Disorders Association.

For more information on eating disorders, including treatment options and signs that a loved one may be suffering from one, visit


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