Eating Disorders can be silent body-harmers…until they aren’t, which makes it hard to realize sometimes what eating disorders do to our bodies.

What I mean to say is, we might not identify problems inside our physical bodies until we are so sick that we require medical help.

The human body is magical. Our bodies are designed to find ways to survive even under the harshest conditions. While complications may take time to notice, it is important to address eating disorder thoughts and behaviors before symptoms become severe.

Physical Complications of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can impact all the systems that we rely on for living our best lives. Topically, our skin and nails can get dry and flaky, our hair and teeth can become brittle and even fall out. In order to keep our malnourished bodies warm, we begin to grow peach fuzz-like hair called Lanugo. Our muscles become weak and it can become uncomfortable and difficult to do even the most mundane tasks. Fatigue feels overwhelming leaving us withdrawn and uninterested in activities that we once enjoyed.

Our bodies need fat to perform survival tasks like pumping blood and keeping us warm. Did you know that our brains are 60% fat? Once our fat storage is gone, fat from our brains is stolen to perform these important tasks. With depleted brain fat, we can experience mood shifts, irritability, depression, anxiety, forgetfulness and other cognitive distortions. Often, we become so unlike ourselves, that we are unrecognizable by our loved ones.

Without medical and psychological intervention, the systems we rely on for life itself eventually begin to fail. Our heart’s electrical system malfunctions, digestion becomes unpredictable and our major organs begin to work overtime. In short, our bodies expend energy not to fund joy, but solely to keep us alive.

There is Hope.  Our Bodies Can Heal from an Eating Disorder.

The symptoms and complications that result from engaging in eating disorder behaviors are vast, but the majority of them can be interrupted and reversed. Spotting disordered eating behaviors and seeking support early is a life-saving act. Getting yourself the specialized support you need and deserve is a powerful act in showing love to the body that is committed to your survival.


Stephanie Haines, M.Ed., CHES, is an engagement specialist for Walden Behavioral Care. Her role is to help our patients to navigate the admission process. Before becoming a member of Team Walden, Stephanie was a Senior Prevention Specialist at FCD: Prevention Works!, part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation located in Newton, MA. Stephanie is a member of the National Wellness Institute and is a member of a number of training and prevention-focused committees. Stephanie earned her master’s degree from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where she served as a graduate assistant to Margaret Burckes-Miller, founder and director of the university’s Eating Disorders Institute.