Commonalities Among Those with Eating Disorders

By Natalie Hutson, M.S., L.P.C.

External Need for Approval:

People with eating disorders typically look to others to define their worth and they go to drastic measures to attain approval from others. The problem is that they never think we are approved of no matter what they do; they could always improve in some way. Sometimes, this is the real message they are given, while other times it is the distortion they have in their thinking that leads them to think they are disapproved of by the people they love and care about most in their lives. Approval from others does not satisfy the intrinsic need to approve of oneself; therefore, they continue to seek approval from others that will never fully satisfy.

Fear of Fat:

People with eating disorders often have a fear of fat. “The problem with feeling fat is not literal fatness, but the painful emotional state within.” Says Dr. Nye. To change this catchall phrase from falling out of your mouth starts with learning to notice your emotions. And it takes time, to be able to identify and recognize those emotions. But, to do so will help you be a much more balanced and emotionally intelligent person!  As a loved one of someone struggling, when they say, “I feel fat” don’t argue and don’t invalidate. It is a waste of energy. Instead say, “What is the feeling underneath? Are you sad, lonely, anxious…etc.”  Feeling “fat” is no fun.  Your inner critic can make it worse if you let it.  So, if you are feeling fat, remember, “This too shall pass.”  While you wait, respond mindfully, compassionately and productively.


Guilt is a common feeling associated with those struggling with eating disorders. Guilt for… not meeting the expectations of others, for falling short of our own expectations, for happiness when the “world” is so sad, for sadness when “there are people in the world with real problems.” Guilt for feeling like a “burden” to people. Guilt for the Eating Disorder behavior itself. Guilt tends to lead to a vicious cycle that reinforces the need for one to engage in the eating disorder.