Fears of gaining weight and eating disorders

Category: Healthy Weight Gain

Do you keep checking your weight every day? Do you wear loose clothes to hide extreme weight loss? Do you always feel your weight is not right, and you and need to cut down on your food and do more exercise? Be careful: these could be the signs of eating disorders.

Obesophobia or pocrescophobia is an eating disorder, where a person suffering from this develops an intense fear of gaining weight. People with obesophobia take extreme steps like starving, under-eating, over-exercising, or avoiding going out wherever they find food. Going to a supermarket to buy groceries also becomes a traumatic experience.

An eating disorder is a psychological condition that is characterised by abnormal or disturbed eating behaviour. There is a misconception that eating disturbances are an individual choice. Sometimes, when taken to extremes, eating disorders can even be fatal.

Let us understand the types of eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa

It is a condition where a person avoids food and severely restricts their food intake. If food is eaten, it is consumed in very small quantities. The person suffering from anorexia nervosa will constantly weigh themselves. They will get very anxious with even a slight increase in weight. The incidence of death is very high in this condition, and the cause is usually starvation and malnutrition. People suffering from this disorder have a very distorted body image and self-esteem. Acceptance of the body shape and size is very low, making it difficult to do daily activities.

Bulimia nervosa

Individuals usually eat large amounts of food followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, and excessive exercise. There is no control over the eating behaviour of the individual. A person with Bulimia nervosa can either be slightly underweight, normal weight, or overweight. Due to episodes of purging, the person will have a sore throat, swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area, decayed teeth, and worn teeth enamel.

Binge eating

The affected person tends to eat without control, despite not feeling hungry. Unlike Bulimia nervosa, it is not combined with vomiting. The person tends to be overweight or obese. They can eat without control continuously for 2-3 hours. They are always uncomfortably full and often eat alone to avoid embarrassment. They are constantly under stress, feel ashamed and guilty after eating. Emotional eating is a mild form of binge eating, where a person eats a lot when sad.

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder

They are picky eaters and avoid a particular food group for a fear of gaining weight. Calorie intake is very low which may lead to extreme muscle loss. Affected persons display no interest in food and suffer from a lack of appetite. They experience extreme weight loss, abdominal pain and an upset stomach. Unlike Anorexia nervosa, the person has a less distorted body image.


Early detection is the key to the appropriate treatment of an eating disorder. Behavioral therapy, nutrition counselling, medications that treat depression and anxiety, and constant monitoring can help in treating the condition. It may take several months to a year to recover. It is possible to achieve complete recovery from these conditions.

Weight loss does not just involve physical effort but also mental preparedness. It is very important that we know our limitations and accept our body type and work accordingly. Extreme measures toward weight loss will only end up in further complications which can cause permanent damage.


Good Nutrition

Clinical Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator

Nidhi Makharia Agarwal is a qualified nutritionist and dietitian, as well as a certified Diabetes educator, with 12+ years of experience in the field of nutrition. She has worked in various nutraceutical companies and also as a nutrition writer and practicing nutritionist. Nidhi started her training as an intern with the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital and the Wadia Children Hospital in Mumbai. She has worked with a leading Indian nutraceutical company for 8 years. Currently, Nidhi has her own venture; The Aahar Clinic for healthy living, which she founded in 2018. She has also lent her expertise as a nutrition counsellor to a diabetes project co-initiated by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Indian Dietetic Association. Additionally, she works with food and nutrition start-ups as a nutrition consultant. Nidhi holds a Master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics. She is also a certified diabetes educator. Nidhi is based in Mumbai.