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Religion and Eating Disorders

“If a person is practicing subclinical eating disorder patterns within their religion and spiritual practices, it can be a pathway for them to enter into an eating disorder pathology,” according to Eating Disorder HOPE

Religion and spirituality can have a negative influence on disordered eating and body image concerns, especially if religious practice is centered around large amounts of food (Jewish holidays, for example) or extended fasting (as in Ramadan or Lent), making it difficult for some young people to navigate between overeating and starving. 

Notable is a 2014 study exploring the relationship between aspects of religion, spirituality and eating disorders in men and women, which found:

  • A strong connection between internalized religious beliefs, a strong relationship with God and lower body image distress and disordered eating patterns. 
  • A higher rate of disordered eating, psychopathology and body image distress in those with a superficial faith and a doubtful relationship with God.

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