The Relationship Between Bullying, Food, and Eating Disorders

Presented by BetterHelp.

Bullying and social trauma related to food are heavily connected to eating disorders. Although there are healthy ways to take care of your body and control eating, disordered eating involves unhealthy compulsions and obsessions regarding food.

Since food is one of the top necessities for all humans to survive, it’s very easy for any person to become traumatized in relation to it, especially if eating habits, body image, and access to food are threatened at any time in life.

Let’s take a look at the relationship between body and food-focused bullying and the development of eating disorders.

Types of Food-Related Bullying

Food-related bullying is quite common in children, especially around the teenage years. The reason for this is societal pressure and media influence that exposes children and adults to constant messaging about food, dieting, and body image. It is so bad that it is estimated around 5% of teenage girls today experience some symptoms of eating disorders.

Here are some of the most common types of food-related bullying:

  • Bullying about weight (underweight or overweight)
  • Bullying about body characteristics (acne, stretch marks, etc.)
  • Bullying related to how much someone eats
  • Bullying related to what someone eats (type of food)
  • Bullying related to financial access to food (eating school lunch or not having enough money for lunch)

Bullying can make any person feel terrible about their body, their eating habits, their features, or their lack of resources. These food-related topics can end up causing symptoms of many types of eating disorders. Let’s look at how that works now.

How Eating Disorders Develop From Bullying

No matter the type of food-related bullying, eating disorders can develop. For example, in a child who is considered “overweight,” a classmate who yells at her for eating cake at lunch is committing a bullying act that could impact the child’s behavior for many years. After being exposed to the comments (often from several students), the child may start to restrict eating or may refuse to eat anything other than “diet” foods, even though she is only seven years old.

On the other hand, a child who did not have a lot of money as a child and was made fun of or refused food may have difficulties with portioning. They may eat too much or develop bulimia, which is categorized as a condition where someone will eat too much of something. In some cases, they may vomit the food later to reduce the chance of gaining weight. However, note every case of bulimia involves this.

Adults can develop eating disorders as well. Anyone with any body type can have any type of eating disorder. For example, anorexia is not limited to people who are underweight.

Bullying can be traumatic, and all types of trauma can impact the mental health of any person, regardless of gender or age. When food is involved in the trauma, disordered eating habits often develop.

To learn more about bullying and how it impacts mental health, check out BetterHelp and their advice column today.

How To Prevent Food-Related Bullying

To prevent food-related bullying in your own life or your child’s life, it’s important to educate yourself on healthy body image and find ways to increase self-esteem regarding these topics.

As well as this, it’s important to support movements and people that aim to uplift people of any body type. If you have a doctor that often criticizes your weight, it’s time to find a new doctor. If you have someone in your life who often makes comments about what you eat, it’s time to have a conversation about your boundaries.

If you have children, limit their media consumption as much as possible. Children are exposed to unrealistic body types from an early age, especially on popular social media platforms. Talk to your children about normal body traits, such as stretch marks, acne, bumps, and body hair.

It’s also important not to restrict your child’s eating or use food as a reward or punishment. If your child doesn’t eat their entire dinner, do not force them to eat. Forcing someone to eat when they’re not hungry actually harms their nervous system.

If food-related bullying happens to you or your child at school or work, speak to someone in charge about the occurrences. Online or in-person therapy can also help you or your family deal with food-related bullying outcomes.


If you or someone you love is experiencing an eating disorder due to food-related bullying, you’re not alone. There is still hope. Finding an experienced therapist is a great way to get help with these problems and tackle them today.

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