The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

Speaking the Same Language – Nurturing a Common Understanding


Over the course of the next few months the Nurture blog series  will explore the central theme of motherhood involving various topics such as fertility, pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood as they relate to body image, and overall wellness.  Several of these topics, in addition to being potentially sensitive subject matter, also have a language all their own.  As we approached these blogs, we thought it was important to make sure that everybody is speaking the same language – hence, the glossary page. 

Many of the terms used in this blog series get tossed around a lot in our society with the assumption that everyone knows what they mean, but that isn’t always the case as we will point out in future blogs entries regarding the term “body image”.  We also wanted to provide clarification for terms that are sometimes used in two different ways (i.e. “going on a diet” vs. “a balanced diet”).  Additional terms, like “low birth weight” or “amenorrhea” are more technical and so we thought it couldn’t hurt to provide a little refresher for these more medically-based terms as well. Throughout this series of blogs the glossary will grow and terms will be added, feel free to use it as a reference when reading specific blog entries and refer back to it as often as needed.  If you have any questions or suggestions for terms that should be added let us know!



Amenorrhea: Amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual bleeding. Primary amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual bleeding and secondary sexual characteristics (for example, breast development and pubic hair) in a girl by age 14 years or the absence of menstrual bleeding with normal development of secondary sexual characteristics in a girl by age 16 years. Secondary Amenorrhea is the absence of menstrual bleeding in a woman who had been menstruating normally but later stops menstruating for 3 or more months and its occurrence is not a result of pregnancy, lactation, systemic hormonal birth control pills, or menopause. (source: Amenorrhea can be a symptom of disordered eating, over exercise or an eating disorder.

 Body Image: Body image is… how you see yourself, how you feel about your body and shape, and what you believe about your body.  Body image is made up of memories and assumptions about your body and the feelings you have when you think about or visualize your own body. Body image is also how you feel in your body as you move and control it.  Body image is not dependent on how much you weigh, how tall you are, or your personal style.  A person’s body image can exist anywhere on a continuum – from a very positive and healthy body image to a very poor or negative body image.   

Diet (noun): The customary amount and kind of food and drink taken by a person from day to day; i.e. a balanced diet:  one containing foods which furnish all the nutritive factors in proper proportion for adequate nutrition. (Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Diet (verb): A Reduction of caloric intake or manipulation of food and drink with the intent to lose weight.

Disordered Eating: A significant deviation from normalized eating patterns that may include dieting, fasting, bingeing, or skipping meals. Disordered eating disregards internal regulation of hunger and fullness and provides the body with much more or much less than the body needs to function properly.  Instead of feeling good after a meal, someone who has disordered eating will often experience feelings of guilt, shame, discomfort, fear or discontent.

Infertility:  The inability to become pregnant after persistent attempts over a given period of time, usually determined to be one year in humans. 

Low Birth Weight: Babies born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (2,500 grams) are considered low birth weight. Low birth weight babies are at increased risk for serious health problems as newborns, lasting disabilities and even death. About 1 in every 12 babies in the United States is born with low birth weight. (March of Dimes Foundation)

Normal Eating: Eating in response to the body’s natural hunger and fullness cues, with a variety of food choices that offer balance, diverse foods and moderation.  Normal eating generally involves eating three regular meals per day and 1-2 additional snacks in response to hunger. Normal eating involves nourishing the body for the purpose of providing energy and maintaining well-being and should result in feeling good afterwards.

Over Exercise / Excessive Exercise: 1. Repeatedly exercising beyond the requirements for good health; when an individual engages in strenuous physical activity to the point that is unsafe and unhealthy. 2. The Diagnostic Manual, the DSM-IV-TR, defines excessive exercise as exercise that “significantly interferes with important activities, occurs at inappropriate times or in inappropriate settings, or when the individual continues to exercise despite injury or other medical complications.”  3. Some of the physical dangers that may become an issue for someone exercising too much can be: dehydration, stress fracture and osteoporosis, degenerative arthritis, amenorrhea, reproductive problems, and heart problems.

Set-Point / Set-Point Theory: 1. Set point is the weight range in which your body is programmed to weigh and will fight to maintain that weight. Set point is often referred to as an internal “thermostat” that regulates weight. 2. According to the set-point theory, there is a control system built into every person dictating how much body fat he or she needs to maintain homeostasis. Some individuals are genetically programmed to have a high setting, others have a low one. According to this theory, body fat percentage and body weight are matters of internal controls that are set differently in different people. 3. The set point theory suggests that despite dieting efforts, the body eventually tends to return to its set point weight or will adjust metabolism and other mechanisms in an attempt to do so.

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