NOVA Online (click here for NOVA home)
Dying to be Thin
Help Line | FAQs | Warning Signs | Links | Books | Get Real | Special Thanks | Credits

Help Line
National Eating Disorders Association
(800) 931-2237

Call for treatment referrals nationwide and answers to all kinds of questions regarding eating disorders.

Go to the Frequently Asked Questions
Craig Johnson, Ph.D., answers some commonly asked questions about anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders.

Warning Signs
(provided by Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc.)

Of Anorexia Nervosa
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (i.e., no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Frequent comments about feeling "fat" or overweight despite weight loss
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being "fat"
  • Denial or hunger
  • Development of food rituals (i.e., eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate)
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen despite weather, fatigue, illness, and injury, the need to "burn off"calories taken in
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns
Of Bulimia

  • Evidence of binge-eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or the existence of wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives and diuretics
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen despite weather, fatigue, illness, and injury, the need to "burn off" calories taken in
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
  • Discoloration, staining of the teeth
  • Creation of complex lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • In general, behaviors and altitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns

Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
The Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center provides information and treatment resources for all forms of eating disorders. If you need to find a treatment center or private practitioner specializing in eating disorders anywhere in the U.S. or internationally, this site may be the best resrouce of its kind on the Web.

Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc.
EDAP, the largest, nonprofit organization devoted to the awareness and prevention of eating disorders, sponsors Eating Disorders Awareness Week each February. EDAP's Web site offers online treatment referrals, public prevention and awareness information, educational programs, videos, curricula, conferences, workshops, a newsletter, and a national speaker's bureau.

Something Fishy
Don't let the funny name fool you. This site is an extensive and well-organized resource for information on eating disorders and offers versions in French and Spanish. The Web resources list on this site is easily the most extensive on the Web, listing almost 100 sites focusing on eating disorders. For answers to a whole range of questions from What is an eating disorder? to What is the role of popular culture in forming body image?, head to Something Fishy.

Gürze Books
Gürze has published books on eating disorders for over 20 years. In addition to offering online shopping for books and films about eating disorders, Gürze's thorough site has links to eating-disorder treatment centers, information about conferences, and resources for teachers and discussion groups.

Academy for Eating Disorders
The Academy is an association of professionals looking to promote treatment, prevention, and research related to eating disorders. AED sponsors an annual conference for physicians on eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.
ANRED offers free, downloadable education materials on anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and other less well-known problem-eating behaviors.

Harvard Eating Disorders Center
Harvard's Eating Disorders Center is a national non-profit organization with a focus on eating-disorder research and education. The HEDC Web site includes a large amount of useful materials and referral information.

New Moon Publishing
New Moon publishes magazines and books geared towards empowering adolescent girls. The New Moon Web site is full of information for and by young women.

The National Women's Health Information Center
The U.S. Department for Health and Human Services has established this Web site to address a range of women's health issues. It is worth a visit to find out more about women's specific nutrition needs. is available in Spanish.

Eating Disorders/Disordered Culture
Eating Disorders/Disordered Culture is an exploration of eating disorders put together by two college women. This online community features over 30 personal stories written by young women who have struggled and continue to struggle with a range of eating disorders.

My Life With ED
Read the story of one woman's battle with anorexia and take a tour through her virtual art gallery and poetry collection.

Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa. By Joan Jacobs Brumberg. New York: Vintage Books, 2000
Blending historic and contemporary issues, social history and science, this book, winner of numerous awards after it first appeared in 1988, should appeal to anyone interested in eating disorders.

Making Weight: Men's Conflicts with Food, Weight, Shape & Appearance. By Arnold Andersen, Leigh Cohn, and Thomas Holbrook. Carslbad, CA: Gürze Books, 2000
Besides Thomas Holbrook's personal essay on his battle with anorexia (see One Man's Battle), this authoritative book covers what the subtitle promises in a comprehensive yet engaging way. Includes sections on Ten Steps to Healthy Living and How Loved Ones Can Help.

Advice for Dancers: Emotional Counsel and Practical Strategies. By Linda H. Hamilton. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1998
Among other issues of concern to dancers, Dance Magazine editor Linda Hamilton describes how dancers can reach their optimal weight without compromising their health or their careers. Includes tips on a sensible approach to weight loss.

Bitter Ice: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Obsession. By Barbara Kent Lawrence. New York: William Morrow, 1999
A moving and highly personal chronicle of a woman's struggle to cope with her husband's entrenched anorexia and the toll it took on their marriage and her sense of self.

Deadly Persuasion : Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. By Jean Kilbourne. New York: Free Press, 1999
A scathing assault on advertising and its damaging effects on girls and women by a lecturer and documentarian, whose films include "Killing Us Softly" and "Slim Hopes: Advertising and the Obsession with Thinness."

Get Real

Join a Genetic Study
You can help determine whether genes contribute to anorexia nervosa. The Price Foundation is currently sponsoring an international, multicenter study seeking to determine whether a gene or genes might predispose individuals to develop anorexia nervosa.
  • The research team needs families with at least one member who has or has had anorexia nervosa, both of whose parents are willing to participate in this study.
  • The study involves assessments, questionnaires, and a blood draw.
  • You do not need to travel; everything can be done where you live.
  • Participants will be paid upon completion of the study.
If you have or have had anorexia and are interested in obtaining more information, please call the following toll-free number: 1-888-895-3886. You can also contact the research team by e-mail at or through its Web site at If you know any families affected by anorexia nervosa that might qualify and might be interested in participating, please give them the above information.

Special Thanks
Jennifer Biely, Eating Disorders Awareness & Prevention
Kate Dillon, Wilhelmina Models
Dr. Craig Johnson, Laureate Psychiatric Hospital
Larkin McPhee, producer, "Dying to Be Thin"
Dr. Charlotte Neumann, UCLA
Dr. Meir Stamfer, Harvard University
Stefan Becker
Annie Valva

And an extra special thanks to:
The McKnight Foundation
Twin Cities Public Television

Lauren Aguirre, Executive Editor
Jon Alper, Encoding
David Colarusso, Intern
Maureen Dolan, Editorial Assistant
Molly Frey, Technologist
Rick Groleau, Managing Editor
Tim Halle, Encoding
Brenden Kootsey, Technologist
Lexi Krock, Editorial Assistant
Lingi Liu, Assistant Designer
David May, Intern
Peter Tyson, Editor in Chief
Anya Vinokour, Senior Designer
Carla Waggett, QuickTime Interactivity
Closed Captioning, The Caption Center

Ask the Experts | Watch the Program | Share Your Story
Help/Resources | Minority Women: The Untold Story | One Man's Battle
Body Needs | Transcript | Site Map | Dying to be Thin Home

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated December 2000
/wgbh/nova/thin/textindex.html /wgbh/nova/thin/