Difference Between Fasting and Anorexia (With Table)

Eating disorders are very serious illnesses that are often found fatal. These are found to be associated with grave disturbances in people’s eating conditions and thoughts and emotions related to the same. Common eating disorders include binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and many others. Together, these disorders affect approximately 5% of the human population.

Fasting vs Anorexia

The main difference between fasting and anorexia is that fasting is done voluntarily. A person fasts for medical, psychological or spiritual reasons. On the other hand, a person suffering from anorexia does not have a choice. He is forced by psychological or cosmetic reasons to avoid eating. Compulsions and distorted thinking drive his behaviour.

When a person says that he is fasting, he means that he will stop eating completely or partially for a certain amount of time. Time period of a fast stretches from 12hrs to a day and sometimes days. During the fast, one may be allowed certain food items such as tea, coffee and water.

Anorexia is an eating disorder that is often found fatal to life. It is of two types: anorexia nervosa and atypical anorexia nervosa. It can be identified by abnormally low body weight, distorted perception of shape or weight and intense fear of gaining weight. People suffering from this disorder are very conscious of their body weight.

Comparison Table Between Fasting and Anorexia

Parameters of ComparisonFastingAnorexia
DefinitionFasting refers to refraining from eating food partially or fully for a certain amount of time.Anorexia is an eating disorder in which people avoid eating food due to fear of increase in body weight.
VoluntaryIt is done voluntarily.It is not done voluntarily, there is no choice.
Medical conditionIt is not a medical condition.It is a medical condition.
FatalIt is usually not fatal.Fatal; has the highest mortality rate of any eating disorder
ReasonsDone for medical, psychological or spiritual reasonsForced by psychological or cosmetic reasons to avoid eating
BenefitsWhen done in controlled conditions, it is found to be beneficial to human health.None at all
Centre of attentionA person who fasts does not always think about himself.An anorexic patient only focusses on himself, often destroying relationships.

What is fasting?

Fasting refers to not having food for a period of time partially or fully. It has been promoted by various groups of people worldwide such as physicians, religious leaders, culturally designated individuals or as a means of protest. Various forms of fasting are as follows:

  1. Medical fasting: Since the 5th century BCE, fasting has been used to cure certain illnesses. In 21st century too, it is prescribed by various doctors as a form of disease prevention.
  2. Religious fasting: In various religions, fasting is considered as a means to get closer to their respective gods and goddesses. In various cultures, it was also used as a way to resurrect or anger deities. Only Zoroastrianism does not promote fasting
  3. As a form of protest: Fasting is also used to express political and social views to show solidarity or protest. Prominent examples are Mahatma Gandhi and Dick Gregory.

Fasting has various health benefits. During a fast, the body uses stored glucose to obtain energy, after it has been used up, the body burns up fat resulting in weight loss. It also reduces cholesterol levels. However, a fast should be done after consulting a doctor and following his guidelines. Failure to do so can have various negative effects.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a serious mental health condition that can be a potential threat to life. It is an eating disorder that often appears when a person is in his teenage years or is a young adult. Sometimes, it can also appear later in life or during preteen years.

Some of the symptoms of this eating disorder include:

  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Brittle nails
  • Constipation
  • Increase in facial hair

In atypical anorexia nervosa, there is no loss in body weight. In anorexia nervosa, the person feels guilty for eating. They are often not aware that there is a problem with them. Mainly people develop this illness due to concerns about body weight and shape.

Although, the root cause may include a variety of genetic, biological, environmental and other factors. A person is more prone to it if:

  • A relative of him had similar illness
  • Have type 1 diabetes
  • Have family history of depression or any other mental illness

This illness is curable. Early treatment help in increasing chances to cure it. With a comprehensive plan made by a healthcare professional helps in fighting this eating disorder.

Main Differences Between Fasting and Anorexia

  1. Fasting is done voluntarily whereas anorexia is not. A person suffering from anorexia is devoid of choice.
  2. Fasting is not a medical condition whereas anorexia is. Anorexia is an eating disorder.
  3. When done within proper conditions, fasting is not fatal whereas anorexia can be fatal. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate among all eating disorders.
  4. Fasting is done due to medical, psychological or spiritual reasons. On the other hand, anorexia is forced by cosmetic or psychological reason forcing a person to feel guilty of eating.
  5. Fasting can have several health benefits if done in controlled condition. However, anorexia can never be beneficial to health.


Thus, it can be inferred that fasting is a part of anorexia. However, the reverse isn’t true. A patient suffering from anorexia often always thinks about himself alone that leads to destroying of various relationships.

On the other hand, fasting helps a person to lose weight often without leading to serious illnesses. It improves one’s state of mind, self- worth and helps to improve the health too.

A patient having anorexia needs to get diagnosed from a health professional. Loss of weight at the cost of health is not good in the long run.


  1. http://drrandifredricks.com/differences-between-fasting-and-anorexia-nervosa/
  2. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/cn/2018/00000016/00000008/art00007

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