Gives a conceptual overview of the major ideas extant in the literature on eating disorders that I draw upon in the construction of the theoretical framework for this book. The chapter begins with a general description of the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, their clinical definitions, and demographic profiles of the females who suffer from them. (Relevant issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality are also addressed in this chapter and the diversity of findings that result.) Following this overview, the focus of this chapter shifts to a discussion of the research findings on the contributions of culture, family, and the individual in the development of these eating disorders and what shortcomings exist in the research literature. Particular attention is focused on two prominent theoretical perspectives on eating disorders; the sociocultural model and the social comparison approach, which are outlined and then discussed in terms of their shortcomings in providing a fuller understanding of eating disorders.