Our article offers a critical appraisal of psychiatric medical constructions of eating disorders (EDs) by highlighting the complexity of professional discourses, power plays, claims and counterclaims in ongoing struggles over ‘unruly bodies.’ Inductive thematic analysis of data from five studies was undertaken, covering thirty semi-structured interviews with UK health-care professionals working in the ED field. Professionals engaged in various struggles over eating disorders, which were compounded by the labelling process itself. Although person-centredness was valued, encounters with ED patients were frequently framed as outstandingly problematic in terms of treatment resistance, with clients’ unruliness spurred on by ED competitiveness on social media and in-hospital rivalries. Paradoxically, the labelling of eating disorders created further expectations in terms of achieving specific weight levels and diagnostic labels, reportedly resulting in lay competition over who was sickest, which was mirrored by treatment priorities within an overstretched public health system. Narratives also highlighted interesting tensions between professionals rationalising their work with patients and acknowledging themselves as potentially vulnerable to societal pressures promoting EDs. Arguably, while lay narratives around EDs continue to be framed by authorities as unruly behaviours in deviant individuals, the gap between officially sanctioned and illicit ED discourses will only grow.