Woman checking her weight on weighing scales

Eating Disorders

Have you spent your life on diets, checking the weighing scales, disappointed in how you look, never feeling good about yourself? How about eating secretly in your room, eating to make yourself feel better or make your stress go away, only to have that feeling of shame and remorse wash over you afterwards? 

 

When we have an unhealthy relationship with food, it can be a symptom of our unhealthy relationship with ourselves. It often becomes the means by which we cope with emotional difficulties or stressors in life.

 

Even though the word eating is in the condition of Eating Disorders, food has very little to do with these mental health difficulties. Food is the symptom of underlying emotional issues. 

 

The three more common types of eating disorders are:

Bulimia Nervosa

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) 

Anorexia Nervosa

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating, usually in secret

  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g. a feeling that you can’t stop eating or control what or how much you’re eating)

  • Recurrent compensatory behaviours to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives and diuretics, use of appetite suppressants or strenuous exercise regimes

  • The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months

 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Mood swings

  • Eating normally when with others, and consistently leaving the dinner table shortly after finishing the meal (to purge)

  • Dental and throat issues, along with other physical health problems, as a consequence of regular purging 

 

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder 

  • Recurrent and persistent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating includes both of the following:

  • Eating a large amount of food in a short period of time, usually alone or secretly

  • Feeling that you can’t stop eating or control what or how much you are eating, during the episode

  • Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal

  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full

  • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

  • Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much you are eating

  • Feeling disgusted with yourself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

  • Marked distress regarding binge eating 

  • Binge-eating does not use compensatory behaviour e.g. purging, fasting or excessive exercise

Compulsively binge eating is often a coping strategy used to relieve stress or numb uncomfortable feelings.

 

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Restriction of food intake, leading to weight loss and an abnormally low body weight

  • Intense fear of gaining weight/becoming fat

  • Distorted perception of yourself and your condition, e.g. not seeing yourself as underweight, not believing there is a problem (denial)

Other symptoms may include

  • Avoidance of eating in public or with others

  • Constant measuring and weighing of food

  • Over-activity and excessive exercising

  • Poor circulation

  • Dry thinning hair and dry discoloured skin

  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual period) in women

  • Low self-esteem

  • Inflexible, black or white thinking

  • Irritability and mood swings

 

Believing that you are in control of your food intake and weight can feel powerful, particularly if other areas of your life are chaotic or feel out of your control; thinness is often equated with self-worth.

 

Help with Eating Disorders

Firstly, I need you to know that you aren’t alone in this vicious cycle and, with help, you can break out of this cycle.

 

I will support you to identify your maladaptive behaviours, explore the issues leading to your unhealthy eating patterns, strip away the shame, help you to find new coping strategies for dealing with your emotions and develop a healthy relationship with food and with yourself.