Eating Disorders often start with a desire to lose weight in an effort to improve body image and self-confidence. They can also arise from traumatic events that lead to coping with difficult feelings through food restriction or emotional eating. When disordered eating patterns emerge they are confusing and upsetting. It is difficult to tell others about what is happening for many reasons. Since it is hard to understand why the eating disorder cycle never gets any better despite our best efforts, we assume that others will not understand either. Keeping it a secret might feel safer than talking about it with a trusted friend, family member or doctor. Sometimes talking about it does not help because people are dismissive or offer unhelpful advice. However, dealing with an eating disorder alone can be painful and even dangerous.
Questions to consider regarding your relationship with food include:
- Do you feel out of control around food?
- Do you think of food as “good” and “bad” or have forbidden foods that you try to avoid?
- Do you experience shame or guilt if you eat forbidden foods?
- Do you try to compensate by restricting, purging or exercising?
- Do you try to limit your caloric intake or portion sizes?
- Do you feel afraid of gaining weight?
- Do you avoid social events, work or school if you don’t like your body?
- Do you feel anxious eating in front of others?
- Do you go for long periods of time without eating?
- If you restrict, do you eat a lot of food at once when you are alone or no one is around?
- Do you hide or hoard food?
- Do you prefer to eat in private?
These and other behaviours indicate disordered eating patterns. The term “disordered eating” covers a broad range of eating behaviours including dieting, food restriction, orthorexia (strict eating), emotional eating, binge eating, purging, night eating and others. If you deliberately avoid certain foods, have a fear of gaining weight or use food to cope with difficult feelings like boredom, stress, or disappointment, you may be dealing with disordered eating.
Disordered eating is divided into three broad categories:
- Anorexia (extreme food restriction causing weight loss and malnutrition);
- Bulimia (food restriction followed by binging and purging);
- Binge Eating (eating large amounts of food without purging).
These food patterns tend to be cyclical and self-reinforcing. It can feel frustrating when you try to break free of the shame and guilt caused by disordered eating, only to discover that the negative self-image never seems to go away. There are a lot of reasons for this. We live in a society that worships the thin ideal and makes food choices and body size a moral issue. All around us are messages that promote food guilt and body shaming. While many of these messages are cloaked under the guise of “healthy eating” and being “fit,” they are really just about selling their product by fostering insecurity. However, there is a growing body of evidence that challenges the wisdom of dieting. Ultimately body acceptance is far healthier than dieting and food restriction.
Luckily there are effective ways to restore your relationship with food and develop confidence in your ability to make adaptive, life-affirming choices for yourself. Please contact me for a free consult and we can talk more about ways to overcome the dieting mentality and make peace with food and your body.