Eating Disorders FAQ
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge eating offset by behaviors such as self-induced vomiting or other ways to compensate for binge eating. Binge eating can be described as a very large amount of food or just overeating, as determined by the person with Bulimia.
Yes. Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss or a drive for weight loss/thinness, and a tendency to have a distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat and many will exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives or other means.
Food Addiction is not the same thing as an addiction to alcohol or drugs. There is no such thing as being addicted to food itself. Although there are many who believe this to be the case, no real evidence of it exists. Eating pleasurable foods, for example, lights up the same area of the brain as listening to music. However, when using food to help you numb your emotions, that is the behavior that describes an addiction. Food addiction is essentially an addiction to using food to cope with life.
We have a variety of methods to help you recover from an eating disorder. We offer individual counseling so you can meet with a counselor one on one and talk privately. We hold group counseling so you can be supported by those who feel just as you do. We periodically offer an intensive workshop so you can go deeper into your growth and healing. We come from a Health at Every Size™ approach, so you can learn to treat your body well, while letting go of societal rules around food and body image.
Frequently Asked Questions About Eating Disorders
Not necessarily and not over the long term. Having an eating disorder means you are trying to control the natural processes of your body that manages weight. Interfering with your body’s natural weight by attempting to lose weight will likely lead to a slower metabolism, hyper focus on food, poor body image, health concerns, and other challenges. These issues can be with you throughout your life and could cause many years of potentially painful and expensive recovery from an eating disorders.
A therapist is the one who can help you understand and face the underlying emotional issues that led to and continue your eating disorder behaviors. It’s important to work with a therapist who is a specialist or understands eating disorders in a deeper way. This person can help you really understand the ways it’s not about food. This person can also understand the issues that are going on underlying the eating disorder behaviors and thoughts, and help you work directly on those specific issues. For example, a need for control is a very common experience of someone with an eating disorder. Usually underlying this need for control is a fear of feeling emotions. Therefore, a therapist will help you move toward the emotions, so you won’t need to try to control what isn’t in your control, like weight. A therapist / counselor can help you live a full and authentic life.
Absolutely, if it’s a dietitian that has an understanding and expertise in eating disorders. This person can help you work on your relationship with food while your counselor helps you work on the underlying emotional reasons and thoughts related to your eating disorder. A dietitian that doesn’t understand eating disorders is more likely to do harm to someone with an eating disorder because that person is likely to prescribe diet behaviors and or thinking. The eating disorder part of you will grab ahold of diet mentality, will not let go, and therefore will lead to an increase in the eating disorder.
Nutritionists do not have the same training or degree as Dietitians. I would therefore recommend a Dietitian. See above answer for more information.
Many doctors will not be well versed in eating disorders or working from a weight neutral perspective, which is imperative with working with eating disorders. A doctor who does work with eating disorders and has a weight neutral perspective can be extremely helpful for recovery from an eating disorder. This person can help monitor your health, which can help motivate you to get better, and can help prevent complications from having an eating disorder.
Positive relationships of any kind can help with eating disorder recovery as well as with any healing. The importance is on the relationship being positive (but not perfect). For some, that means distancing from family may be necessary. But if your family is a positive influence and is willing to support you in healing, then this is a very good thing! You may need to teach them how to talk about food and bodies/weight and you may need to teach them how to talk to you but having good relationships with your family will help you.
Depending on the severity of your eating disorder depends on the help you will need. Perhaps the best way to start the process is to contact a counselor that specializes in eating disorders. This person can help assess what treatment you need and can help you find the help that’s best for you. It could be that out-patient treatment is enough. It might mean that you start at the in-patient level of care. It might be helpful to have a team of providers like a medical doctor and a dietitian helping. Often a counselor is the best place to start the process and add help from that point.
Let your friend know that you are concerned and why you are concerned. Tell your friend which behaviors concern you the most, such as “I notice you don’t eat a lot and I’m concerned you are undereating on purpose.” Don’t be afraid to just name it but also recognize your friend may not be ready to accept your help or feedback. If your friend becomes angry, it may be best to let it go for now. Please bring it back up again, however. Even if your friend seems upset with you, they likely really are glad you “see” them and are willing to let them know you are concerned. Ultimately, it is up to your friend to get the help, not you. You can’t make them get help but you can certainly tell them how you feel and encourage them to get help.
Antidepressants can at times help with eating disorders. However, it’s best not to rely on them for treatment. It’s important to get help from an eating disorder trained counselor and/or dietitian and other providers to get support that only working with other human beings can provide.
CBT is an acronym for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a type of therapy in which you will learn more about your thoughts and behaviors and how the two interact. It is helpful to understand the eating disorder thoughts that lead to disordered behaviors and what eating disorder behaviors might lead to disordered thoughts. However, in CBT treatment, emotions are typically not the focus and possibly left out. It is important to understand that emotions also drive the eating disorder and therefore addressing emotions is a very important aspect of treatment. Without this emotional work, you may get better in terms of thoughts and behaviors but the eating disorder will return when difficult emotions are present, which is often.
Teachers often are the first to recognize symptoms of eating disorders and other challenges with their students. Therefore, when a teacher is aware of behaviors and/or thoughts that might point to an eating disorder, the teacher can talk with the student about their concerns and encourage them to talk with their parents and/or a counselor. It may be important for a teacher to talk to the student’s parents about the concerns. Teachers can create a safe place for students to talk, which will help students have an adult to confide in, often the first step toward recovery.
Family involvement with an adolescent’s recovery is very important. Family members should also get help from providers of the adolescent as well as their own counseling, as needed.
The best way to stop eating disorders is to stop dieting. The number one cause of eating disorders is dieting. Therefore, if the culture changes in it’s view of weight (i.e. no more weight bias) then the incident of eating disorders would decrease significantly. Our obsession with dieting, being thin, judging others based on weight, small chairs and spaces and other ways that the culture leads people to feel ashamed of their body will lead to dieting and therefore eating disorders.
It is important to understand that there is no such thing as an addition to food itself. There is a lot of misinformation about this topic and that’s dangerous! It is dangerous because this “food addiction” belief will only lead to people to restrict food, which will lead to an eating disorder if one isn’t already present. What is true is that one can use food to help manage or cope with emotions. This is where an addiction to food (or any substance) stems… it’s a focus on food to avoid emotions! In this way, food addiction can be experienced as emotional eating. Emotional eating is eating to avoid feeling. This can happen in the moment of the situation causing the emotions and it can happen as a general way of coping with emotions or both.
When one eats for emotional reasons, what one needs to do is to face the emotions directly. Sometimes this can feel very scary. That’s okay. Start with fear. Feeling fear is an emotion. After feeling the fear, the emotions underneath fear will be available to feel. This process can take minutes or years, if one is avoiding feelings. Once you stop using food to push down emotions and instead allow yourself to experience the emotions, you will no longer feel a need to eat for emotional reasons. You will no longer experience food as an out of your control experience. You will be able to eat a variety of foods without concern or worry or harsh self-criticism. All foods will be just food.