|What is an Eating Disorder?|
By Licia Ginne, LMFT
Eating disorders are complicated and like other mental and
emotional disorders the descriptions you find about them in
books may not be how you or a loved one experiences the disorder.
The intense fear of gaining weight can be as strong as the
fear or panic that comes from not allowing yourself to indulge
in food as an emotional support. For the eating disordered
person self worth and self-esteem increase or decrease according
to how you feel about your body on any given day, how your
clothes fit or don't fit, how you think others react to you
and how you react to yourself.
Feeling out of control in your life can lead to trying to
control the only thing you feel you have control over, your
body. It can be the restriction of foods, control over intake
or the consumption of foods that can lead to a feeling of
calm and relief.
Eating disorders can include overeating, purging (laxatives,
vomiting or chewing and spitting), not eating, rigid eating
rules, compulsive exercise and any combination of the above.
It also includes a disconnected relationship with your body,
hunger and satiation, self-loathing and a distorted view of
size and shape.
What all people with eating disorders will say is that they
are tortured by the constant thoughts of food, obsession with
weight, body image, and how they feel the need to hide their
behaviors. A common reaction to recovery is the great sigh
of relief as food's role in your life shifts from being obsessive
to the necessary tool for fueling your body.
Eating disorders effect your emotional and physical well
being, can cause chronic physical illness and in extreme cases
lead to death. The shame and obsession that comes with an
eating disorder gets in the way of normal functioning; fear
of socializing, fear of commitment and anxiety about being
found out can keep you a prisoner in your own life. It has
also been found that there is a higher incidence of self-mutilation
found among women who have eating disorders.
There are three main types of eating disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia,
and Binge Eating (and any combination of these). These are complex
disorders focusing on issues of eating, body weight, and body
shape. Disordered eating can lead to an eating disorder. It is
important to identify eating habits and change them before they
The web sitesomething-fishy.org
is the most comprehensive site I have found about eating disorders.
I would encourage you to go to their web site for more information.
COMPULSIVE EATING or BINGE EATING
A person consumes a large amount of food in a short period of
time (less than 2 hours), but does not engage in purging behavior.
This eating is without regard to physical cues such as hunger
or satisfaction. The individual loses the power of choice over
food. Driven by forces they don't quite understand or even recognize,
they eat more than they need.
A person will eat a large quantity of food in a short period
of time and then purge themselves of the food by some method
such as by vomiting, laxatives, chewing and spitting or intense
In anorexia the person has an unrealistic view of their body,
sees and fears being overweight (panics about weight). They restrict
their food intake, maintain a restricted food plan and have an
unrealistic view of calories and how their bodies metabolize
food. There is an intense fear of gaining weight and becoming
The reason I previously said eating disorders are complicated
is that these definitions should not be taken as a way to
decide if you have an eating disorder. Those with eating disorders
may cross lines and engage in any or all of the above behaviors.
It is common to see someone who will engage in compulsive
eating and then try to restrict or starve themselves for a
period of time. Psychotherapy alone is not enough support
for eating-disordered concerns. It is advisable to work with
a nutritionist to challenge some of the myths and misconceptions
associated with food and dieting, with a support group, and
Like all addictions or compulsive behavior it is important
to look at how these behaviors affect your social, physical,
emotional, spiritual and relationship life. Here is a link
to a new article in the LA Times about the brain connection
to food addiction and its similarity to alcohol addiction.LA
Times Food Addicton
It is possible to develop a new relationship with food that
does not consume your every waking moment, it is possible
to find peace in your relationship with food and to your body.
One approach to treatment is the use of 12-step programs,Overeaters
Anonymous, is one program and you find support groups
for free or a small donation.