The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

The Truth About Eating Disorders: Food & Body Realities

Disordered eating is a very common issue facing many Americans. We often think of eating disorders being associated with someone who plainly has anorexia or bulimia. There isn't a whole lot of gray area. In reality, eating disorders can run across a varied and wide spectrum. This can include overeating, or binging, and making generally unhealthy food choices. Many eating disorders tend to stem from problems with other emotional and mental aspects- not typically the food itself.

It is important to define what anorexia and bulimia is before moving forward with looking at other eating disordered issues. Anorexia is a diagnosis given to a person who restricts their caloric intake (often including over-exercising and sometimes taking laxatives). Bulimia is a diagnosis given to a person who tends to binge and purge (vomit his/her food after eating). A common misconception is that people with eating disorders LOOK underweight. This isn't always the case, especially with bulimia.

In my practice I often have clients who come in needing help with overeating. They look towards food as comfort, a safety blanket, or distraction from pain. Over time I have noticed an ever increasing population of individuals who fall into this category. Typically this type of behavior begins in childhood. It is not uncommon for this to also be initiated by some type of abuse or trauma (divorce, transition, verbal/physical/mental abuse, etc.). Food can be a blessing and a curse.

Increasingly, I also see that individuals with eating disorders tend to have self-injury urges, alcohol abuse/dependency, and/or substance abuse/dependency. This obviously can complicate treatment as it is hard to know which started first and what to tackle first. That is why it is very important to be up front and honest with the counselor or therapist you are seeing so he/she knows the complete story before giving you guidance on how to handle things.

Eating disorders are common. They are amplified by media and social expectations. We walk a fine line of fitting in with our peers vs. taking care of ourselves. Body image and self-esteem fall directly within this realm. That is why it is also extremely important to build yourself up rather than tear yourself down. The more negative you are with yourself, the worse you will feel and the less control you will have over your life.

Consider looking into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) if you have an eating disorder. It has been extremely helpful with my clients and provides many concrete skills and tools to cope with the eating disordered brain. It can also be used in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Contact your primary care physician today. Get a physical. Get your blood work done. And rule out medical issues. The next step is to get yourself hooked up with a qualified therapist or counselor while also seeing a dietitian or nutritionist. Rally your friends and family, if you can, to help support you through this period of change. It is well worth it.

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