Food can be a wonderful thing. It gives us pleasure, nourishes our bodies, and brings us together with our friends and family. But food can also become an obsession. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S., and only 1 in 10 receive treatment. If you need treatment, reach out to an eating disorder therapist or psychologist at Thriveworks in Westborough in Worcester.
What are the different types of eating disorders?
There are three main types of eating disorders, each with their own unique symptoms and challenges.
Bulimia is characterized by frequent bouts of binge eating, followed by attempts to compensate by purging or excessive exercise in order to prevent weight gain.
Symptoms of bulimia include:
- Compulsive eating
- Obsession with weight and body image
- Eating until you become sick
- Feeling guilty after eating
When you’re struggling with bulimia, you may feel like you’re stuck in a vicious cycle where you’re constantly trying to compensate for your overeating.
Anorexia is characterized by taking extreme measures to avoid gaining weight, such as starving oneself and exercising excessively. Left untreated, it can be life-threatening.
What are the symptoms of anorexia?
Symptoms of anorexia include:
- Obsession with body image
- Fear of gaining weight
- Drastic weight loss
- Compulsive exercising
Anorexia can have a severe impact on your mental and physical health. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
Most people are familiar with the term “comfort food.” Food can be comforting when you’re feeling sad or lonely. It can be a seductive way to put off dealing with difficult emotions. For example, after a stressful day at work, you come home and eat an entire package of chocolate chip cookies. You feel better — but for how long? It’s only a matter of time before the guilt and shame set in.
What are the symptoms of binge eating disorder?
Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
- Compulsive eating
- Hiding food to eat later
- Feeling guilty after overeating
- Using food as a way to cope with stress
BED sounds similar to bulimia, but one important difference is that people with BED don’t try to undo the bingeing through exercise or purging.
What causes eating disorders?
Eating disorders can be triggered by a variety of factors, including:
- Poor body image
- Low self-esteem
Cultural norms can also play a role in eating disorders. For example, today the media constantly bombards us with images depicting the “ideal” male and female bodies. These images are often unrealistic, and in some cases are literally physically unattainable.
I need help. How can I deal with my eating disorder?
If you are struggling with a serious eating disorder, there’s little we can write here that’s likely to result in significant and lasting change.
With that said, here are some tips that clients have found helpful for managing their relationships with food:
Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Instead of eating two or three large meals, eat five to six smaller ones spread throughout the day.
Just Choose healthy foods. Avoid fads or extreme diets. Focus on following sensible diet that includes lean meats and is rich in fruits and vegetables. For a nutritious snack, eat nuts, which contain protein, fiber, and good fats. They also contain fiber which will fill you up.
Drink plenty of water. Water not only keeps you hydrated; it also helps to curb food cravings by making you feel full.
Minimize stress. The more stressed out you are, the more likely you are to use food as a coping mechanism.
Exercise. Exercise boosts your mood and keeps stress in check.
Learn what your triggers are. Uncover what habits trigger your unhealthy food behaviors. If seeing commercials for fast food triggers cravings, scale back on TV time and read a book. If your daily commute is littered with fast food restaurants, choose a different route to reduce temptation.
Talk to a therapist. This is where we come in. At Thriveworks Westborough in Worcester County, our goal is to help you develop a healthier relationship with food.
Sample all the flavors life has to offer
Food is an essential part of life, but it’s not everything. It doesn’t have to be the first and last thing you think about each day. You can learn to live in harmony with food. Once you do, you’ll feel better physically and emotionally. More importantly, you’ll be able to once again focus on the things that bring you happiness — your hobbies, your family, your friends.