Has Your Relationship With Food Taken Over Your Life?
Have you become preoccupied by food? Does constant worry about weight flood your mind and make you anxious? Have you resorted to food restriction, bingeing, purging, or over-exercising to cope with your emotions but fear there is no way to reverse course?
When it comes to losing weight, it may feel rewarding to reach your goals. The sense of accomplishment it brings may spur you to keep going, even when loved ones tell you that you’ve already lost too much weight. Because you find satisfaction in keeping your weight in check, you might avoid social situations that make it difficult to restrict your diet. Without vigilant oversight over the number of calories you consume, maybe you feel like your life is spinning out of control.
After an extended period of food restriction—or if you’re dealing with difficult emotions—you might engage in binge eating, filling up with food until you feel sick. To make up for breaking your dietary rules, you may end up purging with laxatives, vomiting, or exercising excessively.
Perhaps you started turning to food as a way to comfort yourself when life got difficult but now this habit has gotten out of control. If chronic overeating has become your way of dealing with stress, you may continue to eat even after you feel full. You may binge-eat in secret, and afterward feel depressed and ashamed for eating so much. And even though you vow to stop, you find that you can’t.
It may seem that your life revolves around your weight and body image. You may secretly binge and not be able to control how much you eat, only then to purge as a way to rid yourself of the excess calories. You might force yourself to vomit, take diuretics, or fast after bingeing.
The good news is that eating disorder therapy can help reduce your obsession with food, weight, and body image while still feeling in control of your life. In treatment, you can learn how to manage the behaviors associated with Anorexia Nervosa (AN), Binge Eating Disorder (BED), and Bulimia Nervosa (BN), helping you restore physical and mental health.
In Addition To Women, Men Can Also Develop Eating Disorders
According to the CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “It's estimated that 30 million Americans have struggled with an eating disorder at some point over their lifetime.” And although we often associate this problem with young women, approximately one-third of those suffering from eating disorders are men.
Social Messaging Perpetuates Unrealistic Standards About Weight
When we consider the state of today’s culture, it’s no surprise that many of us struggle with negative body image. The message about appearance is clear and ubiquitous—by meeting an ideal of beauty, we will be happier and get whatever we want. Social media, advertisements, movies, and TV all perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty that is nearly impossible to achieve. And because we are often complimented when we lose weight, the goal to remain thin is reinforced.
Although striving for perfection may seem harmless, it can also have devastating consequences. Alarmingly, “individuals with eating disorders have significantly elevated mortality rates.”
Unfortunately, many of us put off seeking treatment for our eating disorder because the voice inside our head can be so persuasive. Like an abusive partner, it convinces us that the habits and behaviors we’ve developed around food are necessary and that we can’t live without them. Trying to challenge our distorted thoughts alone without external accountability from someone with an objective perspective is difficult.
Eating disorder counseling offers the unbiased support of a mental health professional who can help you recognize instances when your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors surrounding food have become inaccurate or unhealthy. By helping you identify your goals and align with what you value most, you will feel empowered to move beyond disordered eating.
Eating Disorder Treatment Can Help You Gain Perspective
You might be dealing with an eating disorder that no one else knows about, even your closest friends and family. Without a sounding board to express how you feel, the shame you feel may cause you to suffer in silence. Eating disorders thrive in isolation. Working with someone who will normalize your experience, provide you with psychoeducation, and share your burden will help you gain much-needed perspective and begin to heal.
Therapy is a safe space to process any thoughts or behaviors related to your eating disorder, whether you struggle with binge eating or anorexia. Not only does treatment for eating disorders offer you a judgment-free environment where you can challenge unhealthy behaviors—it also provides you with an extra layer of accountability.
What To Expect In Sessions
After we determine which disordered behaviors you are engaging in—such as AN, BN, or BED—we will begin to examine the origins of your eating disorder. For example, your relationship with food and eating may have developed as a way to rebel against dysfunctional family dynamics or deal with emotionally difficult situations. Or, perhaps, your belief that without the perfect body, you will never measure up to self-imposed expectations drives you to strictly control your eating habits.
Because your eating disorder has become a significant part of your identity, recognizing your values and goal-setting will be an important component of your treatment. By improving your body image and sense of self, your disordered behaviors surrounding food will gradually decrease and be replaced with activities that you care about.
The Treatments We Utilize For Eating Disorders
We utilize various modalities to treat eating disorders, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Emotionally Focused Family Treatment (EFFT). With CBT, you will learn to notice the distorted thoughts you have related to body image, food, and eating habits. By paying attention to what you are telling yourself and challenging negative or untrue beliefs, you can begin to break away from disordered eating.
ACT helps you separate your true self from the thoughts you have surrounding food and eating. Recognizing the times when your disorder is not in alignment with your values will encourage you to reach broader goals and live a purposeful life. With EFFT, we may invite family members into sessions to help address the relationship dynamics that contribute to your eating disorder.
Additionally, your therapist may incorporate mindfulness exercises as well as principles from 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder: Effective Strategies From Therapeutic Practice and Personal Experience.
As you continue to challenge the false beliefs of your eating disorder, that persistent voice in your head that has kept you stuck will grow quieter, making more space for your authentic self to emerge. When you don’t give your eating disorder the energy to thrive, your time can be devoted to more fulfilling things that bring you joy.
But You May Wonder Whether Eating Disorder Treatment Is Right For You…
Without my eating disorder, who will I be?
It's normal to identify with your eating disorder as if it defines who you are. In reality, your eating disorder is a coping skill you have leaned on to give you a sense of control or to help you deal with difficult emotions. Discovering who you are in therapy is an exciting journey, even if it’s scary to think about what life will look like without your eating disorder. Your therapist will support you in self-discovery and help you identify new life goals once your eating disorder has ceased to be your primary focus.
If I seek eating disorder treatment, will I be judged?
Many people feel shame surrounding their thoughts or behaviors about food and eating. Our counselors have heard it all, but we also understand the complexity that underlies eating disorder behaviors. Our job is to support you with compassion and empathy and to let you know that you're not alone on this journey.
What if, after receiving treatment for my eating disorder, I don’t recover?
Recovery can be hard when the voice telling you not to eat has become so deeply embedded in your mind that you can no longer differentiate it from your true self. However, the good news is that recovery is possible. When you commit to challenging the distorted beliefs you associate with eating and are willing to sit in the discomfort of new behaviors that will replace unhealthy habits, healing, and transformation can happen.
Don’t Allow An Eating Disorder To Control Who You Are
It is possible to live a life no longer dominated by food, weight, and body image. If you would like to find out more about eating disorder treatment, please visit our contact page to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.