Are You Struggling with Disordered Eating?
Disordered eating occurs when a person's attitudes about food, eating, exercise, weight and body size or shape causes them to have rigid eating and/or exercise habits that interfere with their health, happiness or safety. Those with disordered eating are at risk for an eating disorder. See below for descriptions and treatment.
We can help you sort out if you are struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder, if your healthy eating is causing you to suffer or if your exercise is doing more harm than good. And we can help you get back on track.
What is Emotional Eating?
When a person eats in an attempt to feel better or numb out, this is Emotional Eating. We all eat emotionally at times, but when this eating causes weight gain, or when it interferes with life, it becomes a problem. Emotional eaters often use food to deal with stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, grief. At times, even happiness can be difficult to manage, and the emotional eater will use food to tone this down. The drive to eat emotionally can be so strong that it feels like an addiction.
What is Deprivation-Driven Eating
Many believe they are struggling with emotional eating. They spend years in therapy only to find their emotional eating was not cured. This is because, for approximately 80% of our clients, what looks like emotional eating is actually deprivation-driven eating (DDE). DDE occurs when you are under-fueled or if you believe you should limit food intake, or limit specific foods. DDE is often insidious because most nutrition programs encourage this type of eating, not realizing the harm it can do. Unless you heal the deprivation-driven eating, you will not be able to accurately identify or heal emotional eating.
This PDF handout can help you tell the difference between emotional eating and deprivation-driven eating.
What is Orthorexia Nervosa
Orthorexia nervosa is an obsession with eating healthy foods and avoiding "unhealthy" foods. The sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful. For more information, read this article I wrote on orthorexia. Also Dr. Bratman's site has excellent information, and a quiz to determine if you may have orthorexia.
What is Compulsive Exercise?
Compulsive exercise is physical activity which is driven. Although the compulsive exerciser feels they are in total control of their activity, in fact, others may envy their "dedication," the compulsive exerciser does not have a choice, they must exercise. They rarely seek treatment because they want to stop the compulsive activity, rather because they cannot continue.
Compulsive exercise is a means of coping, a way to deal with feelings (tension, stress, anger, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, etc.). The compulsive exerciser's focus is on the desire to exercise, which pushes down these feelings. The compulsive exerciser works out their bodies rather than their problems.
When they are unable to exercise, the thoughts and feelings which have been avoided and denied flood back. Without effective coping mechanisms, they become overwhelmed with all that is unresolved, and are compelled to exercise again to control unwanted feelings.
For more information, see this article on "exercise dependence."
What is Diet Trauma?
Diet trauma, the result of dieting, occurs when a person begins to feel out of control around food. Some people get to the point where all they think about is food, even when they are off the diet. They are made to believe that this is because they are not dieting well enough and are often told to get back on a diet. No one is telling them what, exactly, about diets is causing this to happen.
Eventually, a person who restricts their food intake becomes so accustomed to dieting as a way of life, they lose touch with their natural relationship with food. They find it difficult to be comfortable around food, except to diet, which perpetuates the cycle.
Then they end up gaining weight. It is because of the diet, but they blame themselves. It becomes a vicious circle of weight cycling. With Diet Trauma, there can be guilt and shame about eating even a normal amount of food. Sometimes (over)eating becomes the only way to feel better.
What is Exercise Resistance?
It has been said that “joyless exercise repeated as a daily ritual dampens the spirit.” It also contributes to exercise resistance where one just can’t seem to get a “fitness program” going. Ironically, to get active again, some people may need to quit compulsory exercise and throw out the rules and shoulds regarding physical activity. It is possible to overcome exercise resistance and become joyfully active. Once again, an article I wrote.
Treatment for Disordered Eating
While treatment for an eating disorder typically requires a team, disordered eating can often be resolved with nutrition therapy. We will explore your relationship with food and set attainable goals to improve your eating and health. But, if your body image is not accurate, changing the food is difficult, so we will also work on improving your body image. We may jump right into intuitive eating, in which case we usually do not need a meal plan. At times, though, a meal plan can provide the guidance you need. We will also explore your relationship with physical activity if needed. Some goals of nutrition therapy include:
- Improving your ability to control your food intake
- Meeting essential nutrient needs
- Challenging distorted thinking about food and weight
- Recognizing internal cues of hunger and fullness
- Learning to trust and use intuitive eating to achieve a healthy weight
In the first appointment, we will do a nutrition assessment, which will last approximately 1 hour. In this first visit, we will discuss your eating and weight history, current eating habits, medical concerns and symptoms, activity level, and goals as you feel comfortable. We will then begin your journey to healing your food and changing your life.
Follow-up appointments are usually weekly or every other week for 50 or 25 minutes. Some clients need only one or two sessions to make the changes they want. For others, it may take several months.