Food Feels Unsafe.
Eating is an essential part of life. It provides us with nourishment, connection, comfort, and satisfaction. For some, it can be an agonizing experience leading to hopelessness, anxiety, and despair. Understanding eating disorders can be an important step in helping yourself or a loved one who struggles with body image and their relationship with food.
Our culture dictates so many unspoken rules about our appearance and the way we should eat. Society praises smaller bodies while negatively judging those in larger ones. Despite this, there are conflicting messages about how we eat. Phrases like the “clean plate club” indicate that eating all of our food is expected and a positive. Yet, eating too much is considered “bad.” “Eating like a bird” means that one is not eating enough and therefore concern is expressed. However, society praises going on a diet to eat less. How confusing!
Where’s The Line?
Eating disorders effect people of all different ages, genders, sizes, and backgrounds. They impact people in profound ways physically and medically as well as emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Family members typically feel worried and helpless on what to do.
We all have unique eating patterns. Our relationship with food and our body image may fluctuate from time to time. Genetics, our environment, and the way we develop socially and psychologically all play a role into our self-image and mental health. When do these patterns cross the line into a negative relationship with food or even an eating disorder?
Not everyone who eats a lot has an eating disorder. The same goes for anyone that tends to diet. It is crucial to understand this. But for those that do have an eating disorder, the situation can be life threatening and require the care of a professional team to help set the course to recovery. Those who live with an eating disorder deserve compassion, patience, and understanding for what they are experiencing.
4 TYPES OF EATING DISORDERS:
Anorexia shows up through under-eating patterns. People experiencing Anorexia Nervosa (AN) typically restrict their food intake due to a fear of gaining weight. Common signs can include dieting, exercise, purging, frequent weight checks, and weight loss. Other signs are a fear of fat, “picky” eating, perfectionism, and anxiety. Females tend to show concern with their weight while males tend to worry about their shape. It is a myth that Anorexia only impacts white, female adolescents; all ages, genders, and ethnicities experience Anorexia Nervosa.
The most common symptom of Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is purging. BN is characterized by bingeing on a large amount of food in a way that feels out of control. Elimination of the food eaten follows in an effort to avoid weight gain, known as purging. The use of laxatives or diuretics, excessive exercise, and vomiting are methods used to compensate for what was eaten. Common signs of bulimia are frequent trips to the bathroom, secretive eating or hiding food, dental issues or discolored teeth, frequent dieting, weight fluctuation, bloating, and mood swings.
Binge Eating Disorder.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) shows up through over-eating patterns. BED is the most common eating disorder. People who experience this disorder can be underweight, average weight, or overweight. It’s a myth that Binge Eating Disorder only impacts those in larger bodies. BED resembles Bulimia due to the feeling of lost control when eating during a binge episode. The difference is the absence of a purge afterward. Those experiencing BED have intense feelings of shame and depression surrounding their eating. Common signs of Binge Eating Disorder are eating alone, grazing, sporadic fasting or frequent dieting, eating until uncomfortably full, eating when not hungry, and secretive eating or hiding food.
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) resembles Anorexia (AN) because of restricted food intake. The difference between the two is no fear of weight gain associated with eating. Rather, the avoidance of food comes from an aversion to the texture of certain foods. Eating may also be limited or avoided due to a fear of choking or vomiting if the food is eaten (again texture plays a role in this too). ARFID appears in those who may have sensory issues or autism. It can impact those without these issues as well. People with ARFID have little variety in their food choices in order to maintain “safe” foods to eat. It’s important to note that despite “picky” eating habits, a desire to eat is present.
Eating Disorders are treatable. If you worry about your relationship with food, REACH OUT! Connection is the key to healing. Recovery is possible!
If you or a loved one is in need of support, Low Country Counseling offers specialized therapy for Individuals, Moms, Couples, Families, and Teens. Contact us for any questions you need answered or to schedule an appointment. Help is available. You are not alone!
Hope Starts HERE.