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Help for Eating Disorders, Extreme Weight Loss and Body Image

What defines an ‘eating disorder?’

Eating disorders often begin with what might look like ‘normal’ dieting; a conscious ‘cutting back’ to lose a little unwanted weight or a light regime to prepare for an event such as a wedding. However, while the initial weight loss may be successful, an ED sufferer will go on to become increasingly fearful of weight gain and obsessive about slimming down, often resulting in physical fragility and psychological disturbance.

Common eating disorders: 

  • Anorexia Nervosa – Restriction of food or exercising excessively to either lose weight or maintain a weight which is at least 15% below what is normal for the individual’s height and age.  A person with this problem may have a distorted perception of their body (often called ‘mirror-blindness’ or body dysmorphia), whereby they see themselves as too fat despite continuing emaciation
  • Bulimia – When a person compulsively binges on food and then tries to control weight gain by inducing vomiting or using laxatives. Their self-esteem is based excessively on weight and shape or they feel too fat or fear fatness
  • Binge-eating – Excessive overeating without vomiting

What other signs and symptoms are there?

  • An overriding need to lose more weight despite the success of the first few pounds
  • Refusal of food or difficulty eating
  • Preoccupation with food, meal-times, exercise sessions and work routines
  • Over-emphasis on ingredients, fat content, calories, style, shape, look and names of different foods
  • Feeling of being unworthy of food
  • Excessive exercising
  • Fear of eating too much and subsequently eating too little
  • Fear of eating certain foods or all foods
  • Fear of permanent weight gain or fear of being unable to maintain weight, fitness or a particular body shape
  • Use of laxatives and/or induced vomiting to control weight gain after eating

Eating patterns such as these quickly have a damaging impact on physical health, sometimes resulting in tooth decay, kidney damage, bone density loss, high or low blood pressure, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems, stunted growth (in adolescents and teens), depression and if left untreated, can be fatal.

How can counselling and psychotherapy help me with me with an eating disorder?

At Fresh Mind Therapy we help many people with eating disorders and can help you too. We use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence which help to reduce the disorder through these steps:

  • Identifying the underlying causes of your eating issues
  • Examining the thoughts, feelings and behaviours maintaining the disorder
  • Identifying your triggers and improving insight and self-understanding in relation to food
  • Developing healthy eating habits and improved self-image
  • Developing unique coping strategies to overcome negative behaviours such as vomiting, laxative abuse and over-exercise

How long will treatment be and what can I expect in my sessions?

We recommend 16 to 20 sessions over 4 to 5 months, although this may vary according to presenting issues and your individual needs.

3 Phase CBT treatment:

Phase 1:

  • Education about your eating disorder and explanation of self-perpetuating cycles of binge-eating or anorexic behaviour
  • Identification of compensatory behaviours as individual to you

Phase 2:

  • Reducing your dietary restraints
  • Problem solving techniques
  • Thought charts to identify dysfunctional attitudes and beliefs as well as avoidance behaviours

Phase 3:

  • This is the maintenance phase in which your long term food relationship skills are consolidated. Relapse prevention strategies are implemented to prepare for potential set-backs.

Why do eating disorders develop and am I at risk?

Eating disorders are most common in women and are often blamed on pressure from society and the media to be slender and to have a certain body shape. Causes of eating disorders however are complex and there are both biological and psychological factors involved:

  • Family history of eating disorders or other mental health disorders e.g. depression
  • Chronic low self-esteem
  • Excessive concern with weight and body image either by the individual or by their family
  • Early life criticism of eating habits, body shape or weight
  • Past mental health problems e.g. personality disorders, obsessive personality or an anxiety disorder
  • History of sexual abuse or other traumas
  • Current problems in relationships with partners, family members or friends
  • Stressful life events e.g. bereavement, divorce, moving home or problems at work, school or university

If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, get help and support now by getting in touch