Most of us, in our modern, post-industrial, western culture are having difficulty in maintaining an appropriate relationship with food.
Many of us are eating more than we should and many of us are trying to negate the effects by dieting. Others are endlessly anxious about their weight, shape, and size and are involved in an eternal battle with their need for food. Many of us know that our food choices are not good for our health but find it difficult to improve our diet. Many of us have learned how to count calories; we mostly know what we should eat, even if we do not, and many of us spend quite a lot of our lives worrying about having eaten too much.
Many people have a challenging experience that although they know exactly what they should be eating, they cannot manage to follow their good advice. They are also constantly preoccupied with anxieties about food, weight, shape, and size, to the point that these worries interfere with their everyday functioning. Eating disorders thus can be defined as serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights. They ascend from an amalgamation of long-term behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors.
Eating disorders can be classified into:
- Anorexia Nervosa: A person with anorexia nervosa struggles to maintain a healthy weight and can result in unhealthy, often dangerous weight loss. They lose weight by starving themselves, exercising excessively, or using laxatives, vomiting, or other methods to purge themselves after eating.
- Bulimia Nervosa: A person with bulimia nervosa can become lost in a risky cycle of out-of-control eating and efforts to compensate which can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and disgust. These behaviors can become more obsessive and intense over time, and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about eating (or not eating), weight loss, dieting, and body image.
Binge-Eating Disorder: People with Binge Eating disorder cannot stop themselves from constantly overeating, even though they feel miserable and ashamed afterward. They tend to eat quickly and without being aware of how much or what they have eaten and usually consume large quantities of food when they are not hungry
One of the newly developed approaches used to treat Eating Disorders is Enhanced Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT-E) which focuses on gaining a mutual understanding of the person’s eating problem and helping him or her alter and alleviate their pattern of eating. It also involves tackling concerns about shape and eating; enhancing the ability to deal with daily events and moods, and addressing extreme dietary restraint and concerns about weight.
Some of the other treatment approaches can include Dialectical Behavior therapy and Interpersonal therapy.
A combination of well–structured and strategic treatment approaches will help the individual have the best chance of recovery and can help one manage symptoms, return to a healthy weight, and maintain their physical and mental health.
Gauri Mathur is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). One of Gauri’s areas of specialization include eating disorders. Gauri uses evidence-based modalities and an integrative approach in order to help her clients receive treatment that is personalized to their unique needs.