We all have to eat to stay alive. For many people food is not just a fuel for their bodies – it may be a source of joy, or a way to celebrate. This is common behaviour - we are designed to find food a pleasure as it keeps us alive. But we also live in a culture where it is common for people to go on diets or work out in order to lose weight to be healthy or to reach a culturally prescribed body shape.
For some people eating ceases to be a pleasure and starts becoming a problem. What distinguishes a “diet” from disordered eating? Usually it is a combination of extremes of eating behaviour and obsessive thinking centred about food, weight and body shape. It is not a diet that has “gone too far”. For many people it starts out as a way of dealing with difficult emotions and becomes a dangerous addiction.
Anorexia is a term used to describe when someone severely restricts the amount of food they eat (and may also over exercise). This leads to rapid weight loss, culminating in an unhealthy weight which causes other health and psychological problems. A person with anorexia may view it as a “friend” and try and hide it from those close to them. They may experience pressure from concerned loved ones to try and eat more, but they find this almost impossible.
The term orthorexia covers an eating disorder where the person is controlled by the need to eat a “clean diet”. The person may cut out entire food groups to the extent that they are eating a very restricted and regimented diet. They may avoid social events if food is present.
Bulimia is the title given to eating a lot of food in a short space of time followed by either vomiting or taking laxatives (or both). Although sufferers may be of a normal weight, the illness can cause other health problems such as dental problems and heart conditions.
Binge eating disorder is when a person may eat a lot of food over a short space of time (a binge). This may be followed by a period of normal or restricted eating.
Being overweight does not necessarily mean you have an eating disorder. But to become overweight often means that people are eating for emotional reasons, rather than just hunger. Diets may not seem to work and if you are significantly overweight you may encounter prejudice from the "thin obsessed" culture that we live in.
You may be reading this because you are concerned about yourself or a loved one. It may be that you don’t know exactly what’s wrong but you do know that thoughts about food and eating are taking up too much of your life. You may have recently felt concern about what you’re doing, or it may feel like a longstanding problem. Counselling and psychotherapy can help you find your way out of these issues.
We work with people with emotional eating problems, eating disorders and obesity issues.