Eating disorders cause people to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and themselves. They can affect a person emotionally, physically and socially. The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa.
It’s common to see a person who restricts eating and has anorexic tendencies to begin purging or even binge eating. This can also happen with someone who is purging or binge eating as well.
If you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder we both know that it’s not about the food, however, we use food to numb the pain or we use it to possibly allow us to lose weight by restricting our eating or we use it as a security blanket. There are several reasons that can bring on an eating disorder.
Each person that experiences an eating disorder should be treated individually because no one is the same. The symptoms and the behaviors may be similar, but each person has their own thought process and their own trauma.
If you are anorexic you have such control over not eating that you can go for hours and convince yourself that if you eat you will gain weight. A person who is bulimic may have body image issues and may believe that if they keep the food in their body, they will gain a lot of weight. A person who compulsively overeats may be addicted to sugar or fast food or quantity.
How does food fit into a person’s life who has an eating disorder?
It’s complicated and I believe it’s difficult for most people to understand if they have not had an eating disorder. Food is usually the last thing a person with anorexia wants to hear about from a dietitian, yet it’s what they think about all day long.
A person who purges does not want to hear that they may have more control if they removed the “binge” foods that they use to purge because then their security blanket would be removed, and it would feel very unsafe to them. A binge eater is compulsively overeating possibly sugar, fast food or it could be all the above or any food they compulsively overeat. If a person is reaching out to contemplate changes then it’s important to listen and meet them where they are.
It depends on the person as to what food plan is recommended. With a person who is restricting and is having anorexic behavior, you must gain trust and make food recommendations that they feel comfortable eating. If they are unable to add foods and their weight continues to go down, then they may need treatment so they can regain weight which could save their life.
For a person who is experiencing bulimic behavior or compulsive overeating a structured food plan is important to bring some control back into their life Targeting and removing their “red flag” foods which are foods that trigger them to binge or overeat, is an important part of the recovery.
Balance is also important which means that you include all food groups in the plan. The body needs these foods as they are fuel and nutrients that support the brain. Making sure there are enough protein and fat and complex carbohydrate at each meal helps a person feel more satisfied. Eating foods high in fiber increases fullness.
Learning about serving sizes is also important. A person who is unable to ever feel full may need to be checked for a chemical in-balance. Sugar in the diet needs to decrease. Sugar can bring on cravings and has no nutritional value. It’s also important for a person to have plenty of vitamins and minerals in their diet.
We all know that diets don’t work which means steering away from any fad diet which can only feed the eating disorder. Eating disorders are complicated yet if you work with a therapist and a dietitian who understands and is willing to walk the journey with you then it’s worth choosing a life outside of the eating disorder.
Until next time… remember to eat healthy and move.