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Eating Disorders Counselling

An eating disorder is defined as an abnormal or disturbed pattern of food consumption.  However, an eating disorder is not only about eating, it is also related to how an individual feels about themselves and copes with stress.  In addition to disturbed eating, individuals suffering from eating disorders often have concerns over their body size and shape, in addition to a distorted view of their own body size and characteristics.

According to a study performed by the Government of Canada in 2002, 1.5% of Canadian women aged 15-24 years has struggled with an eating disorder.  However, eating disorders are not limited to this age and gender group – they can affect any gender, age, and lifestyle.

There are several types of eating disorders, however for this article we will focus on the three main types: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (BED).

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (or just anorexia) is characterized by the refusal to eat or consuming an extremely restricted number of calorie in a day.  Individuals with anorexia often have an extreme loss of appetite, which can lead to malnutrition, dangerous weight loss and, in extreme cases, death.  Anorexia can stem from a fear of being overweight, which can exhibit as weighing oneself multiple times a day, constantly looking in mirrors and trying on clothes to see how they fit.  Individuals suffering from anorexia often see themselves as overweight when in fact they are not.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa (or just bulimia) is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating, followed by a focus of removing the food consumed from the body.  In purging bulimia, the food is removed by purging, either by forced vomiting or the use of laxatives.  In non-purging bulimia, individuals focus on burning off the food consumed through excess exercise.  Similar to those suffering from anorexia, individuals with bulimia often show preoccupation with their body size and weight.  In addition to significant weight loss and potential malnutrition, purging bulimia using forced vomiting can also lead to tooth decay, as well as irritated membranes in the esophagus, throat and mouth.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge eating disorder (or BED) is characterized by the consumption of a large amount of food in a short period of time.  This disorder is most common in compulsive eaters, whom often eat alone out of the embarrassment of their eating habits and amount of food consumed.  Binge eating disorder can lead to weight problems, as well as feelings of depression and shame.

Symptoms

Symptoms of an eating disorder can vary depending on the disorder.  However, there are a few general symptoms that could indicate disordered eating:

  • Skipping meals or making excuses to not eat
  • Eating alone or in secret
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Extreme and / or unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive exercise
  • Obsession with weight and body size

Treatment

There are many different types of treatment for eating disorders.  Different therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help provide individuals with coping skills to work through their problems, and provide skills to manage future problems.

Support groups can help individuals as well, as eating disorders can lead to a sense of isolation.  Knowing that one is not alone and there are others struggling with the same problems can be very comforting.

How can Living Well help?

If you are suffering from an eating disorder, or are concerned that a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, the first step is to confide in someone who you trust.  Several of our counsellors use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy treatment as part of their integrative approach to healing and have experience treating eating disorders.  We offer a free 20 minute consultation to all prospective clients to help you find the counsellor that would be the best fit for your goals.