During eating disorders week it is important to raise awareness of and destigmatise eating disorders. The way you eat can be considered disorderly if it interferes with your everyday life. The ‘beat eating disorders’ website claim that 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder with the most common being;
Binge eating disorder
However the way you eat does not have to have a label to make it an interference in your life. I see clients that have an incredibly healthy diet and eating rhythm all of the time other than on the drive home from work, for example, when they stop daily to buy a chocolate bar (and feel that this is out of their control). I see people that do not binge, snack or eat anything overly unhealthy but cannot leave food on their plate and over eat at every meal because of this. I also see people that regularly ‘treat’ themselves with food. Along with those that eat when they feel stress, anger, sadness, happiness etc. I also work with people that stop eating when they feel these emotions and others that find it difficult to eat regardless of emotion.
More recently I have seen a number of clients that find eating a struggle due to a serious experience with food poisoning. The food poisoning has left them with lower tolerance to certain foods and strong fears of eating, sometimes at all, other times just certain foods. The fear often but not always presents as a fear of getting sick (again).
Although some of my clients define their eating pattern as disordered, most present with a feeling of being out of control. The most commonly used phrase is “I want to stop thinking about food all of the time”. This can be difficult to do in a society where food is not only everywhere we look but a big part of our social culture.
Sometimes eating disorders are conditioned responses, reactions learnt from childhood. Young children are regularly offered sweets to make them “feel better” for example. This can create a link in the brain between sweets and moving from a distressed state to feeling better. The brain may start to call for sweets when distress is felt. Children are very often fed at scheduled times and praised for clearing their plate. Very rarely are children encouraged to listen to their body; stoping when they are full or eating when they feel hungry – something we all do naturally at birth! This can potentially create a need to always clear a plate and ruin the body’s natural ability to understand true feelings of hungry or fullness.
Other times eating disorders are not related to the food at all. There is not a list of reasons that may cause unhealthy relationships with food and I would not wish to try and create one. Every person is an individual with their own personal life experience. The reason may be known or it may be a complete mystery. By seeking support; using hypnotherapy (or other forms of therapy) a better relationship with food can be achieved. Alongside a focus on the eating pattern I also help people to feel motivated to exercise if necessary and make positive, lifelong, changes.
Beat eating disorders.org.uk