Do I have an eating disorder?
Worried you have an eating disorder? Not sure how you get one, or what it means? TheSite is here to help.
If you're reading this page you're probably a bit worried about your relationship with food. You've come to the right place. We talked to psychotherapist Andrea Scherzer about eating disorders and how to spot the warning signs.
Do I have an eating disorder?
Here are some questions to ask yourself to examine how you feel about life and food.
- How do you feel in yourself at the moment? Are you upset? Feeling pressured?
- Have your eating habits changed recently?
- Has your thinking around food changed?
- Have you become preoccupied with food and counting calories?
- Are you avoiding certain situations that involve food, like going out for meals with friends?
- Have you starting skipping meals, binging on food, or throwing up after eating?
If you answered 'yes' to a lot of these questions it doesn't automatically mean you have an eating disorder. So don't panic. But it may be a sign you need to explore what's going on in your head.
"People can flirt with disordered eating," says Andrea. "Often they'll get bored of it, and it doesn't push them over the edge. But when food starts interfering with your life and becomes the sole focus of your thinking, then it's worth seeking help."
What is an eating disorder?
"An eating disorder is a psychological problem with physiological symptoms," says Andrea.
They almost always stem from you not being happy, or feeling like your life is out of control. Maybe something's going on at home, or you're feeling really stressed about exams or grieving for someone who's died. What's important to remember about eating disorders is that they're all to do with your head, although you're focusing on your body.
"Controlling your body can sometimes feel like the only thing you have control over. It's simplistic, but it's true," says Andrea.
Do I need help?
You don't have to be mega thin to have an eating disorder. You could be overweight, a 'healthy' BMI, or even have a celebrity-type body of perfection. The truth is, if you've become obsessive with what you weigh - thinking if you get to a certain weight, or if your thighs or chest look a particular way then everything will be better, and it's controlling your life - then you have disordered eating, and probably need help.
What should I do if I think I have an eating disorder?
The best thing to do is talk to someone you trust about what's going on. They can help you decide whether it's serious or not. (It's impossible to do this by yourself because you're used to your own behaviour by this point.)
"People often feel ashamed that they've lost control," says Andrea. "But there's nothing to be ashamed of. You're going through a tough time and you just need to talk to someone."
If you decide you need treatment for your disordered eating, you need to tell your GP. We know this can be daunting, but your GP is the gateway to all the possible available treatment options. You can bypass them and seek help and treatment privately, but this is usually quite expensive.
Can I cure myself of an eating disorder?
"The only way help works is if the person gets to a point in their own behaviour that's so problematic and their lives are so messy, they don't want to live like that anymore," says Andrea.
If you've come to this point on your own, there are things you can try to improve your thinking around food. We really recommend you check out the Beat website, or ring their helpline on 0845 634 1414.
It's difficult to 'cure' disordered eating by yourself, but Andrea recommends that if you've cut out a food group, or are regularly missing a meal, you start by trying to set yourself obtainable goals.
For instance, try, 'I'm going to eat carbs three times a week' or 'I'm going to make sure I eat three meals a day, five days a week'. If you're able to achieve these goals, you'll hopefully realise that the world didn't collapse in on itself, you didn't suddenly become morbidly obese overnight.
However, it's likely you'll need support alongside this, so at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, don't be afraid to talk to someone or go to your GP.
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