Edwina Hawkridge Counselling in Stamford, and City of London

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It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week - 26th February to Sunday 4th March 2018. As a counsellor who works in this specialist area and with obesity it is always heart-warming to see a matter close to my heart have a light shone on it by the media.
Did you know that 79% of adults asked in a yougov survey in 2018 could not name psychological symptoms of eating disorders? Read on to become part of the other 21%.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are well documented, with more awareness growing about Orthorexia, Binge Eating Disorders and others. People don’t always connect the dots that they have an eating disorder which may be driving their weight issues as they are treated for a bad back, achy knee, depression or weight related symptoms instead of the underlying cause EATING DISORDERS!


1) Preoccupation with weight loss & dieting

I am told there are a few people out there that have never embarked on a diet, if however you are like the other 99% of us then you have tried the plethora of diets out there from cabbage soup to weight watchers. It’s alarming to know that dieting behaviour can be a precursor to eating disorders in some people. A preoccupation with weight loss, dieting and control over food move to being primary concerns you spend most of your time thinking about food and the next meal sometimes obsessively planning it or planning how to avoid it. A preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams and dieting to the point where it becomes obsessive should set off alarm bells. It’s easy to see why dieting can lead to this mentality as there isn’t a diet in existence where you’re not measuring fat, carbs, calories, sugar or all of the above in order to restrict food intake.

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2) Frequent Checking

The preoccupation with weight, shape and size leads people to consistently check in the mirror for flaws. ‘Fun’ fact the longer you look in a mirror the more flaws you pick up and the fatter your brain perceives your body to be (Fairburn) once these flaws have been established they is hard for the brain to forget. So each cycle of checking just brings more and more unhappiness and perceived flaws which become distorted. This is being seen more and more in young people and the amount of selfies they take in a day. Frequent checking is part and parcel of low self-esteem a huge driver in eating disorders.

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3) Secrecy

Pretty much every eating disorder out there comes with an element of secrecy whether that is hiding food to eat later, eating large amounts of food alone, not eating enough and lying about it sprinkling crumbs around so that it looks like meals have been eaten when they haven’t. Eating disorders foster secrecy as they can come hand in hand with great dollops of shame. Eating disorders are great at isolating their sufferers and keeping them tracked in their eating disorder dishonesty.

4) Mood

Eating disorder affect sleep and energy levels through flooding the system with high fat high sugar calories (binges) or through starvation (Anorexia) Both play havoc with your hormonal system. The binges surge sugar into your blood stream making your blood sugar level spike, and then drop, when you hit a drop in your energy levels it has you reaching for the chocolate which starts the cycle again. Mood swings follow the patterns of the peaks and troughs with aggression or ‘hangry’ levels rising when your body craves energy.
At the other end of the scale lack of food means that your body is fasting, by not breaking the fast by eating cortisol and other stress hormone levels remain high which make you irritable. Your mother really wasn’t lying when she said breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it is for this very reason.

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5) Critical Voice

The voice is often talked about; it is critical, brutal and mean. Often urging individuals to feel guilt and shame around food and body image. Imagine carrying that critical voice everywhere every decision you make regarding food or exercise reminding you how worthless you are it chips away at your self-esteem which leads people to overeat or starve as both have a way of numbing unbearable emotions. The critical voice can lead to feelings of defeat, helplessness and miserableness.

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6) Isolation

Eating disorders are very adept at keeping their sufferers caught in a cycle of isolation. Our culture is built around socialising with food. People with eating disorders can become very anxious around food whether there is a risk of a binge or fear of eating the food itself to the point where they stop socialising where food is involved and start making excuses

7) Control

Whether it is lack of being able to stop eating when binging or extreme control over the small amounts of food consumed eating disorders and control have a tricky relationship that needs to be unpicked in therapy.

Getting Help

Preoccupation with weight and shape checking, obsessing over food coupled with a critical voice would suggest that an eating disorder is present which years of dieting may have made worse as a history of disordered eating by excluding some food groups puts you at risk of developing an eating disorder.

If you think you may have an eating disorder It is always worth getting specialist help sooner rather than later.

If you think that I may be able to help you as a counsellor working with disordered eating, overweight and obesity issues as well as eating disorders feel free to get in touch by email: [email protected] I have trained with The National Centre for Eating Disorders, the primary organisation in the UK who work with people who struggle with these issues, to use an evidence based approach to help you tackle these issues.

Your GP is also a good port of call; they should be able to point you in the direction of an eating disorders service.

The Counselling Directory Website will help you identify counsellors trained to deal with this specialist area of therapy.

Beat is a charity that offers information and support around eating disorders. Beat Website.

Christopher Fairburn – Overcoming Binge Eating

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