What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders or disordered eating, relates to how people feel about themselves, their bodies, and food. Usually, there are concerns about body image and a desire to be thinner, and extreme measures can be taken towards this end. Other times, people are over-eating, usually to cope with emotions such as anxiety, depression, or boredom.

What are unhealthy thoughts about food?

People may have unhealthy thoughts about food, for example viewing certain foods as “bad” or “off-limits”. These beliefs around food can actually lead to binge eating, as cravings can intensify when a food is seen as forbidden, because nothing is more appealing than a forbidden fruit… or cupcake.

People may also have thoughts about eating, such as “If I don’t eat it, they will be offended” or “It’s Thanksgiving, I need to eat a lot” or the message many of us grew up with “Kids in Africa are starving, finish everything on your plate!” There are cultural beliefs around food, holidays and celebrations involving food, and family rules about food. There is also social pressure to look a certain way, to be thin in certain areas and bigger in others. It’s no wonder that we can develop unhealthy thoughts about food and what our bodies should look like.

What are unhealthy eating behaviours?

When people feel like their self-worth is tied to how they look, they may engage in extreme or unhealthy behaviours to try and create a body they believe will bring them happiness. Ironically, the more people focus and obsess over their body, food and exercise, the more unhappy they usually become.

Unhealthy eating habits can include things like yo-yo dieting, trying to avoid eating certain foods or trying to eat very little; which can lead to binge eating, throwing up after meals, excessive exercise, or eating in private due to shame or guilt.

For more information on specific eating disorders, please see our pages on:
Anorexia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa
Binge Eating Disorder

How can therapy help you overcome disordered eating?

Treatment for an eating disorder can help you recognize unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviours about foods and your body, so that you can start to cultivate a better relationship with both. Therapy can boost your self-esteem so that you can unlink your self-worth from how you look, and be able to feed yourself foods that nourish both your body and your soul. There are no “good” or “bad” foods, all foods can have their place in a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

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