Eating Disorders and How Counseling can Help

Who doesn’t want to be body beautiful? We want to be racing a la Katy Perry in our skin tight jeans, and we want to answer “yes!” to The Pussy Cat Dolls’ question: “Doncha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” Every day, we are bombarded by images of models and celebrities in their form-fitting clothes and hunks with six pack abs.

There is this constant pressure to look good – which includes having those curves at the right places. This is a time when gyms, fitness trainers, diet programs and the entire fitness industry are doing good business. Indeed, we tend to go on a diet or take on a physical fitness program to look the best we can.

However, this search for the perfect body may leave us vulnerable to an insidious problem – eating disorders. To be sure, eating disorders are rooted in a number of factors, not just the search for body beautiful. These factors include a poor self and body image, the family environment, life events and many more. There are also instances where food is used as a coping mechanism to those who are overwhelmed by the pressures they are facing in life. Needless to say, food becomes the focal point of one’s attention to the point where this pre-occupation results in damaging behaviors. The obsession with food, weight and a great body also affects one’s ability to see themselves in a more objective manner.

Eating Disorder Facts

Below are the most common types of eating disorders:

–          Anorexia. This is rooted in a distorted body image where one see himself or herself as being “too fat”, never “thin enough”. Because of this, those stricken with anorexia may starve themselves and may sometimes also exercise obsessively to the point where their bodies are gaunt and underweight. Anorexia nervosa produces serious damage to the body which can even end in death.

–          Bulimia. This is marked by the compulsion to go on an eating binge and then purge what was eaten to avoid gaining the weight. Bulimics may make use of diet pills, laxative or vomit inducing tools for them to get rid of the possible weight gain as a result of the eating binge.

–          Binge eating disorder. This is marked by a compulsion to overeat, even when one is already full. The urge to overeat is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and self-disgust, which perpetuates the vicious cycle as the more one feels bad, the harder it is to resist the compulsion to eat.

These eating disorders do not just strike women. These past few years has seen an increase in the existence of eating disorders in men. Based on statistics provided by the National Eating Disorder Association, there are ten million Americans with an eating disorder. This translates to some 10 to 15% of the population having some type of eating disorder.

Statistics also show that the eating disorders may last for one to 15 years, or even longer. If the case is serious enough and no moves are taken to treat the disorder, health consequences are irreversible, where 5 to 10% of those with anorexia die after ten years and 18 to 20% of those in anorexia die after 20 years since contracting this illness.

Signs of Eating Disorders

As parents and for our own health, we should be alert to spot signs of an eating disorder. Here are some of them:

–          Unhealthy pre-occupation with weight and dieting. This involves an obsession with counting calories, ensuring that one gains or losses a certain amount of weight and constant dieting, even when they are objectively within their ideal weight.

–          Change in eating behavior. An anorexic may avoid eating with the family or any social event that involves eating. A bulimic person will often ask to be excused and will make trips to the bathroom immediately after a meal. Those with a binge eating disorder may try hoarding food or eating alone. Food may also mysteriously “disappear” from cupboards and refrigerators and food wrappers may be found under the pillow, inside pockets and so on.

–          Physical signs. This includes the growth of hair in unusual places like the face, absence of menstruation, swelling of the glands that result in one’s looking like a chipmunk, poor teeth, complaints about stomach aches or dizziness and blood shot eyes. Bulimics are also marked by poor dental hygiene and cracked lips as a result of self-induced vomiting.

–          Compulsive and often excessive exercising, even in bad weather.

–          Rapid and unusual weight loss or gain.

–          Use of diuretics, diet pills and laxatives. Those who are diabetic may try to avoid taking in their required dose of insulin.

–          Evidence of purging. There are signs of vomiting or the use of enemas in the bathroom.

Getting help

Eating disorders are best identified and treated while it is still early and the physical effects are not yet serious. Those with eating disorders will benefit from counseling and therapy during this time. This will help those with an eating disorder come to terms with the reasons behind the behavior and equip themselves with tools to help them towards positive and healthy behaviors.

However, it is also important to remember that those with eating disorders are struggling and may be wary about getting help. There may even be some who will resist getting help. Although it is beneficial to get your loved one or friend into a therapist in Utah as early as possible, you must be exercise caution when you approach and communicate with the loved one concerned.  You must remember not to be confrontational, but instead calm, respectful, loving and positive.

With the help of an experienced counselor or therapist, one can address issues of poor body image, which is commonly the root of the eating disorder. The therapist in Provo can also help the patient through feelings of confusion, shame and loneliness that result from the eating disorder. The therapist can provide cognitive-behavioral therapy to help those with eating disorders to be aware of negative thoughts and behavior and how to counter them with positive coping tools. This may also include education and equipping on issues such as good nutrition and healthy ways to manage one’s weight.

For those who are looking for a therapist in Provo, Utah, be sure to visit Dr. Triston Morgan’s office for an initial consultation on how one can get help for an eating disorder. Dr. Morgan specializes in providing a positive, non-confrontational environment as therapy is provided for a patient’s recovery.


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