Eating problems permeate all aspects of your life; they have profound effects on your life and the life of your loved ones. They are caused by a variety of emotional factors and influences.
Having an eating problem is more than just being on a diet.
Having an eating problem is about trying to make your whole life better through food and eating (or lack of). It is about how life won’t be good until weight has been lost and having no concern for how you do this; being convinced that your self esteem is dependent on how you look and what you weigh.
Eating problems are about attempting to control your life and emotions through food or lack of food.
The person affected by Anorexia may be extremely sensitive about being perceived as fat (viewing themselves as fat or being perceived by others as fat), or being extremely fearful of gaining weight. Not all people affected by anorexia have this fear. They may just be afraid to lose control over the amounts they eat, accompanied by the intense desire to control their emotions and reactions to their emotions through lack of food.
They will turn to obsessive dieting and starvation as a way to not only control their weight, but their feelings and actions regarding the emotions attached. Some also feel that they might not deserve pleasure out of life and will deprive themselves of pleasure (including food).
Bulimia is defined by bingeing and purging episodes – eating large quantities of food in a relatively short period of time – then inducing vomiting or taking laxatives. You might be feeling overwhelmed in coping with emotions or punishing yourself for something you might be unrealistically blame yourself for. Binging and purging can be used to avoid or let out feeling or anger, depression, stress or anxiety. Some also use excessive exercise or starvation following a binge instead of purging; it is also not uncommon to take diet pills to avoid bingeing or use diuretics to lose weight. Often large amounts of food are stored for future binges- unbeknown to people close.
Compulsive overeating is characterized as ‘addiction’ to food – using food and eating as a way to hide from emotions, to fill a void (i.e. a need for love or affection) or to cope with daily stresses and problems in life. They might not feel ‘good enough’, feeling ashamed for being overweight and have low self esteem – then use food and eating to cope with these feelings, which only continues the cycle. Often overeaters ‘hide’ behind their physical appearance – using it to block others/society out (common in survivors of sexual abuse).
It is important to remember that most eating problems through their signs and symptoms might be different – however they share a great number of common causes and emotional aspects. Low self esteem is inherently present in all eating problems.
Here are some questions for you to consider if you think you/or someone close to you might have an eating problem:
- Do you think people would like you more if you were thin/thinner?
- Do you constantly compare yourself to others (weight and appearance?)
- Do you continuously feel that you are overweight even if you have been told that you are not?
- Do people close to you often express concern for your weight loss/gain, your appearance or eating habits?
- Do you often feel numb or empty inside, like a big void – something is missing and try to fill this void with food?
- Are you good at convincing yourself that you do not deserve to eat/be happy?
- Do you eat, starve, deprive yourself of food, binge or purge or exercise compulsively when you feel lonely, depressed or can’t cope with emotional pressures? Is this followed by excessive guilt?
- Do often feel you are not in control when eating?
- Do you hide your eating habits from others and when questioned just pretend to be on a diet?