Before I specialized in eating disorders, I made the natural assumption that an eating disorder was the result of body dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia is a mental health term. It essentially means a person fixates on a part or parts of their body that they believe have flaws. This can lead to the cycle of food restriction/binge/purge/exercise which further complicates the disorder. It can be more obvious that a person is fighting an eating disorder when they also experience body dysmorphia. But, body dysmorphia IS NOT the only thing that can lead to patterns of disordered eating and body relationships.
Let’s first define and better understand the reality of some disordered eating terms. By doing so, we can talk more about the realities of eating disorders.
Food restriction can look a lot of different ways. The foundation is as it sounds but be clear that sometimes people will restrict only one kind of food for example no carbs. Or, that may restrict calories or they may take on a diet that eliminates many foods so that their experience of food feels restrictive. An example of this could be a person who is dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, grain-free, vegan, etc. Having many food restrictions can satisfy the same core needs as calorie restrictions. This is not to say everyone that has a ‘clean diet’ is experiencing disordered eating. Only that it is one-way eating disorders can be missed because they look like really healthy eating.
Binge eating often is taking in more calories than feels good in a sitting. Or, can simply be eating until you feel uncomfortably full. But, more commonly, people ‘space out’ or what we call disassociate when they binge eat a large quantity of food. This can cause a deep calm but also results in shame, discomfort, and regret.
Purging can be by vomiting, passing stools by using stimulants, enemas, or laxatives or it can by exercising. The kind of purging we see on TV is generally vomiting but especially in athletic areas like parts of Colorado, people can engage in binging and purging by Exercise Bulimia in which most commonly is someone counting calories they eat and making sure they burn enough calories via exercise to feel in control.
Understanding The Realities of Disordered Eating
Often eating disorders are preceded by more fundamental distress like anxiety, trauma, or depression. The disordered eating behavior is actually less about wanting to have one’s body look a certain way. Instead, it is more of a desperate attempt to feel less hard feelings or ideally feel better. Eating disorders are more about attempting to feel safe, in control, or avoiding thinking or feeling than they are about a look.
In a culture that heavily focuses on physical health, we may miss that an individual has an eating disorder because they have a “clean” diet. We may also miss this when the individual is highly active, or perhaps a trained athlete, because they may not present with the same form of shame around their bodies that we stereotype as that of disordered eating. However, an eating disorder is not only the result of body shame, but the result of challenging impulse control, experiencing high impulses, or obsessive tendencies.
Obsessive behaviors around food and exercise can stem from someone feeling out of control in one or more aspects of their lives.
If I am feeling out of control in my marriage, or I cannot reach the performance level I desire, I may choose to control what food I put into my body instead. A person may not necessarily obsess over their body fat, but control their food intake as a means to feel that they have a grasp on the overwhelming things weighing them down.
Disordered eating can also come out of other health problems. If someone has digestive pain or other problems they may find themselves in a pattern of disordered eating. It makes sense. If certain food causes your body to hurt, controlling what you eat creates a sense of safety and security and may be easily overlooked by your healthcare provider. Another example of this may be gut biome disorders. These can often result in a restriction and or binge cycle as people control what they put in their bodies and when as a means to control the gastrointestinal discomfort they feel. In these cases, the controlling food behaviors start as rational, and they become more, as they begin to be a part of how someone experiences their day.
Consider Contacting an Eating Disorder Therapist in Boulder, CO
If you or someone you love falls into one of these categories of eating disorders, working with a mental health professional and a medical team can be crucial for health and wellbeing. Eating disorders are complex. But, they can be successfully treated with psychotherapy in addition to the doctors and dieticians who are compassionate and understanding of the emotional components that make up these disorders and risky behaviors. Eating disorders are tricky. They are one of the rare compulsive behaviors that revolve around someone that we have to do to stay alive. We deserve people around us who can hold the gravity of experiences as well as care for and respect us.
Begin Eating Disorder Treatment in Boulder, CO
You don’t have to struggle with disordered eating alone. Our team of therapists would be happy to provide support in helping you overcome the issues you face. We offer support from our Boulder, CO-based counseling practice, and across the state of Colorado. To begin counseling in Boulder, CO, please follow these simple steps:
- Contact our therapy center to request an appointment.
- Learn more about our therapists and eating disorder treatment.
- Enjoy your relationship with your mind and body.
Other Services Offered at North Boulder Counseling
Our team offers a variety of services both in-person and online in addition to eating disorder treatment. Our counseling practice in Boulder, CO would be happy to support you in overcoming anxiety with our anxiety treatment intensive program. We also offer professional supervision and business coaching for therapists. Mental health services offered include postpartum anxiety treatment, postpartum depression counseling, perinatal support, parenting coaching, grief counseling, trauma treatment and EMDR, depression treatment, teen therapy, LGTBQ counseling, and play therapy. We also offer services geared towards both men and women. Feel free to visit our blog to learn more today!