What is an eating issue?

Humans eat to provide their bodies with nutrients and energy necessary for survival.  Eating is classified as a ‘basic need’ which humans fulfil in order to maintain physiological wellbeing, however, eating behaviours are different for everyone, ranging from healthy to unhealthy habits and in some cases, eating disorders.  

It is important to note that disordered eating behaviours such as skipping breakfast on most days, do not necessarily indicate an eating disorder.  It is normal for people to go through phases of eating more or less, or changing the types of food they eat depending on various biological, psychological and social factors.  Whereas, there are certain negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours a person can experience which may be signs of an eating issue or eating disorder.  An eating issue is often defined as a difficult relationship with food or the process of eating, including the following:

  • Drastic changes in appetite (reduced or increased interest in food)
  • Preoccupation with specific foods or cravings
  • Emotion based or ‘comfort’ eating 
  • Difficulty eating
  • Food phobias, including fear of swallowing, being sick or choking (see section on phobias)
  • Sticking to certain food groups (may eat the same meals everyday)
  • Difficulty eating in public 
  • Difficulty living with a medical issue which impacts upon eating habits (Diabetes, IBS)

What are Eating disorders?

Whereas, eating disorders are a group of mental health conditions whereby eating behaviours are manipulated according to negative thoughts or feelings experienced.  Anyone can have an eating disorder, although, they often emerge in teenage years and can resurface intermittently throughout life particularly during difficult times where distress levels are high.  

Research suggests that the control or loss of control people with eating disorders have over eating serves to cope with unpleasant emotions or situations.  However, these unhealthy behaviours become reinforced and habitual over time which can pose serious risks to health if treatment is not sought.  The most common eating disorders include the following:

  • Anorexia nervosa: Food intake is restricted and/or exercise is excessive in attempt to keep weight as low as possible- often due to poor or distorted self-image.  This can result in dangerous levels of malnutrition due to prolonged starvation.
  • Bulimia: Characterised by periods of loss of control over eating, whereby lots of food is consumed within a short  amount of time (binging), followed by a process of ‘purging’ – deliberately inducing vomiting, using laxatives, restricting what you eat, or doing too much exercise to try to stop yourself gaining weight.  The binge-purge cycle can result in damage to vital organs, particularly the digestive system and may heavily impact upon social life.
  • Binge eating disorder (BED): Eating large quantities of food within a short time (often alone) and feeling unable to stop despite being full.   Often results in feeling uncomfortably full or bloated, as well as negative emotions of guilt or shame.  
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID): When individuals avoid certain foods and/or restricts intake but NOT due to concerns about weight or body image.  ARFID can be triggered by traumatic experiences with food such as choking or being sick after eating something.  This disorder can heavily impact upon leading a healthy lifestyle as eating options become increasingly limited and/or avoidance of social eating occurs.  
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED): When symptoms do not match those typical of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, for example, ‘Night eating syndrome’ or ‘Atypical Anorexia’.  OSFED is the most common eating disorder and it is by no means less serious than other eating disorders.

Please note that there are many risk factors for eating disorders which are useful to consider if you are concerned about your eating behaviours.  You may be more likely to develop an eating disorder if:

  • You or a member of your family has a history of eating disorders, depression, alcohol or drug addiction
  • You have been criticised or bullied for your eating habits, body shape or weight
  • You are overly concerned with your weight and/or body image
  • You have anxiety, low self-esteem, an obsessive personality or are a perfectionist
  • You have been sexually abused 
  • You have a dysfunctional family dynamic or toxic relationship
  • You have family and childhood traumas (i.e. childhood sexual abuse or severe neglect)

Online therapy for eating issues

If you have identified with any of the above and suspect that you have an eating issue or disorder, it is recommended that you explore your symptoms with your GP first to assess the health risks involved and establish an appropriate treatment or intervention suited to your needs.  

Particularly with diagnosed eating disorders a ‘multi-agency’ approach involving professional treatment teams that specialise in physical and psychological aspects of eating disorders can be necessary.  This is due to the severe and complex nature of these conditions which often require specific evidence-based interventions that are only be provided in specific settings/services to achieve comprehensive recovery and healing.  

If you have already sought medical advice, online therapy is a highly recommended treatment option for those wishing to work through eating issues and where appropriate, eating disorders.  You and your therapist will collaborate on a therapeutic plan which enables you to explore various approaches and find out how they might help you achieve your goals.  In most cases, an integrative approach which incorporates Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Compassion Focussed therapy (CFT) helps develop a better understanding of the issue as well as alter any unhealthy perceptions or thoughts to create a better relationship with food, eating and self.   

Furthermore, therapy can be helpful in addressing the underlying causes of specific eating behaviours, such as restriction or binging which might be due to poor self-image or in response to trauma(s).  In therapy you have the opportunity to fully express how you feel without judgement and replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with new alternatives that promote long-term, sustainable wellbeing.  

No-Obligation discussion

Free initial telephone discussion

If you are looking for online therapy please contact Teresa Lewis for a 15 minute no obligation discussion. Teresa is a BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor and Psychotherapist so she will be able to briefly discuss your issues, answer questions and explain more about how online therapy can address eating issues and if online therapy is the right treatment choice for you.  At this time you can decide whether you would like to book an appointment. The discussion is conducted without any obligation to book an appointment.

Make an appointment for online therapy

If you would like to make an appointment for online therapy please call: 01902 827808.  Alternatively, fill out our online contact form and we will contact you within 24 hours.

Medical disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice by a qualified doctor