Our relationship to food begins early in life and seems to be particularly vulnerable in puberty when our bodies are changing and our focus starts to move away from family to our peer group. We see other vulnerable periods of time such as college, pregnancy and postpartum, and midlife.
We live in a dieting culture that encourages striving for perfection that usually cannot be achieved so we are never really satisfied with where we are right now. Disordered eating can start as dieting and take on a life of its own. Over time more of our time and energy is focused on what we are eating, how much we are eating and starts to impact our physical health, our ability to think, our mood, and our relationships.
The Environment Meets Biology Creating Vulnerability for Eating Disorders
We are all born with a temperament. You may be anxious, shy, slow to warm up, easy going, highly sensitive, not liking change.
If you grow up in an environment that is validating and helps support you navigate life stressors and changes you are less vulnerable to unhealthy coping skills. These validating environments help you develop resources and strategies to be able to identify, express and regulate emotions in effective ways for your temperament. These strategies help foster a stable self image and healthy self-esteem.
Some Environments Are Toxic, Feeding Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating
Others grow up in environments that are stressful or invalidating. There may be a lot of criticism, expectations to be perfect, bullying, trauma, pattern of dieting, stress around a life transition leading to the development of eating disorder to cope.
Eating disorders are ultimately not about food or how we look. If we peel back the layers we see feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, searching for a sense of control, wanting to be loved and accepted, unresolved trauma.
Common Signs of an Eating Disorder
While many people may have some unhealthy eating habits, here are some of the most common symptoms we see in our therapy practice that are red flags for a possible eating disorder:
Skipping meals or making excuses for not eating
Adopting an overly restrictive vegetarian diet
Excessive focus on healthy eating
Making own meals rather than eating what the family eats
Withdrawing from normal social activities
Persistent worry or complaining about being fat and talk of losing weight
Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high-fat foods
Use of dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss
Calluses on the knuckles from inducing vomiting
Problems with loss of tooth enamel that may be a sign of repeated vomiting
Leaving during meals to use the toilet
Eating much more food in a meal or snack than is considered normal
Expressing depression, disgust, shame or guilt about eating habits
Eating in secret
There is Hope! Eating Disorder Treatment Can Help
After reading all of those signs/symptoms, it would be easy to feel hopeless. But, please know that we have helped people just like you feel more connected to others, less anxious and less triggered by the events in their lives that caused the eating disorder in the first place. Even if you can't currently see a way out of this darkness, we can help you feel more equipped to face life with more hope and less fear.
It takes a village, a community. If you have concerns about yourself or a family member please contact us.
The Mindful and Multicultural Approach to Eating Disorder Therapy
At our Ewing, NJ counseling center, we are committed to help you move from surviving to thriving. In order to do this, we provide an integrated approach to eating disorder treatment. This type of therapy recognizes that you need a team to help you recover from an eating disorder and find health at any size.
A treatment team would normally include:
a therapist with a good understanding of eating disorders (what they are, what causes them, and how to get better; find health at any size)
a medical provider (check on how you are doing physically as eating disorders can create a lot of medical problems)
a nutritionist/registered dietitian (educate you on nutrition and the best meal plan to support your recovery and lifestyle; make sure you are properly fueling)
psychiatric provider (explore if medications can help you manage urges, address underlying anxiety or depression, reduce obsessive thinking)
support system (whether that is support group, family therapy, yoga or meditation)
While we don't offer all of this in our practice we can help you build your team and guide your treatment so that members of your team talk to each other to support your healing journey.
Begin Eating Disorder Therapy in Ewing, NJ
There is a path to recovery from an eating disorder. Counseling can help you feel more hopeful and in control of your life. Our Mercer County counseling clinic has skilled and caring therapists who specialize in treatment of eating disorders. To start your journey of recovery follow these simple steps: