If you have an eating disorder remember these 5 things

help for people with eating disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions. People with an eating disorder struggle with invasive thoughts and anxiety that drives them towards damaging and even life threatening behaviours. To help you fight these thoughts and anxieties I look at 5 things to remember.

You have value and deserve help

It can be really hard when you know you have a very difficult relationship with food but find it impossible to get access to help.

Many of my patients don’t meet criteria for NHS commissioned services. There is just not enough support to go round. It can be equally difficult to get funding from private insurance.

Patients then feel that they don’t deserve help. Eating disorders and other mental health conditions echo this message in sufferers’ heads, exacerbating their sense of being alone and having little value as a person.

I frame my programmes for eating disorders as being about re-discovering or in some cases discovering yourself and your value. We start by exploring hopes and dreams for the future. Gradually people begin to see that the eating disorder is robbing them of these dreams and that food freedom is the route to living their best life. This shift in mindset can really help people move away from destructive eating disorder behaviours to making more constructive choices.

There are fresh opportunities every day

Another mindset change needed for a positive relationship with food is to move away from thinking in terms of success and failure and towards looking for fresh opportunities.

The opportunity to make a positive choice about what you eat and drink comes several times a day everyday. Every meal and snack is a fresh start.

The tag line with Eating Mindset is “Fresh Thinking for Eating.” Find some fresh thinking and you will find freedom in a more positive relationship with food.

If you want control reject the demands of the eating disorder

If you have an eating disorder the voice in your head will try to convince you that the eating disorder is beneficial. One of the things my patients almost always say is that they feel the eating disorder is giving them control.

This is understandable as people are often struggling with many aspects of life that leave them feeling out of control. Controlling food and weight can seem like a release.

However, as we explore this, it gradually becomes clear that the eating disorder is in control and has robbed the person of their ability to set direction for their life.

Eating disorders make numerous demands. If you can move away from them and towards freedom to make your own choices you will regain personal control. This is not an easy process but the volume and frequency of the eating disorder’s demands tend to reduce the more you choose freedom.

We eat for joy as well as health

Eating provides nourishment and that empowers our bodies to function well, enabling us to live our lives.

However, with all the media and social media noise about the impact of food on our bodies it’s easy to feel afraid of food and forget that eating is also a joyful, social activity.

It’s important to savour the flavours, aromas, textures, varying temperatures and colours of food. Whatever your nutritional needs it’s possible to find a way to do this.

I help my patients develop personalised menus that they can use for meal planning. These are always focused around their sensory preferences as well as their nutritional needs. This is important for everyone but comes into particular focus for people with sensory processing challenges and people with ARFID.

It’s important to discover positive actions in response to difficult feelings

Feelings both positive and difficult are helpful. We need to take time to understand what we’re feeling and step away from the temptation to numb them. Feeling allows us to begin to process what we’re going through.

To develop and maintain a positive relationship with food, it’s also critical to explore the behaviours that our feelings are driving. Feelings are in part intended to help us choose behaviours that lead to safety. However, in eating disorders and emotional eating, feelings lead to destructive behaviours.

Part of recovery is learning to experience difficult feelings and choose positive, protective behaviours that nurture you. Work with your treatment team to uncover positive actions that make sense in the context of difficult feelings.

If you are struggling with your relationship with food please reach out for help here.

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