Eating Disorders Answers

How do I stop my anxious attachment to food?

First I want to say how great it is that you were able to share that information, it is not easy and the noted anxiety that it feels to just get that off of our chests is a big thing that you can feel proud of.  When it comes to these kinds of situations, to really process fully there would need to be some additional information identified, such as, what has been going on outside of the food situation that is triggering higher anxiety, is there any history of eating disorder, any trauma history, level of support that you have and even any counseling history. These things all play a role in the overall process to be able to identify the best course of action to work on addressing this. However, there are general concepts that can be applied.  One thing that we look at when it comes to food, is that this is an area of our lives that we can naturally control. Typically, no matter what else is going on in life that might fall out of my control, what and how much I eat is something that I get to decide upon. So when there are other areas of my life that I feel like I am losing control of, we might naturally regress to disordered eating. Once we start this as a habit to cope, then it can easily transition into something else that we no longer have any control over. Food can be seen as an addiction just like a drug or alcohol can. Our body gets to a place where we have physical cravings and emotional drops when we are not able to get as much as we feel like we want/need.  When we can take a step back and look at the external factors that are going on in life that are triggering us to feel so anxious, one of the best ways to address this is to look into counseling that is specifically focused on disordered eating, as it comes with its own challenges, and someone who specializes is going to be able to give you the best insight into what can help the most. One of the things that they will likely look at is identification of alternatives that we can put in place rather than eating. It is much too big of a task to just stop doing something, but working to be able to replace it with something else is a much more achievable task. This could be anything ranging from some art activity, time outside, taking a walk, reading, a craft, whatever activity that you genuinely can enjoy and be able to put healthy focus into rather than feeling that pull to go and overeat. We also look to identify and implement healthy ways of coping with anxiety, including guided imagery, deep breathing, meditation, etc. When we are feeling anxious, if we have a healthy way of coping with that, then we are less motivated or less stressed to feel like we have to regress to eating.  One of the biggest things about food that we also have to take into consideration, is that unlike a drug or alcohol, food is not something that we can completely cut out. We physically need it to survive. An alcoholic can get rid of all the drinks in their home to resist temptation, but you will inevitably be around and exposed to food all throughout the day. Working to keep healthy options in the home and eliminating some of the things that we eat out of habit and comfort that are not as good for us can really be a healthy way to get started as well.  The main thing that I would encourage is looking to continue forward with the counseling process and working to identify a therapist that has experience in food related stressors so that you can feel both supported and understood as you take on the process of eliminating this habit and replacing it with healthy means of coping with anxiety and being able to live life to the fullest. Wishing you all the best!. 
Answered on 10/27/2022

How to deal with depression

Hi Pachita, That is a lot of loss to deal with in such a short time.  It's no wonder you feel depressed.  Grief and depression are closely related, kind of like "soul sisters." This is a time to be very gentle with yourself and invest heavily in your own self-care.  It may take some time before you feel like "yourself" again, and you will be changed by this experience, you cannot help but be changed by this experience.  Are there people in your life that can support you right now? It is ok to lean on others in times like this.  It might also be helpful to join a grief support group,  sometimes local hospitals offer them, usually for free or a very nominal cost.  While you may feel like being alone, isolating yourself can feed depression, so try to reach out to people in your life who you feel safe with.  You don't have to talk about it, if you don't want to, just being with others and being quiet is still better than being alone.  Make sure that you are eating regularly and sleeping regularly as much as you are able to.  You may not feel like it, but it is important.  Keeping a journal or writing letters to the loved ones you have lost can also be helpful.  Sometimes getting your feelings outside of yourself and on paper can be really helpful as well.  There will come a time when you will have more good days than bad days,  when you will think of them and smile rather than cry.  That day may feel far off right now, but it will come.  Grief comes and goes in waves,  but that also means that it goes in waves,  there will be times when you feel ok.  When you start to feel better it doesn't mean that you don't care about them or you are forgetting them,  it means that you are healing.  You will carry them in your heart and your soul always, your relationship with them will change,  but it will not end.  Can you spend time with your mother at least digitally like on facetime or Zoom?  That may make the distance feel shorter.  The Holidays are coming up,  that can be a particularly hard time for people who are grieving, so try to make plans for that time and reach out for support as needed.  I am so sorry that you are carrying so much loss, please know that you are not alone and feel free to reach out here as well, people are here to help you anytime you need it.  -Dr. Suzan McEnany
Answered on 10/23/2022

I want to know if over eating and always feeling hungry is a result of some type of mental health problem?

Hello there, I think more information is needed to pin point what the issue is.   For example, is eating typically used as a coping mechanism for you?  When do you notice your cravings for food?  Is it associated with triggers or high stress situations that come up for you or do you believe there are no patterns?  When you do eat, are there also feelings of guilt or shame attached?  Has it always been this way for you or was there a time where you felt you had more "control" over your eating & appetite?  If it hasn't always been this way, what has changed and when did you notice a shift?  Also, is your body so used to eating constantly or over-eating that it continuously expects more food despite the lack of need for it?   I would certainly consult with your PCP to rule out any medical causes, describing what you notice in great detail may be helpful to your medical provider.  I would also suggest processing your relationship with food with your counselor here on the platform.  All these questions and perhaps even more will help you get a more accurate picture of what is happening both in your body and mind to find a solution.  It may be helpful to keep a food journal where you can track what you eat, quantities, and times of the day for about a week or two.  You can also track at what times you start to feel that hunger and the intensity of that hunger on a scale from 1-10.  It is very important to keep track of what you do in response to that hunger every time, your water intake, and especially the types of food you are eating.  Lastly, if you can, try to track how you are feeling during those moments emotionally to make it easier to track any patterns.  For example, if you notice that you are feeling particularly anxious after you eat lunch due to work place stress, that would be something to note.   I wish you the best of luck!  I truly hope this helps.  Have a wonderful rest of your day.
Answered on 07/20/2022

I need help with perfectionism and burnout

Hello Pam, Thank you for sharing and reaching out with your concerns which you listed as perfectionism and burnout. You did mention an issue with your mood being unstable which I am certain is a direct result of struggling to find appropriate ways to cope with your concerns.  Some common causes of burnout which you may have been dealing with can be a sense of  lack of control, time management issues, a struggle with work-life balance and unrealistic expectations in work and in your personal life. Some quick suggestions on how to better manage burnout is to evaluate your options and expectations with management techniques.  Reflect on how you are dealing with burnout currently and is what you are doing serving you well? Could you try some other approaches to find better results? Also, seek support from friends, family and even here when you approached BetterHelp for input. It is okay to feel like you are not alone and collaborate with others to find more effective solutions. Try relaxation exercises and practice mindfulness. This allows you to be present and be more open, non judging, and patient with yourself.  Lastly, you mentioned concerns with perfectionism.  Perfectionism is very common. Through being overly critical with yourself you reduce your self esteem and "open the door" to much anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive behaviors. Perfectionists tend to beat themselves up all the time and procrastinate because whatever they will attempt will never be good enough. Some quick tips with learning  how to cope with perfectionism: try this "mind policing" exercise, try and pause when you realize that you are thinking a negative, perfectionism thought, write it down. Then, for this one negative thought,  think and say 3 positive or grateful thoughts or events, actions that have happened to you that day to reframe your thinking. For example, your negative self thought could be," I am never going to get everything done I needed to do today, I am just going to take off the afternoon and go home, forget about the rest of the day". Three positive reframes could be, "I feel rested and am doing my best today to accomplish the tasks on my to do list, "I have already accomplished XYZ today and am really on a roll-feeling good, let me come back and try again" "I am feeling distracted at the moment, I will give myself a 15 minute break and come back sharp and fresh in order to get more done and move on".  To move out of the perfectionist trap way of thinking, pursue "Good Enough" thoughts. Every time you have a negative self talk thought, take a pause, than a deep breath, close your eyes and say an internal mantra: I am enough I am good enough I give enough By "re programming" the brain to reframe your negative looping through this mentioned mind policing activity and personal mantra exercise, you will begin to move away from fears and anxiety always haunting you and start to open yourself to different ways in thinking. Focusing on more positive than the negative. Giving yourself room to make mistakes, lower the pressure on yourself and find learning experiences more welcomed than before so you can experience growth.  Maybe even being more open to positive feedback from others and exploring how to process criticism better than before with this different mindset and perspective.  This is just a few thoughts in regarding your question on how to attack your perfectionism and burnout.  There can be much more discussion on what would work best for you. Counseling is a journey of self awareness and doing what you need to live your best life. Thank you for reaching out Pam and I wish you the very best! Debi~
(M.A, C.R.C., L.P.C.)
Answered on 06/14/2022

I am unable to maintain weight loss. I have done dozens of diets, including WLS. lose, then gain back

I'm sorry to hear you're struggling with weight loss. It seems to be an age old problem. I am assuming since you've done a lot of therapy to address anxiety and depression, that eating your feelings is not the issue. I would encourage you to explore your eating habits to discover what about eating or what you're eating is doing for you? Do you enjoy the dining experience. Do you sit at a table, a restaurant, in front of the TV? Are there certain food groups or meals that you're drawn to that provide you more satiety or pleasure. If you compared this to smoking, often times when people stop smoking, they miss the social aspects - going out with friends or colleagues to smoke, they miss doing it at a bar, the miss the hand to mouth action which you also experience with eating. Some people really enjoy chewing. Others hate feeling hungry and to avoid that feeling, will eat to excess to stay full. Sometimes weight issues aren't about eating your feelings, they're about the experiences.  Also, sometimes people keep weight on as a way to physically protect themselves, often as a result of trauma. Some people feel if they're in bigger bodies, then they're protected from attention from people who remind them of the people who may have hurt them.  A lot of times, weight issues are so subconscious that it can take a very long time to really get down to the heart of the issue. Have there been any other things in your life that have contributed to your weight gain - changes in activity levels, changes in lifestyle? Maybe those changes in your life has contributed to weight gain almost imperceptibly and it's been harder to identify and therefore harder to adjust. Hopefully these insights will help you to explore a bit more the root causes of your gains as well as your struggles with your losses. Unfortunately it seems that weight issues can be life long issues and the causes can evolve throughout our different life stages. I think self-awareness is a wonderful place to start and with continued attention, you should be able to make progress. Best wishes.
(LCSW)
Answered on 06/01/2022

What are some steps I can take/things I can do to overcome binge eating and get on a healthier path?

Hey Hungry for Health, Thanks for your question! People often have areas of themselves they wish to change.  Know that wanting them to change and working to change them are different stages and getting from one to the other can take a little convincing.  What stands between you and your ideal look? What will that require? Likely a few things, but portion control, diet, and exercise are likely all part of those things.  These are the sorts of things a nutritionist can work with you on tailoring to your life.  Understand that weight loss is a slow process, not for those looking for an immediate solution.  If you wish to take this approach, I recommend easing yourself into it by increasing how much walking you do.  Start small by setting a daily step goal or a calorie restriction.  I usually recommend adding something to your routine to enhance your activity rather than removing excess to start.   And of course, if you believe this issue is only squarely in your mind, consider talking to a therapist.  The key to changing binge-eating in that regard is understanding the depths of your relationship with food is, as you already guessed.  You'll want to identify the negative feelings you have about yourself, figure out where they come from, and take steps to abolish that train thought from your mind through cognitive-behavioral interventions.  Such approaches will challenge you to analyze current ideas about yourself and discover new paths to healthier living. Be honest with why you dislike yourself.  Do you feel unhealthy? You should know that people can be healthy at a wide range of weights. Ask yourself what your specific concern is about your look. Are you not shaped the way you believe is ideal? Challenge that thought for yourself and discover it is truly your thought or one that has been handed to you. I hope you have found this help, Hungry for Health!
(LMHC, CASAC-M)
Answered on 05/10/2022

My girlfriend has dealt with anxiety and an eating disorder

Dear User 12,   You are doing the right thing in reaching out for help. When someone you love is dealing with mental health issues, it presents a challenge to both of you, and to your relationship. It can be taxing on your own coping skills to be the primary support person for someone who is struggling and vulnerable. You have likely taken on the role of being “the strong one” as your girlfriend has gone through the recovery process. Having someone like that to depend on often makes a huge difference in a person’s recovery. But you are human too, and cannot always be strong. Your relationship needs to have room for you to have your own ups and downs. The metaphor of "putting on your own oxygen mask first" is very applicable here, because depleting your own resources to meet someone else’s needs is not sustainable and does not serve either of you or help her recovery.   When you say that you are the only person who knows, I wonder if you mean you’re the only one in her personal circle of friends, family, etc. I would hope that she is receiving therapy to assist in her ongoing recovery. This is essential, or at least highly recommended, to help a person manage stress and minimize the risk of relapse. People with eating disorders can also benefit from opportunities to connect with others who are also recovering. Sharing mutual support in groups, online chat rooms, or through a “buddy system” with an accountability partner can be a key component of recovery. The value of this kind of peer support can apply to anxiety as well.   I’m glad to see that you have identified your own need to have someone to talk to. Pursuing individual therapy for yourself is an important proactive step for safeguarding your own mental health and resilience. It can also help you to build stronger communication skills. These can benefit you in every area of your life, of course, and can be a huge advantage for anyone who is a key support person in someone else’s recovery. The need to have periodic honest but difficult conversations will present over time, and the better equipped you are to listen deeply, and find the right words to express your concerns the better it will be for both you and your girlfriend.   Having a lasting relationship with someone who has mental health challenges means going through a lot of ups and downs together. Of course there will be good times, and hopefully they will be increasing as your girlfriend gets stronger in her recovery. But there will also be low points. And you will feel the pain with her because of how much you care. This is natural; of course her happiness is important to you. However, as much as compassion is important, it will also be best for both of you if you can maintain enough emotional distance or autonomy that you can find your own happiness alongside your empathy for her. I find this to be a key component to being a successful long-term partner to someone who has depression, anxiety, or any other mental or physical illness. It might sound selfish to say that you should be happy in spite of her pain, but in reality, becoming anxious or depressed yourself benefits no one and ultimately harms your relationship.   If there is any way to expand your girlfriend’s circle of support, I would strongly encourage her to do that. If she would be willing to share her struggles with additional friends or family members, even one or two, there could be benefits all around. She would have someone besides you to turn to, allowing you bear a smaller portion of the load during difficult times, and others might provide a helpful perspective and appreciate the chance to offer their support.   Now that we have addressed your own self-care, here are some resources to help you be the best support person you can be for your girlfriend.    https://centerfordiscovery.com/blog/eight-ways-help-friend-eating-disorder-recovery/   https://themeadowglade.com/support-someone-recovering-from-eating-disorder/   https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-help-someone-with-anxiety-5089005   Here is a brief summary of some of the tips in the articles:   Make an effort to talk to her about other things and have normal, everyday conversations even during difficult times. If you are preoccupied with concern about her eating disorder or a possible relapse, be sure to not over-question. Save serious discussions for serious times, and limit the duration of these talks.   Don’t discuss weight, dieting, or label either foods or body size as good or bad as if they were moral issues. If at all possible, redirect the conversation when others get onto these topics around your girlfriend.   Do not police your girlfriend’s food choices, but refrain from participating in behaviors that encourage disordered eating such as late night bingeing and excessive exercising. If you witness her engaging in unhealthy behaviors, avoid blame and instead use “I statements” to express your concerns, such as, “I sense that you’ve been more preoccupied with calorie-counting lately. Do you think that’s something to be concerned about?”   In regard to supporting her efforts to overcome anxiety, learn to recognize the first signs that she is worrying more than usual. Give her gentle, positive messages reminding her that she has handled difficult things in the past and that you are confident that she is also equal to future challenges. If you find her getting caught up in “what-ifs,” such as asking some form of “What if something terrible happens?” and then looking to you for reassurance, offer that reassurance briefly, but refrain from providing it constantly. Instead, remind her that she has the tools to bring herself back to a safe place emotionally, and encourage her to practice these skills.   Thank you for reaching out and I hope my answer has provided some guidance about how to establish and maintain a healthy emotional environment for yourself and be a positive influence on your girlfriend’s recovery.   Best wishes to both of you.   Julie            
(LCSW)
Answered on 10/15/2021

How easy is it to find a therapist that specialises in ARFID

Hello DragonPunch, Thank you so much for your question. I am sorry for your experience of not being able to find a therapist in the UK that specializes in your particular eating disorder. I want to assure you that there are many counselors here on the BetterHelp platform that would be able to work with you and that can help you find some relief from your symptoms. How the BetterHelp matching system works is that you will fill out a brief questionnaire and then you will be matched with a counselor who meets your preferences as well as has the expertise to address the concerns that you need help with. The second system in place is that the counselor initially believed to be a good match will have a chance to review the questionnaire and make a determination whether they feel they have the expertise. It is important to note that the more information you share on the questionnaire the better - as being very transparent about what you are needing helps reduce the risk of you being paired with someone who can't address your concerns.  Another great benefit of the BetterHelp platform is that you have the ability to very easily switch counselors at any time if you feel that the counselor you have been paired with is not a good match if you are simply not comfortable with a counselor because of how they approach your concerns, or for any other reason you may not be quite comfortable with them. It is your right as a consumer to find a counselor that you are comfortable with and who you find their process to be helpful.  I want to spend some time assuring you that there is help for ARFID, and despite it being a new addition to the DSM 5, the disorder itself has been around and there are many techniques in therapy that can be helpful in helping you to address your symptoms and to feel like you have more control over your eating habits. I certainly hope, that regardless of whether you try the BetterHelp platform, or whether you are finally able to find a specialist in the UK, that you are able to find someone who can come alongside you as you work towards wellness. I wish you the best as you consider your options. Thank you again for your question.
(MSW, LCSW, CADC)
Answered on 08/29/2021