Struggling with an eating disorder?

Ed requested this podcast that was inspired by things that he has been reading. I regularly have clients that are struggling with eating issues though in most cases these are to do with obesity. When people talk about eating disorder they normally are thinking about weight loss not weight gain. According to the Priory Group statistics for eating disorders are…

• 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder
• 11% of the 1.6 million are male
• 14-25 year olds are most affected by an eating disorder
• There are up to 18 new cases of bulimia per 100,000 people, per year
• 1 in 100 women aged between 15 and 30, are affected by anorexia
• 10% of people affected by an eating disorder suffer from anorexia
• 40% of people affected by an eating disorder suffer from bulimia
• The rest of sufferers fall into the eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) category including those with binge eating disorder (BED)
• Research suggests that the earlier treatment is sought, the better the sufferer’s chance of recovery

There are several ways of looking at eating disorders. We might say that to regularly eat more or less calories than you need would suggest something is wrong. In my work I find that in both cases the apparent eating disorder is a symptom of an inner cause. This creates a dilemma for therapy. Do we great the symptom or do we attempt to understand and resolve the inner cause? Many eating clinics and services are based around treating the symptoms and using behavioural techniques to change eating habits. This can help but if the underlying or originating cause is not dealt with and desensitised repetition or relapse is common.

Over weight and obesity
This is the most common eating disorder in the west, we are all getting bigger. Statistics are more easily available for women though they apply equally to men. Over the last forty years the average size uk female has gone from a size 12 to a size 16. One comment I hear is that if the average woman is size 16 why are the models on the catwalk not that size as well? We now have a comparison with the under weight model compared to the over weight public.

According to the Office of National Statistic, ONS, the average man in England is 5ft 9in (175.3cm) tall and weighs 13.16 stone (83.6kg). The average woman in England weighs 11 stone (70.2kg) and is 5ft 3in tall (161.6cm).
A woman of five feet three inches at size sixteen is in the obese range and is probably damaging her body and inner organs with increase potential for diabetes, heart attack, stroke and cancer. So why is this happening?

Vitamin D
Over 70% of UK residents are currently expected to be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D, produced in the skin in response to sunlight, is the precursor of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the endorphin that creates our sense of wellbeing and is what we enhance through prescribed antidepressants.

Comfort food
We now know that when we eat carbohydrates our brain secrets serotonin. Therefore comfort foods are real. We feel down due to lack of vitamin D and low serotonin and self medicate by eating carbs as comfort food. The byproduct of this is that we gain weight. So, when we are told that Britain is now the heaviest country in Europe we probably mean that Britain is the most depressed country in Europe.

It is good to be happy
It would follow from this that resolving the over weight issues in the UK would mean increasing the wellbeing of people in the the UK. Getting our vitamin D levels right in the first place would be a great help. If you do not know your own Vitamin D status you might be advised to visit your GP and get a blood test, especially if you are having problems with trying to lose weight.

Anorexia Nervosa
This is an emotional disorder. It is on the obsessive compulsive spectrum with a obsessive desire to lose weight. This behaviour is, in my experience, the symptom of an inner cause that may be hidden or repressed. Often it is a response to a traumatic event. The symptom of anorexia is often the sufferers way of having control over their life. Often anorexics see themselves as over weight even when they are not.

Belimia Nervosa
known as simply bulimia, is an eating disorder characterised by binge eating followed by purging. Binge eating refers to eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time. Purging refers to the attempts to get rid of the food consumed. This may be done by vomiting or taking laxatives.

This is the term used to describe a condition that includes symptoms of obsessive compulsive behaviour in pursuit of a healthy diet. It may also include an almost addictive relationship with food supplements and vitamins. Orthorexia sufferers often display signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders that frequently co-occur with anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders

Purging disorder
This is an eating disorder characterised by recurrent purging (self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas) to control weight or shape in the absence of binge eating episodes. It differs from Belimia in that it may not include binging.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
This was previously known as selective eating disorder (SED), is a type of eating disorder, as well as feeding disorder, where the consumption of certain foods is limited based on the food’s appearance, smell, taste, texture, brand, presentation. This maybe seen in a variety of conditions and syndromes such as Asperger and Autism. It may also be a phobic reaction that often has a traumatic basis.

Food and mood
Our relationship with food works both ways. Our mood is effected by the foods that we eat and our mood will lead to us craving certain foods. For me food disorders are not a behavioural problem in most cases they are an emotional expression of unresolved inner issues. This means that in my eyes Psychotherapy is the appropriate intervention. This may support or work alongside a behavioural programme but is essentially psychological therapy.

If you find that you have a strange or oddly changing relationship with food talk about it, check it out.

Take care and be happy

Sean x