Regularly think about your food, weight or body image?
Experience guilt or shame around eating?
Obsessively count calories or fat grams throughout the day?
Feel “out of control” when it comes to food?
Often eat an excessive amount of food in a short period of time?
Constantly feel ‘fat’ even though everyone else tells you that you’re not?
Weigh yourself several times each day?
Exercise to lose weight even if you are ill or injured?
Intentionally vomit after eating?
Use laxatives or diuretics to maintain or lose weight?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be at risk of an eating disorder.
An eating disorder is characterised by an unhealthy preoccupation with eating, exercise and/or body weight/shape.There are a few different eating disorder classifications, each with their own distinguishing features.
Anorexia Nervosa is characterised by low body weight and body image distortion, with an obsessive fear of gaining weight, which manifests itself through food deprivation. Extreme food restriction can lead to starvation, malnutrition and a dangerously low body weight – all of which can result in a number of health problems.
Bulimia Nervosa is a medical condition characterised by recurrent binge-eating episodes (the consumption of abnormally large amounts of food in a relatively short period of time), followed by compensatory behaviour such as purging or overexercising. Binge episodes are associated with a sense of loss of control and immediately followed by feelings of guilt and shame, which leads the person to the compensatory behaviours.
Binge Eating Disorder is a condition characterised by frequently eating excessive amounts of food, often when not hungry. Binges represent a distraction that allows a person to avoid thinking about the real cause of their problems. Feelings of guilt, disgust and depression often follow a bingeing episode.
Binge Eating Disorder is similar to, but not the same as Bulimia Nervosa. Whilst people experiencing Bulimia Nervosa will compensate after bingeing, Binge Eating Disorder is characterised by an absence of compensation reactions, despite suffering similar feelings of guilt, shame and self-hatred after binges.
Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is a term used when a person shows signs of disordered eating but does not meet all of the diagnostic criteria for one of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder.
It is not uncommon for a person to progress from one eating disorder to another, for example somebody with Anorexia Nervosa may later develop Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder, and vice versa.
Overcoming Disordered Eating
Eating disorders can be very dangerous, putting you at risk of a wide range of medical conditions and nutritional deficiencies. Early intervention is vital in promoting recovery. The primary goal of treatment is the restoration of physical and mental health through improved nutrition and the development of healthier behaviours.
It is common for people with an eating disorder to be ambivalent about change. While there is a part of you wanting to get healthier, there is also another part, which is afraid to let go of the disordered eating. Your dietitian will work with you and the treatment team to develop an individualised treatment plan to promote optimal recovery from your eating disorder.
Recovery from an eating disorder takes some time and considerable effort, however recovery is possible!
Working with your dietitian
Dietitians are an essential part of the treatment team. Dietitians help with correcting nutritional deficiencies and the development of healthy eating patterns. They provide nutritional assessment, eating plans, and nutritional education. They work with you to identify fears of food, and discuss the consequences of not eating well. They will also work with you to recognise feelings of physical hunger and fullness and a healthy response to these.