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Eating Difficulties

What is an Eating difficulty?

Some people might have unusual eating habits, but they are not extreme and create no interference in people\'s lives. The following list outlines signs of eating difficulties that are of greater concern, although these symptoms may have causes besides eating difficulties:

  • Weight loss, failure to gain weight, or fluctuating weight
  • Tiredness, lack of energy and strength
  • Depression or low self-worth
  • Obsession with, and/or playing with food
  • Being very selective about what to eat
  • Obsession with body weight or shape
  • A preoccupation with the preparation of food for others to eat
  • Thinking or talking about food all the time
  • Over-exercising and being worried if they are not able to exercise
  • Avoiding eating with other people
  • Secrecy around food
  • Regularly going to the toilet after eating or during meals
  • Hoarding food
  • Fear of losing control of eating
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Appearing anxious or stressed at meal times about food and amounts of food
  • Menstruation (periods) stopping or not starting
  • Lack of balance in an individual’s life, e.g., not stopping exercise, despite injuries
  • Intense fear of fat
  • Strong conviction that a slim body shape is absolutely crucial for self-acceptance
  • Dieting and avoiding foods
  • Purging behaviours, such as vomiting or use of laxatives
  • Excessive exercise

Distorted image of one\'s body weight and shape

Conflict with anyone who tries to encourage eating

How common are eating difficulties?

Eating disorders mostly affect females but approximately one in ten individuals with an eating disorder are male. It is difficult to accurately estimate the frequency of occurrence of eating disorders due in part to the secretive nature of the disorder. In Australia, anorexia nervosa affects approximately 0.5 per cent of females, bulimia nervosa 2-3 per cent and eating disorder not other specified (EDNOS) 2-3 per cent.

What types of eating difficulties are there?

Eating disorders can be broken down into areas:

- Anorexia nervosa

- Bulimia nervosa

- Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

Helping yourself

The following is a list of some things that you can try that may help you manage your eating difficulties:

  • Keep a "recovery journal", and fill it with positive and affirming thoughts. Write about why you want to recover, what your eating disorder gives and takes away from you, where you will be in 5 or 10 years if you stick with your eating disorder instead of giving it up, and/or anything else that will help to get and keep you motivated
  • Spend time around positive and supportive people who are comfortable with themselves and their bodies, and who have a healthy relationship with food. Spend time with people that possess qualities that you admire and aspire to develop within yourself
  • Talk to other people recovering from eating disorders or people who have already recovered. Mutual support can be great and motivating, and seeing someone else make progress or enjoying life might help to keep you inspired, too.
  • If body image is something you are really struggling with, go out one day and notice the diversity of shapes around you. Don't only focus on the thinnest people and block the rest out.
  • Think about your own ideas of what beauty is. If they don't seem 100% legitimate to you, question and re-evaluate them.
  • Think about the people that you like and admire and what it is about them you like. Is it their size? Or is it something greater? Do you like your friends because they are thin? Or do you like them because they are fun or interesting or possess other great qualities?
  • Keep something around where you can see it that will remind you of why you want to recover.
  • Read recovery-oriented books. These can help inspire and keep you motivated.
  • Take up a hobby. Is there something that you used to love doing but have stopped? Is there something you have always wanted to try but have let your fear get in the way?
  • Do things that nourish your soul. This could be anything from dancing to bongo drums, to planting a veggie patch, to climbing a tree, to sailing a tall-ship, or to engaging in voluntary work, to having a bubble bath. It doesn't have to be big or expensive. Experiment with different things.
  • Hospitalization in an eating disorder clinic or hospital ward may also be helpful when it is medically or emotionally needed.

Getting professional help

If you believe that you need additional assistance to manage your eating difficulties the best person to speak to is your GP, as they will be able to advise you of referrals to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Consultation with a dietician may also be of benefit.

The following services may also be of assistance: