Eating Challenges and Weight Loss 

Eating Challenges and Weight loss

While disordered eating and eating disorders have things in common, it’s important to recognize that they’re not the same. A person with an eating disorder may experience disordered eating behaviours, but not all individuals with disordered eating behaviours will be diagnosed with an eating disorder. The main difference between the two is the severity and degree of symptoms, specifically that disordered eating symptoms occur less frequently or less intensely, making them more subtle, and harder to identify and address. Our focus here will be on disordered eating. 

Disordered eating is not a mental health condition recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it consists of thought and behaviour patterns that can limit one’s food choices, restrict food intake, lead to distress, cause a sense of being out of control, or lead to negative feelings like guilt or shame about eating patterns. 

What leads a person to control or manipulate their eating patterns varies from person to person, but it might come from things like: preoccupations with weight loss and fitness during childhood and/or adulthood, culture norms of beauty or societal beauty standards, mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, or experiencing significant stress or trauma. 

While disordered eating patterns may work for some people, and not interfere with their life, it can for others, play a part in the development of an eating disorder. 

 

Symptoms of Disordered Eating 

The symptoms of disordered eating are similar to those of eating disorders, but they vary in intensity and frequency. Some examples include: 

  • Avoiding certain food groups or feeling guilty if those food groups are eaten 
  • Engaging in binge eating, or binging and then purging
  • Calorie restriction, extreme dieting, skipping meals 
  • Changes in weight not due to a medical condition 
  • Emotional eating – eating when stressed out, upset, and/or bored  
  • Elaborate rituals related to food and eating
  • Eating the same things every day
  • Labeling foods as “good” or “bad”
  • Misusing diuretics, laxatives, or enemas
  • Using diet pills or supplements to lose weight

Treatment 

Disordered eating patterns can lead to serious health concerns such as dental problems, malnutrition, menstrual irregularities, anxiety, and depression, which is why seeking treatment when symptoms develop, is very important. 

Psychotherapy can help to:

  • Normalize eating patterns and achieve a healthy weight
  • Modify unhealthy habits for healthier alternatives 
  • Learn how to monitor mood and eating behaviours
  • Develop stronger problem-solving and coping skills
  • Improve relationships

There are many different types of treatment available, with some therapists recommending that treatment combine individual, group, and/or family therapy. At Greystones Health, we offer individual therapy for eating challenges, that aims to address thoughts, feelings, and behaviours related to eating, teach skills to manage symptoms, and regain healthy eating patterns. Therapists may also ask the person to keep a food journal to review in therapy sessions, to better identify triggers that lead to unhealthy eating behaviours. In some instances, treatment may also include naturopathic care to look for inflammation, food intolerances, gut-brain concerns, blood sugar problems that don’t show up on standard blood work, hormone balance (testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone need to have a healthy balance for both females and males), and consider stress hormones like cortisol levels.  There are natural products to help balance serotonin and Gaba to help keep the nervous system calm and better able to engage in the psychotherapy process.  This combination of Psychotherapy along with Naturopathic support has been very powerful and has been very successful.  

As the individuals, biochemistry improves and their emotional coping skills develop, we additionally improve energy and health behaviours like diet and exercise that the person had often found too challenging to start or maintain.  

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