Many of us have difficulties with food, weight and body image. These difficulties negatively affect our lives and our self-esteem. If you are struggling with food and weight issues and these are causing distress in your life, then find support. Don't wait until you have all the symptoms of a clinical eating disorder in order to get help. You deserve help at every stage of your struggles.
Food and weight preoccupations occur on a "continuum" that stretches from behaviours such as constantly worrying about our body shape and what we eat to medically serious, clinical eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia.
We struggle with a range of different food and weight issues. Sometimes we believe that if we take control over our food, weight and shape, then we will solve other problems that we might be having, such as feeling that we don't fit into a social or professional group, or personal problems. This pressure to take control over our feelings through controlling our bodies may result in restricting food intake, or over-exercising. Often we believe that if we could only look a certain way we will have mastery over our lives.
But if we get caught in a cycle of dieting - in an attempt to take control of our lives - we, ironically, end with a sense of being out of control. We may binge eat, then lose self-esteem, which leads to more dieting, then more binge eating, and so on and so on.
The development of a full-blown eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia often stems from this cycle. Some people may not have anorexia or bulimia but may eat in binges or eat compulsively, and may also feel out of control and in need of help.
Any kind of disordered eating pattern can cause us to feel out of control, further lowering self-esteem. The issue is not whether the patterns can be labelled with a particular diagnosis, but the degree to which they are causing distress in a person's life or the lives of those around them.
Find help by looking at the local options available to you. A professional counsellor who is knowledgeable about food and weight issues will work with you to overcome food and weight preoccupation.
Individual counselling or therapy may be more appropriate for individuals who feel overwhelmed in groups or who feel that they would benefit more from individual attention. For people whose eating problems have reached a stage of medical and/or psychological crisis, a more intensive individual approach may also be required. This approach might include hospitalization or other specialized treatment programs, accessed through a family doctor, hospital, local school, community agency or individual therapist.
For those who feel isolated and would like to meet with others who have had similar experiences, then some kind of group assistance is often a good choice. Group therapy, support groups and self-help groups are all ways in which people can come together and, through sharing their experiences, begin to normalize their feelings and help each other deal with their difficulties.