Eating Disorders – It’s Not About The Food

Eating Disorders – It’s Not About The Food

by Dr Emma Gray - 17th April, 2013

Contrary to popular opinion an individual suffering from an eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified {EDNOS}) has not lost their appetite (in the case of those with anorexia nervosa) nor are they experiencing an increased in appetite/are being greedy (in the case of those who are binge eating; which occurs for those with anorexia nervosa, binge/purge subtype, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorders and an eating disorder not otherwise specified [EDNOS]). Equally those with eating disorders do not dislike food or eating. In fact the opposite is usually true, those with eating disorders are often trying to suppress ravenous hungry (as a result of the fact that they restrict their calorie intake) and more than usually interested in food and eating (again due to the fact that they deny themselves it). Therefore in treating an eating disorder an appropriate therapy is not one that simply encourages (or forces in the case of extremely underweight individuals who given food intravenously) the sufferer to eat more.

An eating disorder occurs in someone with severe and usually chronic low self esteem and confidence and the food restriction, bingeing and vomiting, and other attempts at weight control (including laxative abuse and excessive exercise) are a way of trying to cope with the often intolerable levels of anxiety and depression that accompany their beliefs of defectiveness or worthlessness.

Therapy for an eating disorder must therefore combine counselling techniques which diminish an individual’s beliefs about their worthlessness and the resulting anxiety and depression replace them with a belief that they are good enough and equip them alternative and less harmful ways of dealing with the world and their emotions. Helping someone to eat in a healthy and balanced way must form a part of therapy for an eating disorder but on its own such an approach will only make the sufferer feel more inadequate and misunderstood.

Research suggests that the most effective counselling approach for an eating disorder (including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and an eating disorder not otherwise specified) is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and in some case Schema Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The British CBT & Counselling Service can provide CBT Counselling in Fulham, CBT Counselling in Clapham, CBT Counselling in Marylebone, CBT Counselling in Notting Hill, CBT Counselling in Richmond, CBT Counselling in Chiswick, CBT Counselling in Nottingham, CBT Counselling in Cambridge and CBT Counselling in Stamford.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


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