COUNSELLING BLOG

Posts tagged eating disorders

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10 Steps to a Positive Body Image

1.  Appreciate all that your body can do.

2. Keep a top 10 list of things you like about yourself – things that aren’t related to what you weigh or how you look.

3. Remind yourself that true beauty isn’t skin deep. Beauty is a state of mind – not a state of body.

4. Look at yourself as a whole person; choose not to focus on specific body parts.

5. Surround yourself with positive people.

6. Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body isn’t right, or that you’re a “bad person”.

7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body.

8. Become a critical viewer of social and media messages.

9. Do something nice for yourself – something that lets your body know you appreciate it.

10. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories and your weight to do something to help others.

Source: National Eating Disorders Association

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How to Help a Friend with Bulimia

If you suspect that your friend or family member has bulimia, talk to the person about your concerns. He or she may deny bingeing and purging, but there’s a chance that they will welcome the opportunity to open up about the struggle. Either way, bulimia should never be ignored. The person’s physical and emotional health is at stake. However, you can’t force a person with an eating disorder to change and you can’t do the work of recovery for them. But you can help by offering your compassion, encouragement, and support throughout the treatment process.

If someone you care about is suffering from bulimia

· Offer compassion and support. Keep in mind that the person may get defensive or angry. But if he or she does open up, listen without judgment and make sure the person knows you care.

· Avoid insults, scare tactics, guilt trips, and patronizing comments. Since bulimia is often caused and exacerbated by stress, low self-esteem, and shame, negativity will only make it worse.

· Set a good example for healthy eating, exercising, and body image. Don’t make negative comments about your own body or anyone else’s.

· Accept your limits. As a parent or friend, there isn’t a lot you can do to “fix” your loved one’s bulimia. The person with bulimia must make the decision to move forward.

· Take care of yourself. Know when to seek advice for yourself from a counselor or health professional. Dealing with an eating disorder is stressful, and it will help if you have your own support system in place.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/bulimia_signs_symptoms_causes_treatment.htm

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How to Practice Conscious Eating

There are a million reasons behind what and why eat. Conscious eating is where we stop ourselves and choose to take control of this aspect of our lives. The following tips can help with this:

1. Do your own grocery shopping and pack your own snacks and meals.

2. Don’t eat while you are doing other things.

3. Be aware of the nutritional content of food. Decide to mainly eat for nourishment and health.

4. Only eat when you are hungry. (Learn to identify genuine hunger pangs.)

5. Learn to separate emotions and food. Don’t eat because someone asks you to, or has prepared food for you (eg if you are at a social event), or because you want to get your money’s worth (in a restaurant), or because you feel you should finish what’s on the plate, or because you’re bored, or for emotional reasons.

6. Chew your food very slowly and deliberately. Feel the texture and savour the taste.

7. Stop when you feel full, or have consumed enough calories for the meal. (Learn to identify feelings of satiation.)

8. Avoid addictive foods and super-size meals.

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Facts about our Weight

1. Genes play a role. Scientists have discovered that individuals who inherit two copies of the FTO gene are 60 percent more likely to become obese than those who only inherit one copy. This has led researchers to conclude that there may be a number of genes which play a similar role in weight gain and weight loss.

2. We each have different fat cell counts. This stays the same regardless of whether we gain or lose weight.

3. Exercise can increase your metabolism (which helps you burn calories more efficiently at the cellular level).

4. There is an association between high levels of stress and weight gain. This is because stress provokes us to reach for high carbohydrate foods – which contain stress relieving hormones.

5. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. This is because lack of sleep is associated with lower levels of leptin (which causes us to feel full) and higher levels of ghrelin (which causes us to feel hungry). Thus, we feel hungry – even although we’re not hungry.

6. Ear infections can damage taste nerves found in the middle ear. This can hamper our ability to taste sweetness and fattiness. The effect can be eating more of those kinds of foods because we want to taste the food!

 7. Foods that are high in antioxidants can also help us to manage our weight. The reason? Free radicals have been linked to a weakening of the “stop eating” signal. However, eating fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants can help to combat this effect.

8. When it comes to health, fitness is more important than weight. A growing body of research indicates that overweight people often have normal levels of cholesterol, and other indicators of good health. What matters more, is how much we exercise as that has a greater effect on our health.

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How to talk to someone about their eating disorder

Be careful to avoid critical or accusatory statements, as this will only bring out your friend’s or family member’s defenses. Instead, focus on the specific behaviors that worry you.

· Focus on feelings and relationships, not on weight and food. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about the person’s eating behavior. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional help.

· Tell them you are concerned about their health, but respect their privacy. Eating disorders are often a cry for help, and the individual will appreciate knowing that you are concerned.

·  Do not comment on how they look. The person is already too aware of their body. Even if you are trying to compliment them, comments about weight or appearance only reinforce their obsession with body image and weight.

·  Make sure you do not convey any fat prejudice, or reinforce their desire to be thin. If they say they feel fat or want to lose weight, don’t say “You’re not fat.” Instead, suggest they explore their fears about being fat, and what they think they can achieve by being thin.

·  Avoid power struggles about eating. Do not demand that they change. Do not criticize their eating habits. People with eating disorders are trying to be in control. They don’t feel in control of their life. Trying to trick or force them to eat can make things worse.

.   Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on the person regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”

· Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!”

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/eating_disorder_self_help.htm

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Tips for Coping with Binge Eating

Eating disorders are hard to overcome. There are no easy answers – and it takes a lot of work to keep on fighting when you feel like giving up. Below are some tips that can help you to cope.

1. If you’re struggling with binge eating then tell someone else. What you try and keep a secret has more power over you. Also, don’t isolate yourself as that will make things worse.

2. Only keep the minimum of food at home as this will help to limit your access to food – and, thus, your opportunity to go on a binge.  

3. Relax and try to focus on having some fun. Often people who binge eat are feeling anxious and stressed. If this describes how you feel, then set aside some time to focus on the things that usually help you to unwind.

4. Identify the people and the things that trigger you – and then think of how to cope in other, more effective, ways. (Note: Journaling may help you to identify the thoughts that fuel your eating patterns, and make you spiral down.)

5. You can often learn a lot by reading self-help books. They offer great insights, and they share some strategies that have worked for other people who have struggled with this, too.

6. Think of, maybe, joining a binge eating group. Just knowing that others are struggling with this too can help relieve the pressure when you feel that you are trapped - and you’ll also get support from those who truly understand.

7. Avoid fad diets as they usually make things worse. Decide to treat your body well and eat to try and boost your health.

8. Love yourself for who you are – as you are more than just weight! You’re a unique individual with a personality. You have various gifts and talents, interests and abilities. Try and focus more on those and that’s your real identity.  

                                                          

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What Causes Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors. Scientists and researchers are still learning about the underlying causes of these emotionally and physically damaging conditions. We do know, however, about some of the general issues that can contribute to the development of eating disorders. For example, while eating disorders may begin with preoccupations with food and weight, they are most often about much more than food. People with eating disorders often use food and the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem over-whelming. For some, dieting, bingeing, and purging may begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to feel in control of one’s life, but ultimately, these behaviors will damage a person’s physical and emotional health, self-esteem, and sense of competence and control.

Psychological Factors that can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

Low self-esteem

Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life

Depression, anxiety, anger, or loneliness

Interpersonal Factors that can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

Troubled family and personal relationships

Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings

History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight

History of physical or sexual abuse

Social Factors that can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”

Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes

Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths.

Biological Factors that can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

Scientists are still researching possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion have been found to be unbalanced. The exact meaning and implications of these imbalances remains under investigation.

Eating disorders often run in families. Current research is indicates that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders.

Eating disorders are complex conditions that can arise from a variety of potential causes. Once started, however, they can create a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional destruction. Professional help is recommended in the treatment of eating disorders.

Source: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/WhatCaus.pdf

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Steps for Maintaining your Ideal Weight

1. Accept yourself for who and what you are – If you’re constantly seeking the approval of others, and take their judgments and opinions to heart, then you’re much more likely to battle with your weight (as you negatively judge yourself by other people’s standards).

2. Avoid triggers - When we’re on a diet we often avoid triggers that could cause us to binge, or to simply overeat. These can be certain friends, social situations, environments, or negative experiences. However, once we reach our goal we often go back to old patterns that can trigger overeating or bingeing once again. Hence, we may need to make more permanent changes in our life in order to maintain our ideal weight.

3.  Eat plenty of fibre – Eat the kinds of foods that will fill you up so you’re not always battling those nasty hunger pangs. Keep some fruit in your purse, and have some protein in your meals, as these foods digest more slowly - so you’re less likely to snack.

4. Listen to your body – When you reach for some food, stop and look at what you’re eating, and ask yourself the reason why you’re opting for that item. Are you genuinely hungry; are you feeling bored and lonely; are you comfort eating to try and lift your mood?

5. Remember to exercise as well.  Your ability to maintain a healthy, stable weight is closely related to your general fitness level. Also, people who are fit have low levels of the hormone that triggers overeating – so we put on weight (cortisol).

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Addictions and the Brain

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has recently released a definition of addictions which focuses on the brain’s circuitry. From their studies, they concluded that all kinds of addiction can influence and alter the brain’s neurology. Specifically, their research uncovered evidence that indicated changes in the brain’s reward system, motivation and memory circuitry. This caused the individual to pursue their addiction at a cost to their health and general self-care. This is demonstrated in the following ways:

1. Alterations to the Brain’s Reward System: Researchers noted that the memory of rewards associated with a substance or addictive behaviour (alcohol, food, sex, gambling and so on) was sufficient to trigger the addictive sequence – even where the addiction had lost its appeal and lead to negative, unwanted consequences.

2. Compromised Impulse Control: Because addictions affect the frontal cortex of the brain, it alters our judgment and our impulse control. Thus, the person finds it hard to resist their powerful urges, and to think of the effect that this could have on their life. This finding is consistent with the symptoms of addictions which include the following characteristics and traits: being unable to abstain from the addiction, and delay gratifying their need or drive; intense cravings for the drug/ behaviour of choice; a failure to recognise the impact this is having on the person, their relationships, their work and their life.

3. Cognitive and Emotional Changes: Symptoms here include a growing obsession so the substance or behaviour now consumes their thinking; a distorted understanding of the pros and cons that are associated with engaging in addictions; also, intense, negative and fluctuating emotions which are hard to control and are unpredictable.

This has implications for diagnosis well. For example, instead of focusing on outward behaviours, which are noted and measured using standard questionnaires, it would seem more productive to look inside the brain in order to determine if it’s truly an addiction. This should yield more reliable and detailed information – and give information on disease progression.

With respect to treatment, it may make it easier to interrupt a pattern by consciously altering what’s happening in the brain. However, the underlying causes that led to the addiction should still be explored and addressed in counselling.

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