Eating Problems

Common Eating Disorders
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What Is an Eating Problem?

An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult. Food plays an important part in our lives and most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Sometimes we may try to eat more healthily, have cravings, eat more than usual or lose our appetite. Changing your eating habits every now and again is normal. But if food and eating feels like it’s taking over your life then it may become a problem.

Lots of people think that if you have an eating problem you will be over or underweight, and that being a certain weight is always associated with a specific eating problem. This is a myth. Anyone, regardless of age, gender or weight, can be affected by eating problems.

What Might You Do?

If you have an eating problem you might:

  • restrict the amount of food you eat
  • eat more than you need or feel out of control when you eat
  • eat a lot in secret
  • feel very anxious about eating or digesting food
  • eat lots of food in response to difficult emotions (when you don’t feel physically hungry)
  • only eat certain types of food or stick to a rigid set of diet rules and feel very anxious and upset if you have to eat something different
  • do things to get rid of what you eat (purging)
  • stick to rigid rules around what you can and can’t eat and how food should look – and feel very upset if you break those rules
  • feel strongly repulsed at the idea of eating certain foods
  • eat things that are not really food
  • be scared of certain types of food or eating in public
  • think about food and eating a lot or all the time
  • compare your body to other people’s and think about their shape or size a lot
  • check, test and weigh your body a lot – and base your self-worth on how much you weigh or whether you pass your checks and tests
What’s the Difference Between an Eating Problem and an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a medical diagnosis based on your eating patterns, and medical tests on your weight, blood and body mass index (BMI)

An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult. This can be just as hard to live with as a diagnosed eating disorder

How Might Eating Problems Affect My Life?

Eating problems are not just about food. They can be about difficult things and painful feelings, which you may be finding hard to express, face or resolve. Focusing on food can be a way of disguising these problems, even from yourself.

Eating problems can affect you in lots of ways. You might:

• find it difficult to concentrate and feel tired a lot

• find that controlling food or eating has become the most important thing in your life

• feel depressed and anxious

• feel ashamed or guilty and scared of other people finding out

• feel distant from friends or family

• avoid social occasions, dates and restaurants or eating in public

• find it hard to be spontaneous, to travel or to go anywhere new

• find that your appearance has changed

• find that other people comment on your appearance in ways you find difficult

• find that you are bullied or teased about food and eating

• develop short- or long-term physical health problems

• find that you have to drop out of school or college, leave work or stop doing things you enjoy

You might find that other people focus a lot on the effect eating problems can have on your body, or that they only think you have a problem if your body looks different to how they think it should be, and that they don’t really understand how complicated things are for you.

It’s also possible to have problems with eating and keep them hidden – sometimes for very long time. You might not even be sure that your issues with food and eating are a ‘problem’, as it may feel like just part of your everyday life. Some people don’t seek help because they think their problem is not serious enough or they are not ‘good enough’ at their eating problem.

But if your relationship with food and eating is affecting your life, it is ok to seek help. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh or what your body looks like.

I never looked ‘ill’. When I read about eating disorders it was always girls with acute anorexia. Because that wasn’t me, I felt like my behaviour was just a bizarre quirk I’d made up. Ironically, it felt like I couldn’t even do self destruction properly… I felt like a fraud and came down on myself harder.
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