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Physical health is linked to mental and emotional health. Taking care of your body is a powerful first step towards mental and emotional health. The mind and the body are linked together. When you improve your physical health, you'll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energise us and lift our mood. The activities you engage in and the daily choices you make affect the way you feel helping promote your wellbeing.
What Are Eating Disorders?
The term 'eating disorder' refers to a complex, potentially life-threatening condition, characterised by severe disturbances in eating behaviours.
Eating disorders can be seen as a way of coping with emotional distress, or as a symptom of underlying issues.
o Eating disorders are not primarily about food
o People can and do recover
o Eating disorders can affect anyone
Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can affect men and women, at any age. Eating disorders can be seen as a way of coping with emotional distress, or as a symptom of underlying issues. It is a common misconception that eating disorders only affect women. The reality is that eating disorders affect both men and women, boys and girls. Types of eating disorder include:
- Anorexia Nervosa is characterised by the deliberate refusal to eat enough to maintain a normal body weight.
- Bulimia Nervosa is characterised by repeated episodes of binge-eating followed by behaviour aimed at compensating for the out of control eating.
- Binge Eating Disorder (or Compulsive Overeating) is characterised by periods of compulsive binge eating or overeating.
- EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) refers to a condition where a person may meet some but not all of the diagnostic criteria for one of the other defined eating disorders.
Eating disorders may sometimes present somewhat differently in men. For example, rather than restricting their diet, men affected by anorexia may focus more on over-exercising and behaviours focussed on building muscle mass.
Overcoming an eating disorder is not just about gaining weight or giving up unhealthy eating patterns. Overcoming an eating disorder is about learning to listen to your body, to your feelings, learning to trust, accept and love yourself. In order to do that the followings steps are useful.
Find an eating disorder specialist. Contact Bodywhys (1890 200 444) for a list of GPs with a special interest in eating disorders.
Address urgent health problems first then tackle underlying emotional issues.
Contact an eating disorder support group for peer support on dealing with your condition and emotional support in the form of understanding and advice.
Learn new coping skills - eating disorders are more about emotional issues than food. Disordered eating is a coping mechanism to deal with painful emotions such as anger, self-loathing, fear, guilt and vulnerability. You can learn new coping strategies when you feel painful emotions. Pick a healthier coping strategy that suits you such as writing your thoughts in a diary,having a healthy amount of exercise, painting or listening to music.
Try to improve your self-image - when you base your self-worth on physical appearance and body size alone you fail to see the other qualities that make you who you are. In order to positively influence your self-worth:
o Make a list of your positive qualities; ask your friends and family to help you.
o Challenge negative self-talk. See the module on noticing unhelpful thinking in the "Self Help" to help with this task.
o Focus on what you like about yourself and your body.
Learn healthy eating habits - this may be difficult if you have spent a good amount of time focussing on calories and weight but is a very important step in recovery from eating disorders. Try to eat foods that you like and make meals an enjoyable part of the day by spending them with family or friends or in a location you enjoy.
Identify your triggers - if possible learn to identify situations that make you want to revert back to unhealthy eating patterns. Once you notice these triggers, have a plan in place that gives you extra support. This could be attending a support group more often, talking with family or friends or writing your thoughts in a diary.
How can you help a friend or family member who has an eating disorder?
Learn about eating disorders so you can understand the struggles and difficulties your friend or family member is going through. Have patience and compassion; there is no quick fix for eating disorders but encouragement will impact positively.
Be a good role model for healthy living and eating.
Accept your limitations.
Take care of your own health.
For more information on eating disorders and support contact, Bodywhys on 1890 200 444