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Eating Disorder and body image Counselling

Eating disorders are a behaviour around food and body image that often reflect deeper emotional issues. They are characterised by abnormal eating habits and negative body image. In the UK, eating disorders affect roughly between 1.25 and 3.4 million people, and the number of cases has increased in recent years. The most common eating disorder is bulimia nervosa, affecting 40% of people. We’re here to tell you that, you can recover, it is possible, and we want to help.

An eating disorder is when the food you eat cannot provide sufficient nutrients and calories to meet your needs, when the food you eat is harmful to your physical health or when you have an intense fear of gaining weight. If left untreated, they can adversely impact your physical and mental health.

Learning about eating disorders and their relationship to body image counselling can help answer some of the questions that you might have in mind. Plus, you will have a better understanding of how to get help and change your habits around food. You may be shocked to find out first, that eating disorders are nothing to do with food or eating or lack of eating.

What is eating disorder counselling?

Eating disorder counselling is a therapy that can help you deal with problems such as anorexia, binge eating, bulimia, and other issues related to weight and food. It also helps you treat mental health problems associated with eating disorders. This counselling aims to help you recover from your eating disorder to bring a positive and healthy change in your life. Counselling will help you to:

What Causes an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are not caused by one factor alone, but rather by a combination of factors. The most common causes of eating disorders causes are the following:


Eating disorders tend to run in families, so if you have a parent or sibling with an eating disorder, you’re more likely to develop one yourself.

Emotional factors

Emotional trauma or stress can lead to an eating disorder. If you are unhappy with your body image or experience low self-esteem because of your weight, you may be more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Societal pressure

Our culture emphasises being thin and having a certain body type, leading people to develop eating disorders to meet these expectations.

Environmental factors

If you’re surrounded by people who think being thin is better than being “fat,” it’s easy to start feeling the same way yourself—even if deep down inside, you know it’s not true.

A dysfunctional family relationship

Can often be a precursor to an eating disorder. If you have been abused or have suffered from neglect during childhood you may attempt to control your life by restricting your food intake or bingeing on food.

The symptoms of an eating disorder

The symptoms of an eating disorder can vary from person to person. You may have only a few symptoms, such as anxiety, body image issues etc., while others may have many. Here is a list of the most common symptoms of eating disorders:

Going to the toilet after food (too often)

This is one of the main signs of bulimia. If you are suffering from this type of eating disorder, you may try to eliminate the calories you have taken in through vomiting or laxative abuse.

Losing weight or gaining weight quickly

You lose or gain weight quickly and frequently. You skip meals or eat a small amount of food (restrictive eating) for weight loss or you binge eat.

Strange food behaviours and choices

You develop strange food behaviours and choices. For example, you may choose to eat only certain foods or types or avoid food altogether.

Withdrawal / Isolation

You might be withdrawn and isolate yourself from family and friends. You might also feel guilty and ashamed about how you eat or look. This can lead to low self-esteem and depression.

Obsessively weighing self or foods

You often obsessively weigh yourself and your foods. You may also obsess over your thinness and compare yourself to others.

Looking physically ill

You frequently lose or gain weight, which causes physical changes like sunken eyes or loose skin.

Types of eating disorders

There are many different eating disorders, but they all share common signs and symptoms. The most common eating disorders include the following:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is an eating disorder characterised by obsessive fear of weight gain, and a distorted body image. If you suffer from anorexia, you tend to see yourself as overweight even when you are severely underweight and consume very little food. You may indulge in unhealthy behaviours such as overexercising and cutting food. Anorexia can affect anyone, but it mostly affects young women.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is more common in women than in men, but both can suffer equally. If you have this eating disorder, you are obsessed with being thin and may binge on food and then purge. You do this by vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics (water pills), fasting, or exercising excessively.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder involves bingeing on food in large amounts in a short time. It is compulsive eating. If you binge eat, you’ll often feel ashamed and guilty about your behaviour. Binge eating disorder is more common in men than in women.

Do I have an eating disorder?

If you are unhappy with your body image and concerned about your relationship with food and/or weight and have distorted thoughts, you may have an eating disorder. So if you are concerned about your own or someone else’s eating habits, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Treatment for eating disorders

As with any mental health disorder, treating eating disorders will depend on you and your particular situation. Eating disorders can be complicated to treat(but not always). The treatment aims to help you recognise the problem and take control of it. Eating disorders can be treated through a combination of treatments such as medical care, psychotherapy, CBT, support groups, etc., to bring positive change in life.

In the past, there was only one way to treat an eating disorder, and that was to use psychotherapy. Psychotherapy combines talking, listening and using creative activities to explore feelings, behaviours, and relationships. Today there are other ways to help people with eating disorders and offer support. A structured and supportive treatment plan can prove effective in treating an eating disorder.

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How to get help for an eating disorder

The most important thing is to get help because eating disorders can be life-threatening. People with eating disorders are at risk for medical complications and even death. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

Some people find it helpful to seek support from others who have recovered from the similar condition. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a dietitian or psychologist who can assess your needs and recommend treatment options. You can also connect with others in this situation through local support groups or online forums such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and Eating Disorder Anonymous (EDA), alongside your therapy with us here at Evolve, we are eating disorder specialists.

How Counselling can help eating disorders

Counselling and therapy can help clients with eating disorders understand the underlying issues that contribute to their disordered eating and empower them with strategies and understanding to overcome these challenges. It provides you with a safe space where you can get reliable and professional support. Eating disorders counselling can help with the following:

Types of therapy for Eating Disorders

The goal of eating disorder treatment is to help you find recovery by providing support and education about your own mind and understanding of yourself. Treatment will also focus on helping you deal with any underlying emotional problems contributing to your symptoms.

Online therapy options

Many people with an eating disorder are afraid or ashamed to seek treatment. Fortunately, many online therapy options are available for those who need help.

Online therapy is similar to traditional face-to-face counselling. You can share your thoughts and feelings in non-judgemental space. You’ll have regular sessions with your therapist over the internet. You can use video chat during your sessions such as skype or zoom if you feel more comfortable seeing each other face to face.

It’s important that you choose an online therapist trained in treating eating disorders specifically and other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and relationship problems. It’s also important that you feel comfortable with the therapist and feel they understand your treatment needs and goals.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy

Psychodynamic psychotherapy for eating disorders aims to help you change these negative thinking patterns to improve your self-esteem and better manage your eating disorder. It works to help you understand how your distorted thoughts and feelings about yourself affect your eating habits.

It seeks to resolve conflicts from earlier life experiences that are causing problems now, such as feelings of low self-worth or depression, through talking about them with a trained therapist who will guide you towards resolving these issues. It’s useful for those who have lost control over their eating or exercise habits or have an unhealthy obsession with body shape and weight control.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy can be used in combination with other types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural or dialectical behaviour treatment. This type of therapy may be appropriate for you or your loved ones dealing with anorexia nervosa or bulimia. It also helps you learn healthy ways of coping with stress and anxiety.

Dialectal behaviour therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) aims to improve the quality of life for those suffering from mental health conditions. It is based on the concept that people have both good and bad mental states and that you can learn to regulate your emotions to live a more balanced life.

DBT works on improving relationships with others while teaching coping skills to manage emotions in difficult situations. This can involve learning how to better recognise triggers and warning signs that lead to intense emotions, identifying ways of coping with difficult situations, and learning how to become more aware of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours.

It uses CBT techniques along with other forms of therapy, such as mindfulness training and yoga, to help people manage their emotions more effectively and build healthier relationships with others. DBT is effective for treating bulimia and binge eating disorder.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a popular form of psychotherapy for eating disorders. It’s based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings and behaviour are all connected, so if you change how you think about things, the way you feel will follow. CBT can help you transform your behaviour, overcome negative thoughts and feelings and improve your quality of life.

CBT is usually delivered face-to-face by a psychologist, psychiatrist or other specialist health professionals over 12-16 weeks. Cognitive therapy can be conducted as private therapy or group therapy. You will usually meet weekly with your mental health professional, who will guide you through the process of identifying negative patterns in your life and help you maintain a healthy weight.

CBT is usually short-term (10-20 sessions) and focuses on the here and now. You may be asked to keep daily food diaries or write down what you eat to help you understand your relationship with food. You might also be asked to keep track of negative thoughts or challenge unhelpful beliefs about yourself.

Finding hope in a hopeless place

Good health is not only the absence of disease but the presence of joy that allows you to enjoy life and cope with the challenges of life better. An eating disorder can be a serious experience that requires immediate attention. The main purpose of treatment is to restore your weight to normal and to help you be as healthy as possible.

Counselling helps to sort out the distorted perceptions, uncover your personal problems, sort out unhealthy relationships with food and discover possible solutions such as identifying how your low self-esteem affects your behaviour and modifying unhelpful behaviours. With effective eating disorder & body image counselling, you can find ways to accept yourself for whom you are, address your needs and achieve a satisfying relationship with food and yourself.

Question & Answers


We have an excellent track record of helping people recover from bulimia, this is one of our areas of speciality, we don’t use a one size fits all approach to any work we do, but we treat people, not labels, and we help them regain the relationship with themselves and then with food, which has been lost along the way.

We help people see the futility and damaging effects of binging and purging along with an emotional recovery of the mind and spirit, this is a holistic approach that helps behavioural change in the end. Behaviour cannot be the focus as it is is the solution to a deeper problem.

Yes we have many clients in recovery from addictions and eating disorders, short and long term, in fact we help people find recovery and work with them to grow their life long term.

We have 25+ years of working with eating disorders along with personal experience. I would say not many people have that level of experience and understanding of the real problem. We are helping people to recover daily. However nothing is guaranteed.

Yes we work a lot from referrals as people know our specialiaties and expertise working with ED's we have a passion to really help anyone struggling in this order based on personal experience and recovery.

About The Author

Jason Shiers Dip.Psych MBACP

Jason Shiers Dip.Psych MBACP

Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist. Jason has been working with addictions and people in recovery for over 25 years now and is always looking towards the innate mental health that is inside everyone.

This therapy is a holistic view of the mind body taking approaches from psychological understandings, somatic practices and spiritual explorations such as non duality and advaita vedanta.

Jason has been cited in multiple articles about addiction, therapy, coaching and mental health and is a regular contributor to many different websites.


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