Treatment for Eating Disorders
What are Eating Disorders?
There are multiple types of eating disorders, with the most common types we hear about are Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating.
The general definition of an eating disorder is a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits. No one is certain what causes an eating disorder, but it is a mixture of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
One of our teammates at Telebehavioral Health.US, Alanna Hart-VanTil, has courageously decided to share some of her journey with us.
Alanna states, "Growing up, I was body-shamed by my Oma (grandmother), who was not kind in that respect. Growing up as a girl is hard enough, but her words were cruel. My mother tried to shield us from her words, but it always sticks when you are a child. Those hurtful comments remain in the back of my head to this day. I was so self-conscious by the time I was ten years old, I began throwing up. I loved food! So, I thought throwing up was stupid and tried starvation instead. Did I mention I love food? I am the one who spreads peanut butter and jam on every corner of the bread to ensure a good bite each time. That I am not ashamed of, that's just logic. Ha."
Common Symptoms of Eating Disorders:
*Keep in mind there are many different types of eating disorders, and these are general symptoms
Weight loss, dieting, and food control become the primary concern.
Refusal to eat a certain food or specific categories of food (i.e., carbohydrates)
Withdrawal from friends and activities
Extreme mood swings
Extreme fluctuations in weight (up or down)
Dry skin and hair, brittle nails
Cuts or calluses on finger joints
Alanna continues, "Throughout my life, I have tried over 20-plus "diets" and have spent thousands of dollars on the "quick fix" stuff. I overdosed on a weight loss pill that sent me to the emergency room and had to get my stomach pumped. My doctor prescribed medication, and from there, I went to a mental health facility for three days. I didn't realize how depressed I was at the time. This is so hard to talk about, and as I share this, I feel ashamed."
Treatment for Eating Disorders
If you or your loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, it is crucial to seek treatment.
Treatment will be individualized to your specific needs. Treatment typically includes a combination of psychological therapy, nutrition education, sometimes medical monitoring, and occasionally prescribed medication. You need development a treatment game plan.
Where do you start?
Assemble a Team
You will need a team of professionals to help you through your treatment process since an eating disorder encompasses nutritional, emotional, and medical consequences. Members of your team may include a mental health professional, a registered dietician, medical or dental specialist, your partner, or members of your family. It is essential to be surrounded by people who make you feel comfortable, accepted, and supported.
Address Health Concerns
An eating disorder can be deadly. It is important to have a medical evaluation. If the medical evaluation reveals health issues, your treatment team should prioritize these issues.
Create a Long-term Treatment Plan
Next, your treatment should help you develop a treatment plan. This plan will help you recover from your eating disorder and set attainable health goals for the future. They should help you discover affordable treatment options and identify resources (i.e., what will help you reach your individual goals).
Treatment options include:
Medication (highly recommended in conjunction with psychological therapy)
Alanna says, “After my second child, I went to school and became a Naturopathic Doctor to be a healthy individual and to help others. Still, with all of the knowledge I learned, there were problems. I was comparing myself to others, and depression set in again. Body image is a huge trigger for me. My husband started cheating on me, and I spiraled out of control. The only way I felt in control of my brain and body was to starve. This is not a good idea. To my fellow readers, please do not starve yourself. To this day, I am still recovering from the poor choices I made two decades ago."
"After a lot of soul searching and taking the time to know my body, I am now okay with the fact I have a little healthy belly. I am well aware of what I am putting into to my body and that it is good,” says Alanna.
The person suffering from an eating disorder is the most important member of their treatment plan. You/your loved one must take an active role in their recovery process. You must be willing to learn and gain education on why you developed an eating disorder. It is crucial to learn coping skills, which could accelerate your healing process.
Here are a few self-help practices to utilize during and after recovery:
Make a list of your positive qualities
Dress for yourself, not for others
Pamper your body (i.e., get a massage)
Keep a journal to write in daily
Fill your daily life with positive activities (i.e., pick a fun hobby)
Alanna shares, "Now, my plight is to help every young person understand that words are just that... words. It is important to have an open dialogue with others, especially your young ones. I communicate openly with my 14-year-old daughter and her friends about body image. We need to instill self-worth and confidence in our little ones when they are young."
Recovery is a process that takes time.
Please know you are not alone.
If you are interested in therapy as part of your treatment process, please feel free to contact Telebehavioral Health.US to learn more about how we can help you through your journey.
Lastly, I would like to give a special thank you to Alanna for sharing her journey with us.