Get Help Coping with Eating Disorders

The term “eating disorders” describes serious health conditions that can affect the sufferer’s physical and emotional health. It is important that people who are experiencing eating disorders to seek professional help; if left untreated these disorders can lead to chronic, debilitating and even life-threatening conditions.


Maritime Psychology Clinic offers psychological counseling for patients who are experiencing eating disorders, while paying close attention to physical and nutritional needs. We tailor treatment to the individual’s needs, assessing not only the severity of the disorder but also the patient’s unique problems and strengths.

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Seeking help for an eating disorder can be challenging and difficult, but we will work closely with you to achieve results. Please contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced psychologists.

Myths & Facts about Eating Disorders

Melissa Burgess Moser, Ph.D., L. Psych.

Psychologist

MYTH: Individuals with eating disorders are vain and are not in serious distress.

FACT: Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. These disorders are complex and influence an individuals’ emotional, cognitive, and physical health. At their worst, these disorders make it difficult for sufferers to think about anything else besides food, exercise, and finding ways to eliminate calorie intake. Individuals with eating disorders are also more likely to experience depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and other addictions. Eating disorders represent much more than issues with body image; they typically develop to help individuals to cope with difficult life stressors, strong emotions, and challenging interactions with others in their lives.

MYTH: It isn’t that complicated; individuals with eating disorders just have to get over themselves and eat.

FACT: Once individuals start restricting their food intake, over-exercising, or binging and purging their bodies start to enter a state of semi-starvation. This semi-starvation state leads to food obsessions and aversions, rigidity and a loss of control around food, and depression and anxiety. Once individuals reach this semi-starvation state, their brains start to increase the production of endorphins. This increase production of endorphins tries to accommodate for the physical damages that are being caused by malnutrition. Individuals with eating disorders quickly start to develop an increased reliance on these endorphins. This increase reliance makes it very difficult for individuals to stop their eating disorder behaviour, such as over-exercising, binging or purging, or following through on loved ones’ suggestion to “just eat one more bite”, without a great deal of professional support. This video by Laura Hill provides a great example for what it is like to live inside the head of someone with an eating disorder.

MYTH: Eating disorders are only diagnosed in young women.

FACT: It is true that eating disorders are more likely to develop in adolescent or young women. But many individuals do not seek treatment until later in life. Men and transgendered individuals also suffer from eating disorders that may focus on weight but also the appearance and size of the muscles.

MYTH: My eating disorder isn’t serious enough for professional treatment; I’m not anorexic or severely underweight.


FACT: Not all sufferers are underweight; individuals with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Individuals who engage in binging and/or purging are at risk for serious bodily harm including, but not limited to, obesity, anemia, electrolyte imbalances, heart failure, fainting, reproductive issues, cognitive confusion, memory difficulties, tears and ruptures in the lining of the throat and esophagus, bloody vomit, and ulcers.

MYTH: Eating disorders develop from bad parenting. 


FACT: Although there is a genetic component to these disorders, there is no evidence to suggest that parenting styles solely contribute to the development of an eating disorder. In fact, there is more evidence to suggest that treatment can be improved with the support of family members.

MYTH: Dieting is a healthy and normal. 


FACT: Certain individuals grow up believing they have more control over the weight than they actually do. Individuals have a genetically based set point weight and it nearly impossible to move more than +/- 10 lbs outside this range. Almost all dieters gain back their lost weight within 5 years. There is research to suggest that individuals can even gain additional weight from dieting. This video by Sandra Aamodt explains this research very well.

The preceding information sheet has been created and adapted from NEDIC: Myths about Eating Disorders and the following additional resources:

Grilo, C. & Mitchell, J.E. (2010). The treatment of eating disorders: A clinical handbook. Guilford Press. New York. 


National Institute for Mental Health

National Eating Disorder Information Center (Canada)

National Eating Disorder Association (United States)

Center for Clinical Interventions: Eating Disorders (UK and Australia)

Tips for Meal Support

Successful Meal Planning Tips
Melissa Burgess Moser, Ph.D.


Before Meals

  • In the first part of recovery it can be helpful for individuals with eating disorders to seek support in creating a weekly meal plan. This meal plan should specify the exact timing of each meal and snack with a specific outline of the type/quantity of food expected at each time slot. Follow nutritional rehabilitation guidelines or dietician’s suggestions. Planning meal times decreases anxiety about eating meals too close together, and feeling too ‘full’ as a result, and decreases urges to skip meals. Structuring meal times and snacks keep the blood sugar levels stable and this prevents impulsive binge eating.
  • When planning meals and snacks, remember meals have 3 – 4 food groups and snacks have at least 2 food groups. Remember you should not go more 3 – 4 hours without having something to eat.
  • Communicate daily to your support people about the strategies that have been helpful/not helpful in supporting your recovery.
  • Remember that no one is to blame in this situation – support one another without criticisms/anger.
  • You should go to the washroom before the meal and try to avoid using the washroom for at least 2 hours after the meal to decrease the temptations for purging.


During Meals

  • If you require meal support, ask your support people to learn how they can serve as a healthy role model for eating by facilitating and modeling the social aspect of eating. Ask them to monitor your food intake, and to offer encouragement and reassurance that the food/amounts that you are eating are reasonable and healthy.
  • Allow your support person to encourage you to eat a little more than you normally do, or more than you planned to.
  • Explain to your support person that they need to keep concern and empathy at the forefront—that at times your mind can been taken over by the eating disorder. Frustration and criticism have been shown to discourage eating, empathy and support encourages it. Ask your support person to watch and monitor the tone of voice for anger and frustration and if they cannot, find a new support person.
  • Remind yourself that although you are old enough to decide on whether you are hungry or full, and what to eat, your brain can send you very different messages when you are caught up in an eating disorder. You need to follow a schedule and seek support from others to help you gauge what are appropriate food selections and serving sizes.
  • Minimize talk about diet foods, exercise, and portion sizes after the meal has been set on the table. Instead talk about local events, movies, new books, participate in trivia (avoid talk about gory/violent movies or events)
  • Minimize talk and exposure to diet foods in general, understand that diet foods are not needed for healthy eating.
  • Keep track of time: meals 30 – 45 minutes; snacks 15 minutes
  • Talk to your support person about how and how many times they would like to be notified of their time limit to eat. A mid-meal update and another one about 5 minutes before the end of the meal can be helpful.
  • Tell your support person that if you start to engage in eating disorder behaviors (playing with food, cutting in little pieces, hiding food, using excessive condiments) you need to be reminded gently that you doing so (you may not realize it) and ask you to stop.
  • Remind yourself that consistent meal completion will help restore your health, and since your brain is no longer communicating with your stomach properly, it will also provide clues to tell you when you are hungry or full. You have to eat when you feel ‘full’ in order to restore hunger sensations.
  • Expect this to be difficult and be ready to ask for support from your loved one. Remind yourself that food is the medication you need, and ask your support person to do the same. Food will keep you healthy and safe. OR The food is what your body needs to heal itself. Eating when not hungry (called mechanical eating) is the only way to make your body/brain better. Eating will get better over time.


After Meals

  • Limit bathroom use to prevent purging.
  • Ask for distraction from anxiety; after meals can be particularly challenging. Distract by doing mild physical activity such as a walk, playing a board game or watching a movie.
  • If you are anxious, spend some time talking to your support person about their feelings. Ask them to reinforce your effort to eat more and tell them how hard it is for you to do so.


Emotional Support Tips for Support People

  • Pay attention and reflect sufferer’s emotional state, be patient, listen actively with full attention (eye contact, lean forward, nod your head, say, I see, uh-huh).
  • If you don't understand, ask gently – do you mean…? Can you tell me about ….?
  • Reflect feelings by saying- it sounds as though you feel….It sounds like that makes you…, It looks to me like you are….
  • Paraphrase what you hear: I hear you saying… It seems that… Is that right?


Things That Do Not Help

  • Guilt tripping the patient – this practice fuels disordered eating by making your loved one feel more guilty/more shame than they already feel.
  • Lecturing the patient on dangers of eating disorder too often can be irritating and frustrating. Advice such as this is better received from professionals.
  • Eating in public and/or restaurant foods may have to be put on hold for a while; it can be too stressful at the early part of treatment.


After Binges and/or Purges

  • Encourage the patient to be compassionate with themselves and remind them they are in the process of getting better.
  • If they are willing, help them to identify triggers for their binge – did they skip meal/snack in the last day or two? Were they feeling tired, stressed, overwhelmed? Troubleshoot about other ways to cope with feelings or address triggers such as tiredness.
  • Encourage them to stick to regular meal schedule despite feeling overly full from binge. Remind them that if they skip meals the next day that might set them up for a binge the next time.

Tips for Resisting a Binge or Purge

Melissa Burgess Moser, Ph.D.


Resisting the urge to binge or purge can be difficult for patients with eating disorders. Here are some tips to help you avoid the urge and achieve recovery.


  1. Postponement – Most urges to binge and/or purge only last 20 – 30 minutes. Try distraction or urge surfing mediations to help you get through these difficult moments.
  2. If 30 minutes is too long at first, start by postponing the binge or purge episode by 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, and then eventually work up to 30 minutes.
  3. Distraction ideas- call a friend, go for a walk (in nature, not near restaurants/stores and don’t bring your wallet), or listen to music, watch a film, or engage in a challenging cognitive task.
  4. In addition to distraction, think about, journal or talk to someone about your long-term goals and how they are more important than the short-term gain that comes from binging and purging.
  5. Make a list of other coping skills (i.e., relaxation, meditation, contributing to others) ahead of time that you can use when these urges pop up.
  6. Make a note of your common triggers for eating disorder urges and speak with your psychologist about how to manage these difficult situations using healthy coping skills (i.e., staying with an emotion, support seeking, and assertiveness) without resorting to your eating disorder behaviour.
  7. To help avoid a binge or purge--avoid places with food or toilets whenever you feel stressed. Visiting with friends or being in a public space is a good idea to give you more control.
  8. Remember even if you binge, you can still try and resist a purge. Don’t give up on your goals. Try relaxation or a mindful breathing technique to cope with the full feeling in your stomach.
  9. Pre-prepare some high protein snack foods that could help with satiety but not trigger inappropriate feelings of guilt and/or an uncontrollable desire to stop eating.

Locations

321D St. George Street

Moncton, NB E1C 1W8


353 St. George Street Suite 200

Moncton, NB E1C 1W8

Service Area

Moncton and surrounding areas in the Maritime

Contact Information

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Private and Confidential

Professional Affiliations

College of Psychologists of New Brunswick

Clinic Hours

Each of our psychologists creates their own schedule. Some psychologists are available on evenings and weekends, while others are only available during the day. Our administrative assistant is typically in the office from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM Monday – Thursday. From July 1 to October 1, she will typically be available from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM Monday – Thursday. If you need her assistance, please call ahead of time to confirm her availability.

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