Eating Disorders

7 04, 2017

Bulimia Nervosa: Breaking the Binge-Purge Eating Disorder Cycle

2017-03-29T20:48:38+00:00 April 7th, 2017|0 Comments

Bulimia is an eating disorder that consists of periods of excessive overeating (binge) followed by purging. Binge eating occurs in several different eating disorders, for instance Binge Eating Disorder, however Bulimia Nervosa differs from binge eating disorder in that bulimia is followed by a method of purging.

Most are familiar with Bulimia as a binge-purge cycle, however vomiting is not the only method of “purging.” It is not uncommon for people with bulimia to attempt to manage or offset their food consumption with excessive exercise, laxatives, restricting or a combination of these methods as an alternative to purging.  Another scary form of purging for those who also suffer from Type 1 Diabetes is to manipulate insulin levels in order to manage weight, a terrifying and life-threatening tactic!

Bulimia nervosa typically follows a cycle of food restriction, binge and purge.  Here’s a little more about these two cycles:

Restriction:   Restriction or deprivation is an important element of the dangerous binge-purge cycle. This is because dieting, food restriction or the threat of starvation triggers us to binge eat. It is the result of starvation dating back to our ancestors. it was our body’s normal response to starvation.

Binge:  Individuals with binge eating disorder and bulimia tend to hide their excessive food intake. As we discussed on a previous blog article, it is important to note that a “binge” episode is not clearly defined by caloric intake;  some professionals may describe it as the consumption of an unusual amount of food intake in one sitting or within a 2 hour time period.  However in order to meet the diagnostic criteria for a true eating disorder, the binge episodes go beyond the amount of calories or food items consumed; the binge episodes are distressing and those suffering from this disorder often say they feel a lack of control. In an article on PsychCentral, Dr. Toby Goldsmith explains, “once a binge begins, it is very difficult to interrupt.” It is not uncommon for people to describe being lost in a “trance” during their binge episodes. Binge episodes can be planned or unplanned and these episodes are typically accompanied by mood changes before, during and after.

While there are a variety of individual triggers that may lead to a binge episode, some of the more common triggers are:

  • uncomfortable mood states
  • interpersonal stress
  • disrupted hunger/fullness cues (often stemming from dietary restriction)
  • negative feelings related to body image

Purge:  Following a binge, it isn’t uncommon for people suffering from bulimia nervosa to feel immense guilt or shame. In some cases, even if the type or quantity of food is what most would consider normal, a person with and eating disorder may attach guilt or shame to certain food choices.  This often leads to purging, which can be done by using laxatives, exercise, vomiting or diuretics, each of which carry significant dangers when misused.

After a binge, many report that purging brings back a momentary feeling of control to their lives. Some individuals have described the act of purging as momentarily euphoric, distracting them from the real issues at hand. Bulimia has also been compared to drug addiction because of the the temporary release of endorphins, or feel-good hormones.


Managing weight through these methods has incredibly detrimental effects on the body. Frequent binge/purge cycles can place incredible stress on the body. The stress of this cycle can lead to

  • arrhythmia
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • heart attack
  • inflammation, tears or rupture of the esophagus
  • gastroparesis or chronic gastric reflux.
  • mouth sores
  • degradation of the gums and teeth
  • puffy cheeks or jaws come from swollen salivary glands
  • damage to the kidneys
  • damage to the intestines can cause bloating, diarrhea, or constipation
  • anemia
  • ruptured vessels in the eyes due to the force of vomiting

It is very important to know that these health issues do not always disappear once you have overcome the illness; conditions such as gastroparesis can last for years after the cessation of binge-purge behaviors and the damage to the gastrointestinal system can last for a lifetime.

It is important to understand bulimia nervosa is more than just about food; it is about overwhelming emotions, and feelings of lack of control over the sufferer’s life. This sense of lack of control triggers the binge-purge cycle which is difficult to stop without professional help.  The good news?  There is help available!

Sabrina Landa is a clinical intern who offers counseling services here at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling Center while she completes her Masters degree in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Phoenix/Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663


5 04, 2017

Eating Disorder Recovery & Families

2017-03-31T18:26:52+00:00 April 5th, 2017|0 Comments

Individuals living with an eating disorder (ED) are not the only ones affected by their ED. The family of the affected individual can also suffer greatly while navigating their loved one’s illness. The often devastating effects of the illness can reverberate throughout a family and have a tremendous impact on the people who love the individual.

What can family members do to move through this time in healthy ways?

  • Get support for yourself – Find a therapist, practice self-care regularly, and do not blame yourself for your loved one’s eating disorder. Mindfulness and meditation may help you find calm moments each day, create space in your thoughts, and also keep you present in each moment.
  • In your mind, separate your loved one from his or her ED. Your loved one is not their eating disorder. They each have unique personalities and behaviors, and can be easily identified. This disconnection of the two allows space for love, compassion, hope and patience for your loved one and his/her recovery to be felt and shared, while also granting freedom for the intense, negative emotions that you feel toward the eating disorder.

Family members have an opportunity to play a unique and significant role in their loved one’s recovery. However, this can be daunting task, especially at the beginning.

What can family members do to best support their loved one in recovery?

  • Help your loved one find a treatment team that is experienced in eating disorders. This team should include, at minimum, a licensed counselor with eating disorder experience and registered dietitian. A medical doctor and possibly a psychiatrist may be helpful and/or necessary as well. Health professionals that are not properly trained in eating disorders can do more harm than good, even though they may have the best intentions. Interviewing the professional in advance can be a beneficial first step.
  • Educate yourself – There are many resources available to you such as the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), and quite a few good books you can use as resources (“Life Without Ed” by Jenni Schaefer is a great place to start). These can help you begin to understand what your loved one is going through with his or her eating disorder and how you can best support them. Attend any family support groups that your loved one’s treatment facility offers – these can be a huge asset, both as support for yourself and as education.

Above all else, hold tight onto HOPE. Don’t give up. There may be bad days. There may be horrific days. There will also be days full of life, light and goodness. Watch for them; be on the lookout. Note them in your gratitude journal.

Amanda Going has personally supported a loved one with an eating disorder and is the amazing Office Manager at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling Center.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Phoenix/Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663

1 04, 2017

Binge Eating Disorder: More Than Emotional Eating

2017-03-29T16:45:15+00:00 April 1st, 2017|0 Comments

From time to time we all overeat, and many of us will occasionally engage in “emotional eating.”  But what’s the difference between occasionally adding that extra serving of yummy potatoes to our plate after we’re full or eating that handful of M&Ms when we’re stressed and a legit eating disorder?

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) describes Binge Eating Disorder (BED) as recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food within a short period of time. It is important to understand that a binge is not characterized by caloric amount but rather,  by the consumption of food significantly larger then what most people would eat under similar circumstances and period. There is also the emotional component with a binge, like most eating disorders, there is a sense of lack of control during the episode, often followed by shame, distress or guilt.

In order to diagnose BED and to distinguish it from other forms of eating disorders, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) adds a few more qualifiers to help determine the correct diagnosis such as  level of distress over bingeing episodes, loss of control over amount of eatin, frequency of the bingeing episodes of at least once weekly for at least three months,  as well as things like eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating more rapidly than normal (i.e. two hour period), feeling depressed, guilty, or disgusted with oneself after overeating, eating alone because of embarrassment associated with how much one is eating, and eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

A few interesting statistics about binge eating disorder:

  • 40% of those with BED are male
  • 3 out of 10 individuals looking for weight loss treatment show signs of BED
  • Research estimates that only 28.4% of people with BED are receiving treatment for the disorder
  • eating disorder can affect individuals at any age, for BED it often begins in the late teens or early 20’s.
  • BED is actually more common than Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, with data revealing that about 5 million women and 3 million men in the United States struggle with this disorder

What tips the scales from the occasional overeating episode into truly disordered eating?  Studies have shown that many factors can play a role in the development of BED. Among those factors may be a family history of eating disorders, psychological issues such as feeling negative about yourself, your skills and accomplishments (triggers for a binge episode can include but are not limited to poor body image, stress, boredom and food), or a a history of dieting sometimes dating back into childhood.


Binge Eating disorder can lead to obesity which could create a host of health issues and medical conditions related to obesity (joint problems, heart disease, sleep-related breathing disorders etc).  It can also influence quality life by leading to social isolation, problems at work, depression, anxiety, substance use, feeling bad about yourself, and a poor quality of life.

The good news?

Binge eating disorder is treatable. Here at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling Center in Phoenix/Glendale Arizona, clients work with experienced, compassionate therapists and registered dietitians to reduce binges and address the underlying emotional and psychological components that lead to the binging.  We offer a wholistic approach to eating disorder recovery which includes the dietetic management and education component, individual counseling and therapy, as well as Intensive Outpatient (IOP) group therapy for both adults and adolescents.

Sabrina Landa is a clinical intern who offers counseling services here at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling Center while she completes her Masters degree in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Phoenix/Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663


  • Mayo Clinic Staff Print. (2016, February 09). Treatment.
  • National Eating Disorder Association. (n.d.). Overview and Statistics.
  • National Institute of Mental Health.  “Eating Disorders Among Adults – Binge Eating Disorders”.
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)
30 03, 2017

No More Suffering In Silence: Eating Disorder Treatment in Phoenix Arizona

2019-09-06T16:30:37+00:00 March 30th, 2017|0 Comments

It’s one thing to suffer from an eating disorder but it’s a whole other thing to admit you are living with an eating disorder. Many men and women go throughout their lives battling an eating disorder on their own. Eating disorders effect people of all ethnicities, races, social and cultural backgrounds and genders but it’s not uncommon if someone doesn’t fit the social stereotype often associated with eating disorders, they’ll keep their struggles to themselves. And this is one of the most dangerous and sad aspects of eating disorders:  many who have eating disorders suffer quietly on their own.  Silence is the number one reason people don’t receive treatment for their eating disorders.

If you or a loved one is suffering in silence with your eating disorder you are not alone.  Many people suffer for extended periods of time because they do not know what to say, where to go to, who to trust and having extreme feelings of shame and fear. One of the hardest and most rewarding things that can be done is to open up and talk to someone about the problem.  In doing so, you’re taking a step in the right direction admitting that the eating disorder is damaging your life and that you need help.  The earlier someone receives treatment the better, but any time is the right time to reach out, receive treatment and find hope and healing.

“Who can I talk to or where do I begin?”

Here are some ideas who you can open up to or places you can start:

  • Parent or Guardian
  • Spouse
  • Close Friend or Family Member
  • Doctor or Healthcare Provider
  • Therapist
  • Nutritionist
  • Teacher or Professor
  • Empowerment Treatment and Counseling
  • NEDA Hotline

It is important to understand that while it’s a great first step, family members, coworkers and friends are probably not equipped to help you heal completely.  They may be an integral part of your healing process and a huge support system, but it is essential to receive treatment from an experienced therapist who specializes in eating disorders or a facility specializing in eating disorders treatment.

Taking these first steps can be very difficult and painful so it is important to practice kindness towards yourself during this process.  You are taking a step in the right direction for a life long recovery from your eating disorder.  Hope and healing is possible for all!

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Phoenix/Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  


  • The Silent Suffering of Eating Disorders. (n.d.).
15 03, 2017

Dying To Be Thin: Anorexia Nervosa

2017-03-22T21:39:54+00:00 March 15th, 2017|0 Comments

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a disease in which individuals severely restrict their energy intake.  This leads to significant low body weight in context to the person’s age, development trajectory, sex and physical health. Those diagnosed typically have an intense fear of gaining weight.  They may also have a disturbance in the way their body is shaped along with denial of the seriousness of the diagnosis or medical consequences. Men or women suffering from anorexia may find that it is difficult to maintain the appropriate weight for their age and height.  Anorexia affects men and women of all ages and some individuals may not simply restrict their intake; they may purge, use laxatives, manipulate prescribed medicines, or exercise excessively as their primary mode of restriction and compensation.

According to NEDA, anorexia can affect people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities.   There is evidence the people have suffered from anorexia for thousands of years all over the world.   Anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic disease after asthma and diabetes. Often the disorder occurs in adults and adolescents but diagnosis is increasing in elderly populations.  It is important to remember that extremely low body fat percentages aren’t the only indicator for diagnosis. Some clients may even appear be of average size or even overweight.

Those suffering from the most common forms of anorexia tend to be severely underweight or malnourished, which can lead to many health complications.  Not only are they suffering on the outside, but there is also usually severe internal damage occurring as well. Some of the hidden internal damage attributable to anorexia nervosa can be brain shrinkage due to malnourishment and over time, the body effectively begins to “eat itself” due to the extreme and often extended states of starvation.Generally, the health risks of anorexia become more severe as the disorder progresses.  Other possible consequences include:

  • Development of heart conditions
  • Impairment of blood sugar management including the possibility of Diabetes
  • Loss of bone mass
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Anemia
  • Infertility

There are many red flags to help identify those who may be suffering from anorexia nervosa.  Below are some indications:

  • Obsession with fat and calorie contents
  • Feeling cold most of the time due to lack of fat on organs
  • Continual dieting even though the person is underweight
  • Amenorrhea which is an absence 3 consecutive menstrual cycles
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Brittle nails
  • Becoming isolated or withdrawn from social situations especially around food
  • Ritualistic eating patterns
  • Excessive exercise
  • Obsession with body weight and looks
  • Avoidance of eating

Anorexia is a deadly disease.  It has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric conditions and can destroy not only a person’s body but it also affects their mind, body and spirit. Even though the disorder can be deadly there is hope!  Awareness of eating disorders and a body positive movement is growing nationwide.

Those suffering have a variety of treatment options based on the severity of their symptoms and current functioning: inpatient hospitalization, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and outpatient treatment, and many insurance carriers will cover therapy and treatment for eating disorders. Due to the complexity of the disorder, it is critical individuals suffering from anorexia be treated by qualified, experienced counselors and treatment teams specializing in eating disorders.

Rachel Peru is a clinical intern in the process of completing her Masters in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663

8 03, 2017

Eating Disorders: Men Suffer Too!

2017-03-22T21:40:47+00:00 March 8th, 2017|0 Comments

When people think of eating disorders they often think it’s all about women.  This is not always the case: eating disorders can and DO effect males, and they can suffer from a range of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

According to The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at sometime in their life.  Men who identify as homosexual have a higher rate of eating disorders ranking at 15% and heterosexual males at 5%.  Just like their female counterparts, men with eating disorders may also suffer from depression, substance use, anxiety and excessive exercising.  Males may also suffer from body dysmorphia, where they obsess over real or perceived body flaws and muscle dysmorphia, where they obsess about being small worry that they are too “little” or too frail.

As with their female counterparts, men are bombarded with media images where men are portrayed with young, tall, strong, “built” physiques…often facing media pressure to look a certain way that is not attainable for most.  It can be very difficult for men struggling with eating disorders to seek treatment; they are often faced with social stigma and misunderstandings about how eating disorders affect their gender.  Getting a clear diagnosis can also be problematic as many of the assessment tests used tend to use language catering to women.

The good news? Prevention and treatment are available for men suffering from an eating disorder.  It is important to know the warning signs and risk factors of an eating disorder.

Genetic Vulnerability
Sociocultural Influences
Psychological Factors such as

  • perfectionism
  • obsessive-compulsiveness
  • neuroticism
  • negative emotionality
  • harm avoidance
  • core low self-esteem
  • traits associated with avoidant personality disorder

Using these warning signs, professionals and loved ones can help identify those who are at risk for an eating disorder.  It is important to keep in mind that men of all ages, shapes and sizes can suffer from any form of eating disorder or disordered eating.

Rachel Peru is a Counseling Intern at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663




15 02, 2017

Explore The Connections Between Food, Body & Feelings

2017-03-13T13:37:06+00:00 February 15th, 2017|0 Comments


  • Do you find it hard to love your body?
  • Are you done with fad diets?
  • Do you think you “should” exercise, but you’re embarrassed to go to the gym?
  • Have you considered the relationship between food and feelings?
  • Do you eat certain foods to help you feel better?

Join our EMOTIONAL AND BINGE EATING PROCESS GROUP which begins March 29th and meets weekly on Wednesday nights from 6:00-7:30 in our Glendale, AZ office.

If you live or work in the greater metropolitan Phoenix area, please join us and connect with others who share your struggles, and begin to move towards healing and wellness. Topics covered will include nutrition, body image, movement and more!

Call our office for details: 623.810.1663.

26 10, 2016

The Benefits of IOP: Eating Disorder Outpatient Treatment in Arizona

2017-02-22T02:07:01+00:00 October 26th, 2016|0 Comments

For many people, getting help for an eating disorder isn’t a matter of admitting that they have a problem. The issue is getting the right amount of support that can be flexible enough to accommodate a busy schedule. Inpatient eating disorder treatment isn’t always necessary, and it’s not the right option for most people. Even so, traditional outpatient treatment can leave participants feeling as though they need more than just a meeting or a group one or two days a week.

Intensive outpatient programs offer the perfect level of treatment for most eating disorder patients, and these programs carry many benefits.

Plenty of Time for Counseling in Arizona

Counseling is an integral part of eating disorder treatment in every case. It’s essential for you to be able to work one on one in a therapy environment and discuss the issues that could have led to your eating disorder. When you choose IOP, you’re giving yourself plenty of time to work with your counselor without having to wait a long time between your appointments.

Availability of Eating Disorder Groups

Research has shown that participating in group therapy has been instrumental in helping people recover from eating disorders. When you have an eating disorder, you typically feel as though you’re all alone in your struggles. You may feel depressed when you see others who are living their lives normally, and you wish you could achieve that goal for yourself. In a sense, the weight of your eating disorder and the isolation it brings can drag you down. Eating disorder groups reinforce the truth – that you’re not alone, and there are others who have struggled the same way that you are struggling. In addition, you’ll reap the benefits of hearing others tell their stories, and you’ll help many people through their own struggles too.

Health Insurance Companies Prefer Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Arizona

If you have ever tried to begin an inpatient treatment program for your eating disorder, you may be familiar with how difficult it is to get some health insurance companies to approve your stay. The fact is that for most people, inpatient treatment isn’t necessary, and yet, traditional outpatient treatment doesn’t provide enough support for recovery.

IOP offers an excellent middle ground for eating disorder treatment, which health insurance companies prefer. Many times, their reimbursement rates are much higher for intensive outpatient programs than they are for inpatient treatment programs, and you’re able to get started much faster. Choosing IOP relieves a lot of financial stress, and gives you the excellent support you need.

Intensive Outpatient Programs in Arizona are Flexible

One of the biggest reasons people tend to shy away from going to inpatient treatment is that they don’t have the time to commit to such a program. Some of these programs are thirty days long, or even longer in many cases. Life is busy, and if you work full-time or have a family to care for at home, inpatient treatment is probably out of the question for you.

With IOP, you can get the level of support you need on a schedule that fits into your busy life, and allows you to take care of all of your responsibilities.

IOP in Arizona at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling

At Empowerment Treatment & Counseling, our approach to eating disorder treatment is a holistic one, and our goal is to get to the underlying root cause of your eating disorder so that we can promote healing and recovery.

Our intensive outpatient program is an eight-week program for men and women who are age 18 and older. You’ll have the opportunity to work closely with our treatment team, and other patients in a group setting several days during the week. The flexibility of our program allows you to continue going to work or school during the day and receive the help you need during the evening hours.

How can Empowerment Treatment & Counseling help you recover from your eating disorder? Contact us today to learn more.

19 09, 2016

Living with Bulimia: My Story

2017-01-17T01:45:13+00:00 September 19th, 2016|0 Comments

Here at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling near Phoenix, Arizona, it always tugs at our heartstrings when we get to experience our clients’ recoveries from eating disorders, such as bulimia. We’d like to share one with you today.

I can remember the exact moment my eating disorder began. At the time, I had no idea I was toying with becoming bulimic, but to be honest, I really didn’t care. I’d look at myself in the mirror in the morning and I’d hate what I’d see. People would complement me on my outfit, and I’d be sure they were lying to me just to try and make me feel better about myself. I dreaded getting up in the morning because I knew I’d have to face that mirror and the horror of what I saw there.

It was a terrible place to be.

One day, I made a decision. I was going to take charge of that image in the mirror, and I was going to change it. I had heard of people eating a lot of food, and then taking diet pills or laxatives. Some people even forced themselves to vomit. That seemed like the quickest way to get what I wanted, so I gave it a try. The first time was hard, but after that, it got a lot easier. Soon, bulimia nervosa became a way of life for me.

Contemplating Bulimia Therapy Near Phoenix, AZ: Bulimia Side Effects

It wasn’t long before I started experiencing some physical changes, but they weren’t the ones I was expecting. The image in the mirror really didn’t change much, but my health did. My teeth started to get a lot of cavities, which I found out later is one of the most common bulimia symptoms. A few months in, I developed stomach ulcers. I went to the doctor to get treated for them, but still continued on in my bulimia nervosa behaviors.

About six months later, I developed pancreatitis. I started having pain in my stomach, and I was admitted to the hospital so they could stabilize me and give me the treatment I needed. It was then that I decided I should find out more about bulimia symptoms and what else could potentially happen to my body.

I learned that one of the other bulimia side effects was developing heart problems, and that it could even cause heart failure. I had reached the point where I was scared of continuing in the behaviors, but I really didn’t know how to stop doing them. That was when I reached out for help.

Bulimia Counseling Near Phoenix, Arizona: Changing the Course of My Life

To be completely honest, I was ashamed of what I had done. I had put myself through so much physical stress, and I was afraid to admit that I had bulimia nervosa. It was hard for me to open up about my behaviors to the staff at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling, but once I did, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. They didn’t judge me at all. Instead they focused on helping me overcome bulimia nervosa in a way that was focused on my body, and on true healing.

Today, those urges to binge and purge are gone. Now that I have the support I need from bulimia counseling, I’m confident that my healing will continue.

Are you in need of bulimia therapy near Phoenix, Arizona? This story is just one of many, and we’d love to give you the chance to share your success story. Please contact us to get the help you need.

Quiz: 5 Signs You have an Eating Disorder

27 05, 2016

Emotional Eating: Finding a Way Through

2017-01-17T01:45:13+00:00 May 27th, 2016|0 Comments

There’s a reason why it’s called “comfort food”.

As a child, I learned that food could be a welcome pick-me-up that made me feel better when nothing else could, and that perception only grew as I got older. By the time I was an adult, food had become my coping mechanism.

I Turned to Emotional Eating Whenever Life Let Me Down

It’s easy for me to have a love-hate relationship with food.

On the one hand, my comfort foods of choice have always been there for me – they don’t judge me, criticize me, reject me, or let me down. Binge eating always made me feel better – at least for a while –whenever I was feeling:

  • Stressed
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Anxious
  • Lonely

But here’s the thing – as time went by, a wicked pattern started to emerge.  Whenever I was feeling down, I would often overeat even if I wasn’t hungry. I would eat way past the point of feeling full. It was almost as if I was completely powerless.

Of course, all of this binge eating affected my weight, which in turn affected my self-esteem and made me feel even worse. So, without even thinking, I would turn to my normal coping method – eating.

I Had to Get Help for My Emotional Eating

My problematic eating caused me a bit of a health scare, and my doctor recommended that I get some help that went beyond just losing weight. After checking around, I found a reputable program right here in Arizona.

When I met with my counselor for the first time and she interviewed me, something she then said really stuck in my mind. She told me that my primary goal in therapy wasn’t going to be to lose weight – it was going to be to get healthy.

She explained that my weight was only a byproduct of a different problem – emotional eating. If, through counseling and therapy, we could get to the root of that problem, the weight would take care of itself.

Learning to Move Past Emotional Eating

During the first few sessions, we worked on identifying the “triggers” that set off an episode of binge eating. We talked about being “mindful” – trying to increase my overall awareness of how I was feeling at any given time. The goal was to recognize the emotional and physical signs that preceded a binge.

Once I was able to recognize my triggers, we worked on substituting positive coping methods that didn’t involve food. For example:

  • For stress or anxiety, I could get rid of the excess energy by taking a walk, doing housework, or even turning on the radio and dancing alone in my apartment.
  • For depression or loneliness, I could make myself feel better by calling up a friend or family member. I was also encouraged to get a pet to keep myself company.
  • For boredom, I could go to a movie, take up a new hobby, or even enroll in a class.

Of course, all of these were just examples that we explored. The main goal was for me to understand that I did not have to be held “hostage” by the feelings that could result in emotional eating. I could proactively regain a measure of control.

Once I started learning how to eliminate some of the triggering negative feelings, we worked on how to resist the inevitable cravings. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I would still sometimes experienced almost-overwhelming feelings of wanting to eat and eat and eat.

We worked on practical strategies that I could employ to deflect and delay until I felt more in control of myself:

  • Sometimes, all it took was steeling my resolve for very short periods – half an hour, 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes at a time, to give the craving an opportunity to pass.
  • When shopping, I stuck to a list of healthy, non-junk foods.
  • I never let myself get too hungry –I kept a supply of healthy, nutritious snacks. If I let myself get positively ravenous, it became all-too-easy to lose control.
  • I tried to practice portion control.
  • I ate slower and took smaller bites.
  • Most of all, I tried to appreciate my food, rather than just mindlessly wolfing it down. Again, this allowed me to be more mindful of what I was doing.

Over the course of my therapy treatment for emotional eating, I learned so much about WHY I overate, which helped me to practice strategies that I still use to this day. I honestly have no idea exactly how much I weigh, because I was taught not to judge my progress via a scale, but I can tell you this – today, I am happier and healthier than I have been in a very long time.

If you live in Arizona and are struggling with any degree of eating disorder, Empowerment Treatment & Counseling, conveniently located in Glendale, has licensed therapists who can help you regain control of your health and your life.