Three Ways to Cope with Eating Disorders

woman talking to therapist about eating disorder.

It usually begins innocently, with a seemingly harmless fascination with food and body image. However, this obsession may quickly spiral out of control, wreaking havoc on your health and well-being.

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that can make us have seriously unhealthy eating habits and attitudes toward food. We’re talking about:

  • Eating too little and starving yourself (anorexia)
  • Eating way too much and then purging because you are feeling guilty about it (bulimia)
  • Completely losing control and going on wild eating binges (binge eating)
  • Compulsive exercising (exercise bulimia).

When you have an eating disorder (ED), it’s like your brain and stomach are in this constant battle, and it’s not fun.

But the truth is that eating disorders are about so much more than just food. These severe psychological conditions can profoundly impact your life, and it’s crucial to seek appropriate treatment to cope with eating disorders.

Experts estimate that a whopping 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States will eventually experience an eating disorder. In addition, research has revealed that eating disorders actually have the highest mortality rates among all mental health disorders.

How to Cope with Eating Disorders: Three Steps

While coping with an eating disorder can be a long and challenging process, with the appropriate help, you can overcome it and live a happier and healthier life. Here are three steps to help you along the journey to recovery.

1. Learn More about Eating Disorders

The first step toward recovery is acknowledging that you have an eating disorder. Even though eating disorders can cause various symptoms, the following are some of the most typical signs of eating disorders:

  • Frequent dieting and severe dietary restrictions
  • Preoccupation with food, eating, and calories
  • Obsessive concern with body size and shape
  • Uncontrollable eating (eating binges)
  • Vomiting
  • Over-exercising
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Muscle weakness
  • The appearance of fine body hair (lanugo)

Eating disorders can affect anyone. However, they tend to be more common among adolescents and young women.

2. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Eating disorders are frequently related to negative beliefs about our body image and self-worth. For example, you may be obsessed with one or more flaws (real or imagined) in your physical appearance, or you may be anxious that others are evaluating or mocking your look. Such thoughts contribute to low self-esteem and insecurity, leading to eating disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors associated with an eating disorder.

Also, use positive affirmations or positive statements about yourself to remind yourself that your eating habits or body shape does not determine your worth. Learn to treat yourself with self-compassion, giving yourself the same love and care you would provide to a close friend

3. Seek Professional Help and Psychotherapy

While strong social support and self-care strategies can be invaluable in coping with an ED, it is critical to seek the advice of eating disorder specialists. They can provide necessary support and personal guidance through recovery. 

Also, consider psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which are the most effective in treating eating disorders. Psychotherapy can be a safe place to establish healthy routines and develop alternative coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, anxiety, and emotions, such as mindfulness or journaling. Finally, your therapist can help you set achievable goals and stay committed to your recovery plan.