Eating problems

Explains eating problems, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Your stories

Not just a girl's disease...

Mark blogs about his experience with anorexia.

Mark Gould
Posted on 25/02/2011

Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice

Georgina's blog for Time to Change on her experience of bulimia and anorexia and the misconceptions she faced.

Posted on 29/11/2012

Abuse and eating problems

Georgie talks about how the abuse she's experienced relates to her eating disorder.

Posted on 24/02/2014

How can I help myself?

Eating problems can be overcome. Many people find that, once they have found support and help, they begin to learn how to tackle their problems, cope with the causes and improve their relationship with food.

Talk to people you trust

While people around you may find eating problems difficult to understand, they will usually want to help you however they can. You may find it useful, when you feel able, to discuss with them things that they can do to help, and things that they should try to avoid doing. They may want to look at the How can family and friends help? section of this information.

Be open with the people closest to you; they may not completely understand, but they can help.

Peer support

If you experience eating problems, you may feel extremely ashamed. You may feel no one really understands what you’re going through. You may also be very used to hiding your behaviour, and this can be very isolating. There are great benefits from talking to others with the same problem.

You may be able to find a peer support group or drop-in that you can go to by contacting Overeaters Anonymous, looking at beat’s website, or phoning the Mind Infoline to find out what’s available in your area.

Online peer support

If you find it hard to open up about your eating problem, you could use an online forum, for example, beat’s online communities or Elefriends.

It’s important to make sure that you stay safe online. There are lots of websites and forums which promote eating problems, and getting involved with them may make it harder for you to get better. If you’re worried that you may find these websites distressing, or that they may make your eating problems worse, you should start by contacting an organisation like beat or Anorexia and Bulimia Care.

You could also ask a friend or family member to help if you’re concerned about what you might find on the web. Mind’s information on How to stay safe online also gives guidance on how to look after yourself while finding support online.

Practise mindfulness or relaxation techniques

Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves paying attention in a deliberate way. This can mean taking the time to notice the things around you, your feelings and how your body feels. When you slow down and observe, you can catch sight of things, and you can become better at understanding your own reactions and moods.

I use mindfulness when I eat. It helps me to realise that I deserve food, and to eat it in the right way.

(See Be Mindful in for more information about mindfulness and details of groups in your area.)

You may also want to try relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga. These can help you feel more at peace with your thoughts, and help you think about your body in a different way. You can search online for a yoga or guided meditation class in your area. If you can’t go to a class, you can find videos and websites with instructions online by using an internet search engine or a website like YouTube.

Learn to be kind to yourself

Eating problems can be a really big part of your life, and changing how you feel and behave can take time. You may need to make slow changes.

Your first changes may not even be about eating – you might want to do things that help you feel good about your body, like having a massage, or boost your confidence, like asking friends to write down their favourite things about you.

Sometimes you may feel that you have taken steps backwards, or relapsed, and this can be discouraging. It’s important to accept this as part of the process, and it’s worth finding a way to focus on what you have achieved.

Being kind to yourself can be hard if you feel bad about yourself or feel worthless. Mind’s information on increasing your self-esteem has information that can help you change these feelings.

Take practical steps to change unhealthy routines

Your routines around eating and food can be hard to break, especially if you’re experiencing eating problems. You might find that putting some small, practical solutions in place can help you avoid eating patterns that you find problematic. This might mean buying smaller amounts of food if you’re overeating, or making sure you do something fun after meals if you’re worried about purging. If you are focusing on your weight, calories or food-related goals, you might find it helpful to think of positive goals that aren’t about eating.

I do better with buying food in single servings so I only have around what I’m intending to eat there and then.

Distractions after a meal are key for me! Going online, watching a movie, reading, working, etc.

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