Issues with Food and Eating

South Pacific Private does not treat eating disorders, disordered or compulsive eating.

Whilst we do not specialise in treating eating disorders, we understand that unhealthy relationships with food and eating often go hand in hand with other mental health issues and, like with other concerns, addressing the underlying reasons for this can be useful.

Eating Disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are serious mental illnesses that can compromise a person’s physical and emotional health to the point that their life may be at risk. Disordered eating can develop into an eating disorder so it is important that people seek treatment as soon as some of the signs and symptoms below are noticed, to prevent a great deal of suffering for both the person with the problem, and the people who care about them.

Episodes of disordered eating can be related to other problems, which need to be diagnosed and treated at the same time to prevent relapse, such as depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and addictions.

Signs and Symptoms of Disordered Eating

There are many ways that problematic and disordered eating patterns present, as every person’s story is unique to their life and experiences. It is possible to have some of the following symptoms and not have a problem, however if you have concerns it is best to seek professional advice.

  • Constant or repetitive dieting
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Binge eating
  • Vomiting or laxative abuse (using laxatives for weight control)
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise patterns
  • Development of rituals around food preparation and eating patterns
  • Eating habits which depend on mood or feelings
  • Changing or narrowing of food preferences
  • Strong opinions and judgments about “good” and “bad” food
  • Avoiding social situations involving food such as dining out
  • Spending a lot of time involved in food preparation and planning but not eating the meal yourself
  • Finding excuses to avoid eating meals
  • Eating very slowly, or gulping the food down
  • Preoccupation with body image, shape and weight
  • Constant checking of body weight on scales, or appearance in mirrors etc.
  • Changing the way you dress – e.g. wearing baggy clothes
  • Eating in secret, or hiding the amount you eat
  • Isolating and avoiding social activities and situations you used to enjoy
  • Denying or not recognising feelings of hunger
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss, or frequent changes in weight
  • Loss or disturbance of menstrual periods in women
  • Fainting, dizziness
  • Fatigue - feeling tired, not able to do as much as you used to do
  • Increased preoccupation with body shape, weight and appearance
  • Preoccupation with food or activities relating to food
  • Distorted body image – thinking or feeling that you are fat when you are actually a healthy weight or underweight
  • Defensive or overly sensitive about body shape or weight, eating or exercise habits
  • Anxiety around meal times
  • Depression, moodiness or irritability
  • Low self-esteem and negative self concepts  
  • Judgmental, controlling and/or rigid ‘black and white’ thinking (viewing everything as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’)

Getting Professional Support

Recovery from disordered eating is likely to be more successful when underlying causes and environmental factors are addressed at the same time as the presenting symptoms and problems are treated. Managing disordered eating can be challenging, exhausting and confusing when attempting it alone. For this reason professional support and treatment is strongly recommended.

Disordered eating is most effectively treated in a therapeutic environment supported by health professionals who specialize in treating the complexities of disordered eating patterns and behaviours, and the underlying issues.

Professional support and treatment from health professionals specialising in the treatment of binge eating disorders, including psychiatrists, nutritionists, and therapists, can be the most effective way to address binge eating disorder. It is necessary to concentrate on healing from the emotional triggers that may be causing binge eating and to have professional guidance in establishing healthier coping mechanisms.

These are the recommended national and local options for support:

Eating disorder help / support options: www.nedc.com.au/helplines 

Support for Australians experiencing eating disorders: http://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au