When we think of Anorexia, we think of too little food, or food restriction. When we think about Bulimia and Binge ED we think about eating too much food. Food restriction and binge eating are just a part of the picture when working with clients struggling with an Eating Disorder. It runs much deeper than food control.
Eating disorders are characterized by individuals trying to affect their body size and shape by changing the way they eat. What most people do not realize is that the central tenet of these disorders is a desire to take control of one's life, and to avoid feeling the chaos that surrounds them.
For friends, family and caregivers of individuals suffering from an eating disorder, the answer seems simple: eat more or eat less. Which is much like telling a depressed person to just be happy. With classic eating disorders, it is in the restriction and excess that one finds relief, that they find a sense of worth and control in a world that feels out of control. Food becomes both the savior and the enemy.
While weight restoration is important for those who are underweight, true recovery comes from individuals learning how to deal directly with their thoughts and feelings and how they affect behavior. Knowing how to improve is more important than understanding why.
The less we use food to assert control, the more we can connect with the things that truly matter and learn to connect with ourselves and the world around us. When working with a client struggling with an Eating Disorder, consider all aspects of the patient's life and view food as a factor rather than the focus to find long-term recovery.