Disordered Eating

What is Disordered Eating?
“Dieting, bingeing, purging and other strange behaviours are not random craziness. They are heroic, misguided and ineffective attempts to take charge in a world that seems overwhelming.”
(Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders Inc. 2005)

This quote reminds us that eating disorders are NOT about vanity or appearance but are related to psychological and emotional issues.

Disordered eating can take many forms, from restricting behaviours (e.g. strict dieting) to emotional eating, to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and so on. Numerous factors contribute to the development and maintenance of an eating disorder and therefore our therapists offer a holistic approach in their work.

Signs and symptoms of disordered eating can consist of a combination of restricting behaviours and/or over eating types of behaviour as well as related thoughts and feelings. Many people can experience just one or two of these symptoms and not have an eating disorder, for example, body dissatisfaction is common for many women. However, if you are experiencing several of these signs and symptoms you may want to speak to a professional for further assessment.

  • Preoccupation with food, weight and appearance (e.g. ongoing thoughts of food, weight and body throughout the day)
  • Dissatisfaction with appearance
  • Eating when you are not hungry
  • Find it difficult to stop eating after a regular portion
  • Skipping meals
  • Use of laxatives, vomiting, over exercising or diet pills to control your weight
  • Use of food for emotional fulfillment, e.g. happiness
  • Dieting when already a healthy weight
  • Yo-Yo dieting
  • Elimination of eating specific foods or food groups, “forbidden” foods
  • Unwillingness to try new foods
  • No or limited flexibility with food choices
  • Feeling guilty about eating
  • Feeling guilty if you don’t exercise or miss a day of exercise
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Unhealthy low or high weight
  • Self evaluation based solely or mostly on appearance
  • Think if you lose weight you will be happier, life will be better
  • Often compare your appearance to the appearance of others
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Eating secretly
  • Eating for emotional reasons, e.g. when you are bored or angry or sad or stressed; to numb or forget the emotion (this is often subconscious)
  • Weighing yourself often
  • Feeling out of control when eating or binge eating
  • Feeling embarrassed about your eating behaviours
  • Lying about what or how much you have eaten
Why Disordered Eating?
“Binge eating appears to be a pattern of motivated escape from meaningful self-awareness…”
(Heatherton, T. & Baumeister, T. Binge Eating As Escape From Self-Awareness, Psychological Bulletin 1991, Vol 110, No.1)

There are many reasons why people develop and maintain an eating disorder or eating problem. There are several contributing factors that can lead to the development of an eating disorder.  For some people eating disorders can be a coping mechanism, it can offer a (false) sense of control or a false sense of success or confidence, (e.g. when one is praised for losing weight), and so on. Using or restricting food in these circumstances is not effective long term and finding different, more healthful ways of managing these issues can often be helpful in letting go of the eating problem.

Healing Disordered Eating
“95% of all dieters regain their weight within 1-5 years.”
(www.nedic.ca, statistics page)

Eating disorders are not about will power, or about vanity. They are complex problems with multiple issues and factors to consider. Therapy can help you to understand how and why you may be maintaining your eating disorder and address these issues while developing more satisfactory methods of coping and achieving your goals.

Often times, other issues are experienced along with disordered eating, for example, depression, obsessive thinking, anxiety, difficulty managing stress, etc. These are considered on an individual Client basis and are addressed in conjunction with the disordered eating behaviours, feelings, and thoughts to encourage holistic healing.


The Therapy Heals counselling team provides psychotherapy and counselling services in York Region including Vaughan, Woodbridge, Concord, Maple, and near Kleinburg, Thornhill, Richmond Hill and Toronto areas. In addition the team provides psychotherapy and counselling services in New Tecumseth, including Tottenham, and near Alliston, Beeton and surrounding areas, including Nobleton, Orangeville, Schomberg, Bolton, and Newmarket. New office locations include Bradford, convenient for people residing in Bradford, Newmarket, Innisfil, Cookstown, Beeton, and Bondhead, and Cambridge, in Galt Cambridge, convenient for people residing in Cambridge, Paris, Brant, Kitchener , and Brantford.