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Eating Disorder Q&A with Tiffany Priska, MA, LPC-S

What is an eating disorder?

As best put by Eating Disorder Hope, "eating disorders describe illnesses that are characterized by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape." They cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors, such as obsessions with food, body weight, and shape. Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

What is the usual age for people to get an eating disorder?

Usually, an eating disorder onsets in your teens, though some people begin eating disordered habits or patterns in late childhood. However, everyone is different, and it’s not unheard of to develop an eating disorder in adulthood.

How can you tell if you’re getting an eating disorder?

If you think you may have an eating disorder, talk to a trusted adult, preferably your doctor or mental health professional.

How do you know that you are eating too much or too little?

For most people, if you consume less than 1500 calories a day you aren’t eating enough. If you are active, exercising more than 30 mins a day, you will need more calories. Less than 1200 calories is definitely not enough for anyone, even if you’re not active. If you are an athlete and/or exercise frequently, you can even consume 2200 calories a day. If you aren’t an active person, typically more than 1500-1800 calories a day will cause weight gain.

How do I overcome having an eating disorder?

Get help. Find a specialized therapist to specializes in eating disorders sooner than later. Therapy will help you recognize your triggers, regulate your emotions, improve your self concept, and help you develop a healthy relationship with food. An eating disorder is serious and should be addressed with a trained professional. Also, if you’re a minor, involve your parents. They will need tools and support to help encourage you on your path to healthy living.

How do you learn to love yourself and your body more?

Learning to love yourself means accepting your good qualities and your flaws. To know that we all have flaws. To accept and acknowledge that you’re good too. To accept there is no such thing as perfection. Focus on your positive qualities and decide which, if any, flaws can be worked on, and how to perceive them in a more beneficial and healthy manner. Play up the areas you like about yourself.

What do you do if you think your friend has an eating disorder?

Share your concerns with your friend first. Ask her how he or she sees her body, food, and themselves. If they see themselves as having a weight issue, needing to lose weight, or if they are restricting food intake or exercising excessively, and don’t recognize it, there is a problem. Tell a trusted adult who will help-- not just listen.

BONUS: Did you have to learn about the whole body before starting to treat clients with eating disorders?

Not in extensive detail, but I did have to learn about the brain, how it works, the different parts, chemicals released and regulated in it and how different medications work on the brain.

To learn more about eating disorders, check out the following resources:

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