Eating Disorder Therapy


Food is not your enemy.

Eating Disorder Therapy in Fort Lauderdale

At The Psychology Group we have eating disorder specialists committed to helping you overcome issues with food and body. When considering Eating Disorder Therapy we have three questions for you: Is it hard for you to give yourself unconditional permission to eat? Do you feel at war with food and your body? Do you tell yourself, you will be so much happier when you weigh ____.

If you're exhausted by the thoughts of food, weight, and maybe even exercise that are running through your mind 24/7 it's time to call a truce. Because you don't have to live this way anymore and we can help.

Living in a society which bombards us with mixed messages about how we should relate to food, it’s not a surprise that nutrition has become tangled with emotions. Thinness is equated to happiness and success. Extreme exercise and diets are glorified as strength, will power and self-control.

Behaviors that may begin as an effort to achieve control, quickly may have evolved to extreme, out-of-control behaviors.

How We Help Eating Disorders

At The Psychology Group, Eating Disorder therapy is one of our areas of expertise. We utilize effective therapies (e.g., Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) that have strong scientific evidence to alleviate symptoms. We also teach the principles of Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size® (HAES®) . Women and men DO recover from eating disorders!

What to Expect From Eating Disorder Therapy

  1. The first step is to give us a call: (954) 488-2933
  2. Our practice offers complimentary 15-minute phone consultations. During this consultation we will learn more about your needs and goals. You'll be matched with one of our expert therapists
  3. Next, you'll meet with your therapist for an initial session. There, your eating disorder specialist will get a very thorough understanding of your unique background, history and what you'd like to accomplish. She'll share her ideas for an action plan and collaboratively, you'll decide next steps.
  4. Eating disorder therapy typically includes other team members as appropriate. You might be recommended to visit a general physician, psychiatrist and/or dietician as part of your treatment team.
  5. Eating Disorder therapy is typically very hands on. Examples of what therapy sessions will focus on include: learning how to make peace with food, improving body trust, understanding your triggers, learning the root cause of disordered eating patterns and improving body image.

Eating Disorder Statistics

Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating (BED), Orthorexia, and ARFID negatively impact our mood, self-esteem and ability to function. Disordered eating patterns not only wreak havoc on our medical health but they distance us from our goals, values and ability to be our authentic selves.

At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. as quoted by ANAD. And approximately 1 in 5 women have or will struggle with disordered eating (NIMH). Many studies document eating disorders as the most deadly of all psychiatric conditions.

Click here to go to the National Eating Disorder Association's online screening tool to see if it's time to seek professional help.

The Psychology Group Can Help

Our therapists are highly trained and well equipped to help you overcome disordered eating.

Call us today!

Intuitive Eating

In our practice we believe in and utilize the principles of Intuitive Eating in our eating disorder therapy approach.

Intuitive Eating is based on the premise that our body instinctively knows how to nourish itself and maintain weight. By becoming more connected to our biological hunger and fullness cues is a far more effective way to attain health, rather than following a strict diet. The authors of the best selling book, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, break down the Intuitive Eating philosophy with 10 principles. Click to see them here.

Much of your therapeutic work will emphasize making peace with food and normalizing eating patterns. You'll learn to recognize and distinguish the difference between physical and emotional feelings while simultaneously unveiling the core issues fueling disordered eating.

Health At Every Size (HAES)

In our practice we believe in and utilize the principles of Health At Every Size® (HAES®) approach to health. Much of current public health policy is based on a weight/size-based criterion. HAES philosophy rejects this from a scientific standpoint. "Obesity” is not the health risk it has been reported to be.

Fun Fact: A multitude of research suggests that five pounds “underweight” is more dangerous than 75 pounds “overweight.”

HAES is based on the scientifically sound premise that health cannot be determined by weight alone. Instead, health is indicated by numerous factors and behaviors. Weight is not a behavior.

The Health At Every Size® principles are:

  • Accepting and respecting the diversity of body shapes and sizes
  • Recognizing that health and well-being are multi-dimensional and that they include physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects
  • Promoting all aspects of health and well-being for people of all sizes
  • Promoting eating in a manner which balances individual nutritional needs, hunger,
    satiety, appetite, and pleasure
  • Promoting individually appropriate, enjoyable, life-enhancing physical activity, rather than exercise that is focused on a goal of weight loss

Emotional Eating

Imagine you’re sitting on the couch enjoying a cozy night at home when you see a commercial advertising scrumptious looking cookies. Suddenly you have a severe hankering for some chocolate chips. Where did that come from? Are you really hungry or just impacted by the power of suggestion and advertising? This all too familiar scenario has many of us questioning how to tell when we are truly hungry or dealing with an emotional craving that leads to emotional eating.

Oftentimes food cravings caused by emotions are confused as physical hunger cues. Food is tangled with many emotions in our culture such as boredom, celebration, pleasure, reward, etc. and much of the time, it's not cause for alarm. Most people can relate to noshing on a little something when there’s nothing else to do and that’s okay. But if emotional eating is impacting your happiness or your health, it’s important to learn how to recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger.

What is Emotional Eating?

The term emotional eating is often used interchangeably with compulsive overeating, stress eating, and food addiction. Regardless what you call it, emotional eating describes a behavioral pattern of ignoring physical cues of hunger and satiety and eating in response to an emotion.

Emotional eaters may engage in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binge eating, during which they may feel out of control — often consuming food past the point of being comfortably full. Emotional eaters may also engage in grazing behavior, (eating continuously throughout the day) resulting in a high number of calories consumed even if the quantities eaten at any one time may be small.

How to Tell the Difference Between Emotional and Physical Hunger

  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly; physical hunger comes on gradually
  • Emotional eating tends to be more mindless (in front of the TV, computer, while playing on a gadget)
  • Physical hunger is usually felt in the gut, with a growling stomach or nausea. Emotional hunger comes more from the head (fantasizing about the taste of a particular food item)
  • Emotional food cravings are usually specific; physical hunger is open to various food options
  • Emotional eating passes the point of fullness (satiety) and often results in negative feelings (guilt, shame, etc.)

How to Cope with Emotional Eating

Most people emotionally eat from time-to-time, so don’t beat yourself up if you recognize these behaviors in yourself. However, if emotional eating has interfered with your quality of life in a significant way, here are some tools to address it.

  • Identify your triggers. Take notice of the times you tend to crave food. What time of day is it? How long has it been since you last ate? What are you feeling and what is going on around you?
  • Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This might seem counterintuitive but binge eating is often the result of food deprivation. If you're dieting or restricting your food intake, you will eventually experience a strong urge to eat (it's called survival!). If you nourish yourself regularly, and honor your hunger, you will likely notice binge urges reduce or stop completely.
  • Have a competing response ready before cravings begin. If you notice that you tend to feel hungry when you are bored, think of something pleasurable to do instead. You could always grab a snack later if you're still hungry. Eating is a rewarding behavior and it can be overused when we feel deprived of life’s pleasures. Think of a handful of enjoyable things to do that don’t include food.
  • Add more tools for coping. Our eating disorder therapists can help you find ways to cope with feelings rather than using food as your only strategy of self-soothing. Your therapist can help you make peace with all foods and challenge negative internal/external messages about eating. We can show you how to nurture yourself and strive for a balanced and rewarding life with breaks from stress. And as always, make sure you are getting enough rest & exercise.
  • Again, it's okay to eat when you're bored, stressed, or just feel like it. It's not necessary to stop every incident of emotional eating.

What is Normal & Healthy Eating?

In short, normal eating is nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods and enjoying treats free of guilt. Normal eating is honoring your hunger and your fullness. Normal eating is flexible (it’s okay to eat just for pleasure) and it is also responsible. Healthy eaters do not restrict or abuse food.

In counseling those who struggle with disordered eating patterns, many eating disorder therapists ascribe to a non-diet nutrition philosophy called Intuitive Eating. I.E. is based on the belief that most people instinctively know how to eat. It emphasizes an adaptive relationship between food, mind, and body by making peace with food and normalizing eating patterns. Intuitive Eaters recognize and distinguish the difference between physical and emotional feelings and often naturally maintain a stable weight without depriving themselves.

Two dieticians — Evenly Tribole and Elyse Resch — coined the phrase Intuitive Eating in their 1995 book which is now in its third edition.

Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorders

This list of signs & symptoms is intended to be a starting point in recognizing some of the warning signs of disordered eating. There are many resources highlighting the symptomatology in greater detail such as The National Eating Disorder Association. Click here to be directed to their website.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by severe restriction of food intake resulting in significant weight loss (or lack of adequate weight gain in developing children).

*Note: You cannot determine if someone is struggling with anorexia just by looking at them. A person does not have to be emaciated or underweight to be struggling.

Symptoms:

  • Severe restriction of food/energy intake
  • Significant weight loss
  • Cessation of menstrual period
  • Unrealistic expectations of weight and size; low self-esteem
  • Intense need for control over food choice/meal preparation
  • Extreme inflexibility of thinking

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa characterized by episodes of out of control binge eating followed by a compensatory behavior. Compensatory behaviors can be self-induced vomiting (purging), excessive exercise, and misuse of laxatives or other medications. 

Symptoms:

  • Vague or secretive eating habits
  • Disappearing after meals
  • Dizziness, headaches, fainting spells, stomach pain, sore throat
  • Tooth decay
  • Takes diet pills, diuretics, or weight loss medication
  • Weight fluctuations

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating is characterized by a pattern of eating significant larger amounts of food than others would under the same circumstances. The consumption of food is often to the point of discomfort and brings about shame, humiliation, and/or sadness. It's the most common eating disorder.

*Note: You cannot determine if someone is struggling with Binge Eating Disorder just by looking at them. A person does not have to be in a larger body to be struggling. A larger bodied person doesn't equal an eating disorder.

Symptoms:

  • Eating alone or in secret
  • Frequent dieting with lack of weight loss
  • Feelings of lack of control when eating
  • Eating exorbitant amounts of food in a discrete period of time
  • Feels guilty if unable to follow diet regimen

Orthorexia

The term Orthorexia describes individuals who develop an unhealthy obsession with avoiding any and all foods that are deemed unhealthy.

What’s wrong with that you ask? An extreme fixation with eliminating many types of foods or ingredients can lead to significant emotional distress, malnutrition and even death.

Symptoms:

  • Obsessive about food, exercise, weight or body image
  • Unusual food habits or rituals during meals (e.g., cutting food into small pieces)
  • Mood swings, depression, irritability
  • Obsesses about the quality and health properties of food
  • Packs special foods to bring to restaurants or social gatherings
  • Has extreme labels for food such as “clean” or “poisonous”
  • Takes an exorbitant amount of supplements and herbal remedies
  • Feels guilty if unable to strictly follow diet regimen

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is characterized by restriction of food intake. It's similar to but unlike anorexia in that ARFID does not involve any distress about weight. An individual with ARFID is typically very particular about the types and quantities of food they eat but will deny any drive for thinness.

In adults, ARFID results in weight loss. In children, this translates to stunted growth in both weight and height. Many youngsters go through picky eating phases, however, with ARFID the child's caloric intake will be insufficient for proper growth and healthy development.

ARFID can also interfere with psychosocial health due to difficulty eating with others and needing excessive time to complete meals. 

Symptoms:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Significant weight loss
  • Nutritional deficiencies 
  • Dependence on nutritional supplements
  • Impaired immune system
  • Unusual food habits or rituals during meals (e.g., cutting food into small pieces)
  • Mood swings, depression, irritability
  • Gastro-intestinal (GI) issues
  • Cessation (or delay) of menstrual cycles including irregular menstrual periods
  • Fear of choking or vomiting
  • Aversion to different textures of food

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The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale
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