Julia Bellerby
Counselling, Psychotherapy, Coaching and Counsellor supervision
Grad. Dip Counselling, Cert. Counsellor Supervision, Dip. Coaching
Mobile: 07939 255425  |  Email: Click here
 

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Call me on 07939 255425 or click here to contact me by email.
 

Anorexia

I offer counselling and psychotherapy for anorexia in York or by phone/skype/online worldwide.

To be anorexic means you refuse to eat enough to maintain your correct body weight, have no physical reasons why you're restricting your food and are driven to continue to lose weight. You may have an intense fear of gaining weight and have distorted body image - sincerely believing you are fat, despite becoming thinner. 

In girls and women, periods stop as weight loss continues. Other physical symptoms include feeling cold, the growing of extra body hair, having very dry skin, feeling dizzy and fainting.

Anorexia is a very serious illness and has a significant death rate, so it's extremely important to see a doctor. Sufferers are often in denial and may argue that there's nothing the matter with them. If you're worried about someone it's best not to try to force them to eat but to encourage them to open up about other problem areas in their life. I offer counselling for family and friends of those with eating disorders; they are often desperate for help themselves when it's so difficult to know what to do for the best.

Body Mass Index (BMI) indicates how serious the anorexia is and what treatment is indicated:
  • Measure your weight in kilos
  • Measure your height in metres and square it (multiply it by itself)
  • Divide your weight by your height squared

Under 15: anorexic and dangerously underweight, seek medical help. I will consider seeing you even if you are very underweight, with certain safety measures in place

15 - 17: possibly anorexic - counselling may help

18 - 19: underweight - seek counselling if you are undereating, purging (making yourself sick or taking laxatives), over-exercising or always obsessing about food and weight

20 - 25: normal - but your thinking can still be anorexic. Are you always trying to eat less, counting every calorie, anxious around food? Counselling can help you to start developing a much easier relationship with eating

Am I anorexic, and what can I do about it?

The very fact that you've asked yourself this question is a good sign. It shows you've started to think more objectively about what you're doing in restricting your food. It's the first step towards recovery.

To work out where you are on the anorexic spectrum, calculate your BMI, Body Mass Index.

Calculating your BMI can be frightening, but it's important to know how serious your problem is, so you can decide what to do next.

Now let's take a look at what anorexia is all about. Control is probably the most important word. If you're able to lose weight then you have incredible self-control: most people can't do it - just look at all those failed dieters. You may well feel you haven't had control in other areas of your life: perhaps you felt unhappy in your childhood or teens, you were under a lot of pressure to do well academically, your parents split up, you've been or still are in a difficult relationship. Maybe you've experienced some real trauma - abuse, bereavement or abandonment.

But you don't have to have had a "big thing" in your past to develop an
eating disorder. So if you've lacked control over the way your life has gone so far, it's easy to see why you might try to impose some with your eating. Successfully losing weight is a very powerful high: you may feel wonderfully in control, superior to all those people who can't seem to lose weight. Each time you fight through your hunger pangs and don't give in to them you feel you're heading in the "right" direction: controlled, slim, successful.

The problem is that your "right direction" is an illusion: drastic dieting is extremely bad for you and becomes highly addictive in the anorexic person. All the problems in your life will still be there even if you do loose weight. Nothing will have changed except your weight. So you then find yourself thinking you need to lose even more weight. The less you eat, the more difficult it becomes to eat. 

The coping mechanism you've built up to get through life becomes a huge problem in itself. As you lose an unhealthy amount of weight you feel tired all the time, you don't sleep well, your periods stop if you're female, you're cold, dizzy and feel unwell. You don't want to see people or talk to anyone; work or studying become more and more difficult. Your life shrinks, along with your body. And as anorexia takes hold you develop distorted body image: the scales tell you you've lost more weight, but you see yourself as fat and tell yourself you must eat even less to reach your goals. Your brain is starved, as well as your body. You are not eating enough to think clearly, to concentrate properly. That fuzzy thinking also means it's hard to recognise that this is anorexia - you may well be in denial.

Incidentally, people with anorexia don't necessarily starve themselves all the time: there may be periods of normal or binge-eating, often followed by purging (making yourself sick or taking laxatives) or compensating (excessive exercising and extreme food restriction). Unless you seek help, anorexia can become extremely serious and even result in death.

If, after calculating your BMI, you find yourself in the danger area of 15 or under, you should seek medical help. The best place to start is with your GP or via BEAT, the main voluntary organisation in the UK helping with eating problems. Just talking to someone - a friend, a family member, a helpline, may be a huge relief: you are no longer completely on your own.

Counselling may not appropriate for someone with a BMI below 15 because the brain may not be functioning well enough for therapeutic work to be possible. I am happy to see you to discuss this and possibly set up a three-way support agreement with your GP or mental health worker.  Talking to a counsellor means you have a safe, supportive and confidential setting where you can start to unravel the problem areas you've been masking with your eating disorder. You may not even be aware of what those are at the moment, since under and over-eating are very effective at taking emotions away.

I will not be forcing you to eat but instead will help you explore what led to the eating disorder in the first place and help you to develop other ways to cope with life's difficulties, past and present.  In time you have a good chance of realising that you can choose to give it up, gradually start to increase the amount you eat, get back into the real world and have a full and satisfying life.
Julia Bellerby - Counselling, Psychotherapy, Coaching and Counsellor Supervision in York, and worldwide by phone, skype or online

Julia Bellerby
Grad. Dip. Counselling, Cert. Counsellor Supervision, Dip. Coaching, BACP Accredited
Contact me on 07939 255425 or click here to contact me by email.