There is an ever growing epidemic of eating disorders amongst both women and men. Some start as young as six years of age. According to the National eating Disorders Association as many as 10 million females and one million males are struggling with anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders are serious and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

What most people don’t understand is that an eating disorder is more than just a fad or a diet, it is a behavior that saturates all parts of the person’s life; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Bingeing, purging, starving or over exercising becomes a way to cope with feelings, emotions and life circumstances, however it doesn’t start out that way.

No one who decides to control their weight by using eating disorder behaviors thinks they’ll end up in and out-of-control cycle. In fact, eating disorders start out by being in control-in control of one’s weight, food, size and image.

A diet turns into an eating disorder, when a person’s attitude towards food and weight has gone awry, and their emotional well-being is determined by what has or has not been eaten or by a number on the scale.

As an eating disorder progresses the person starts to think more and more about food and weight, and will frequently structure their day by how they are going to avoid eating, or when and what they’ll eat and how they’ll get rid of it after by purging or exercising. The eating disorder behavior becomes more important than anything else in life.

The person is unaware of the physical and emotional harm they are doing to themselves and can often become life threatening.

At the beginning, the eating disorder behavior brings the person pleasure, but this pleasure is short lived. After awhile it becomes a habit and often turns into an addiction. They become trapped and are no longer in control. The mind takes over and the body responds and the behavior becomes automatic, making it even more difficult to stop, and the person is now on a path of self destruction.

The private world of a person with anorexia or bulimia is filled with secrets about anger, guilt, power, sexuality, fear of growing up, self-hatred and self-doubt. They might look fine on the outside, but feel powerless and overwhelmed inside and they turn to food and weight to have some sense of control and safety in their lives.

It is important to understand that anorexia and bulimia is only the symptom of what is going on internally. Usually the person doesn’t even understand why they do the behavior themselves,

Suggestions to overcome an eating disorder

It’s definitely a process. First and foremost be gentle and loving with yourself. Know that you’ve done nothing wrong. Do your best to surround yourself with people who love you for who you are and allow you to have your own experiences. You are not an object; you are a beautiful human being with your own thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Notice when you’re doing something because you truly want to, or if you’re doing it to please others. Practice communicating what you want with someone you trust. Then move on to other areas in your life. Once you start to communicate your truth, you’ll develop a deeper trust in yourself. It might be uncomfortable at first, but keep doing it, it does get easier. Just like anything new, it can take some time to become familiar and comfortable.

Stop at the first thought of engaging in the eating disorder behavior and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now? How did I know it was time to do the eating disorder behavior, what triggered it?” Allow yourself to be with whatever emerges. It might come as a thought, a word or a feeling. Our feelings and emotions are messages from our true self. Whenever we reject them, we continue to block our inner wisdom.

Think about the amount of time and energy you spend in the eating disorder. What would you be doing instead? Imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have an eating disorder. How would you feel? What would you do? What would you focus on? Who would you be without an eating disorder?

Sometimes we don’t want to try something new because it seems too difficult. What if you changed the idea of it being too difficult? What if it you had the idea that it was easy, what would that be like; what would that feel like?

For 23 years I was in and out of hospitals struggling with anorexia. I almost died three times and was told by many doctors I would never get better. At the beginning I found it terrifying to let go of what I knew, it seemed impossible to live any other way. Once I finally allowed myself to take small steps into unknown and experience the present moment, I was able to understand myself better and make healthier choices for my self. Yes, there were times, sometimes days when I would go back to old ways, and I wanted to give up because it seemed to painful, and sometimes I did, but I would always find some way to bring myself back to center and start to focus on the life I wanted for myself. I found that in my darkest moments I received my best lessons. The eating disorder served a positive purpose in my life and I embrace all that has happened and continues to happen. Through my experiences I get to learn and grow and become more my true self.

Be patient, gentle and loving with yourself. All the answers to your life are within you. Take some time to get to know the beautiful person that you are. There is a tender, loving spirit inside of you wanting to come out. Are you willing to let it?

About the Author:

Debra Mittler is the author of Free yourself from Anorexia and Bulimia now available at and

Debra is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Author, Speaker and Life Coach. She has individual clients and speaks on eating disorders.

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