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Eating Distress


Food and eating is an essential part of healthy development and living. Experimenting with eating patterns is common (for example dieting, being vegetarian, sampling different foods, eating health foods) but sometimes eating patterns can become disordered and damaging. Sometimes people confuse who they are with what they look like and change their eating patterns as a result. Distress about eating is often linked to emotional distress in some way. Some common themes include:

  • Preoccupation with food – thoughts and behaviours
  • Issues around control or lack of control
  • Negative perceptions of self, low self esteem, self-obsession
  • Distorted thinking
  • Secretive behaviour

Eating disorders often develop over time and may be recognised as:

  • Anorexia – controlled and minimal food intake leading to excessive weight loss and distorted body image, often accompanied by excessive exercise.
  • Bulimia - urges to over-eat (binge) followed by compensatory behaviour of purging by excessive fasting, self-induced vomiting or abuse of laxatives.
  • Compulsive eating – urges to over-eat followed by more eating in attempts to regain control and comfort.

Moving out of Eating Distress

Recognising there is a problem and seeking support as early as possible is important. Often it is useful to tackle behaviours about food intake alongside working on the reasons for distorted and damaging behaviours around food. Talking through issues such as relating to family and friends, feelings about self and body image and any significant past events can help to make sense of why eating may have become disordered.

Medical support and information can be obtained from GP practices or health centres


Useful resources


Other Resources

B-eat: Beating eating disorders 
Men Get Eating Disorders Too 
Self help booklet for those with eating disorders 
Short videos on recovering from eating disorders 
Available from the University Library:   
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Eating Disorders : A Comprehensive Treatment Guide
 Glenn Waller

Explores causes, diagnosis, physical effects of anorexia,treatment options and recovery

Alexander R Lucas
  • Food-mood Solution : All-natural Ways to Banish Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Stress, Overeating, and Alcohol and Drug Problems--and Feel Good Again
 Jack Challem

Aimed at men who feel they have difficulties with eating/weight

John F Morgan

CBT Programme aimed at changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviours of bulimia

Cooper, Todd, Wells

Sections on anorexia, bulimia and obesity. Includes info on how hormonal changes affect appetite

Abraham and Llewellen Jones

Popular and easy to follow guide, has been evaluated in a clinical trial

Treasure & Schmidt

CBT based self-help programme


Comprehensive and practical guide for sufferers and families.

Written by a former anorexia sufferer, includes information about the different types of eating disorder and tips for recoveryPaterson

Useful book for men affected by an eating disorder and their families

Useful if you want to understand how you relate to food and how this links with your relationshipsG Roth
Explores reasons for emotional eating and benefits of exercise to moodRobert E. Thayer

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