Eating disorders

What is Anorexia Nervosa?


Anorexia  Nervosa (NA) has devastating physical consequences. There are various physical, psychological and behavioural warning signs that can signal the onset or the presence of an eating disorder, depending upon individual, no one person has the same presentation, individualised treatment plan is very important.  However most AN sufferers are  characterised by extremely low body weight and obsessive fear of gaining weight, which manifests itself through depriving the body of food and adequate nutrients, and sometimes excessive levels of exercise. Extreme food restrictions can lead to starvation, malnutrition, and in women, cessation of menstruation.

  What are the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa 

  • Refusal to maintain body weight over the minimum normal weight for age and height or failure to make expected weight gain during a period of growth
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat even though underweight
  • Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight, size or shape  is experienced, undue influence of body shape and weight on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight
  • In females, absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles when otherwise expected to occur (primary secondary amenorrhea)

 What are the Health Concerns for Those Suffering from Anorexia?

In anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which means that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower
  • Amenorrhea and overall hormonal imbalance
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones
  • Decreased muscle mass and weakness
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common
  • Growth of a soft layer of hair all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm

What is Bulimia?


An individual suffering from bulimia nervosa may suffer from sign ad symptoms, many which are the direct result of self-induced vomiting or other forms of purging, especially if the binge/purge cycle is repeated several times a week and/or day. Bulimia is characterised by re-current binge eating episodes (the consumption of abnormal amount of foods in a short period of time) associated with a sense of loss of control and immediately followed by feelings of guilt and shame. This leads to compensatory behaviour such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, over-exercising, and/or misuse of laxatives or diuretics. People with bulimia usually maintain an average weight of maybe slightly above or below the average weight for height.


What are the symptoms of Bulimia?

Recurrent episodes of binge eating. Episodes of binge eating is characterised by the following:
  • Eating, in discrete periods of time, an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances
  • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episodes: a feeling that one can not stop eating or cannot control what or how much one is eating
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain such as self induced vomiting, misused of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications, long period of fasting or excessive exercise
  • Binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviour occur, on average, at least twice a week for a period of three months
  • Self-evaluation is overly influenced by body shape and weight

What are the Health Concerns for Those Suffering from Bulimia?

The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.

Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death
  • Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of purging behaviours
  • Gastric rupture during periods of bingeing
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the oesophagus from frequent vomiting
  • Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting
  • Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse
  • Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis

Tell me More About Binge Eating Disorders


Binge eating is recognised as a separate disorder with its own symptoms. Like bulimia it is characterized by frequently eating excessive amounts in a short period of time, often even when not hungry. Binge eating is accompanied by feelings of guilt, self-hatred, anxiety, depression or loneliness.  However, those with binge eating don’t purge. Body weight may vary from average to obese.


What are the symptoms of Binge Eating?

  • Recurrent episodes of uncontrollable binge eating, including eating abnormally large amounts of food.
  • Binge eating that is associated with a least three of these factors: eating rapidly, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large amounts when not hungry, eating alone out of embarrassment, feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after eating.
  • Distress about binge eating.
  • Binge eating occurring with at least twice a week for a period of at least six months.
  • Binge eating is not associated with inappropriate methods to compensate for over-eating, such as self-induced vomiting.

What are the Health Concerns for Those Suffering from Binge eating?

Binge eating disorder often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity.

Some of the potential health consequences of binge eating disorder include:

  • Type II diabetes mellitus.
  • Heart disease as a result of elevated triglyceride levels.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol levels.
  • Gallbladder disease.
  • Compromised digestive system 
Do you need help?


Does eating affect your life emotionally, socially and cause you to be unwell?  If you have strong feelings and thoughts, worries, and concerns about eating, your physical appearance, and what other people think of you, or have engaged in behaviours such as compulsive overeating and habitual dieting, then you may have an eating disorder.

Tell me More About Eating Disorders

As I mentioned eating disorder (ED)  has devastating physical consequences. There are various physical, psychological and behavioural warning signs that can signal the onset or the presence of an eating disorder, depending upon individual, no one person has the same presentation, individualised treatment plan is very important. ED are serious and complex problems. We need to be careful to avoid thinking of them in simplistic terms; for example, regarding anorexia as just craving sympathy and attention, or regarding bulimia as merely an addiction to food.  Eating disorders arise from a variety of physical, emotional, social, and familial issues, all of which need to be addressed for effective prevention and treatment.  When an eating disorder gets out of control, it can be life threatening.

Normal eating includes the digestion of healthy foods, the intake of a mixed and balanced diet that contains enough nutrients and calories to meet the body’s needs, and a positive attitude towards food and eating, as opposed to negative attitudes which lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety. Normal eating does fluctuate, however it should not fluctuate to the point of leading to a nutrient deficiency or excess weight loss or gain.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder you need to seek professional help immediately to ensure rapid physical and emotional recovery.

Naturopathy can help you with physical, mental health and nutritional advice to resolve an eating disorder, because living in constant fear of gaining weight is not a life we really want for ourselves.  Important aspects of treatment include regular intake of healthy nutrition, adequate exercise, creation of self love and education about healthy eating habits. Also supporting other body system which have been weakened by ED, especially strengthening digestive system and nervous system with varies naturopathic medicine. 

Establishment of a well balanced diet that is corresponding with an individual wishes is also essential to recovery.  Nutritional counselling and advice may be useful to help a person identify their fears about food and the physical consequences of not eating well. Education about nutritional values of food can be beneficial, particular when the person has lost track of what normal eating is.

Daniel also uses Acceptance Commitment Therapy, he strives to assist the individual in discovering an uplifting perception of self, separate from one’s thoughts, emotions, and recollections.  ACT aids an individual in achieving greater clarity in regards to personal values, inspiring to execute action on them, thus attaining increased ability to deal with  unwanted internal experiences such as emotions, thoughts, or bodily sensation. 

ACT can help you to effectively handle painful thoughts and feelings and to create a rich, full and meaningful life. Life worth living!!

What are some of the predisposing factors for eating disorder?

There is no one factor responsible for a person developing an eating disorder. Each person is subject to different internal and environmental factors which may contribute to the development of disordered eating behaviours. The most common ones are:

  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior pattern
  • Life experience which set the motion
  • Post traumatic stress
  • Social-cultural influences: fashion magazines, athletes etc.
  • Feelings of lack of control
  • Family interactions
  • Genetics (MTFHR, Kryptopyrolles)
  • Substance abuse


Personality characteristics of disordered eaters

  • Perfectionist
  • Highly self-motivated
  • Regards others opinions highly
  • Self-critical behavior
  • Very sensitive to others opinions
  • Need for control; feels out of control
  • Low self esteem
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Kind and caring

How Does Naturopathy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy Help with EDs?

Establishment and education of correct eating habits and mindful eating

  • Preventing long term health issues by restoring nutrition with a well-balanced, individualszed diet
  • Correcting dysfunctional behaviors and negative thinking relating to food
  • Resolving depression, anxiety and obsessive thinking
  • Reducing fears around food and weight gain
  • Cultivating positive thought about foods and yourself 
  • Being able to plan meals but without it dominating your life
  • Stabilising overeating and undereating patterns
  • Restoring and controlling a healthy weight with a well-balanced diet
  • Reducing or eliminating behaviours or thoughts that originally led to the disordered eating

Daniel helped many of his clients over the years,developing individualised programs

I was in the midst of a personal crisis, or what I believed was a personal crisis, I turned to Daniel for help, and was introduced to Mindfulness.

I had never heard of the program, but was willing to undergo the treatment, as I has lost faith in my ability to overcome.  The outcome was more than I could have expected. Too often I think we allow our minds to be negative vehicles, and just train ourselves subconsciously to accept negative thoughts and the impact on our bodies. I now know we can fight back. Mindfulness taught me how to deal with negative thoughts, in a positive way, without medication. MIndfulness is now in practice every day of my life, I owe a lot to its teacher, and its design.

Lisa from Berwick

“There is a difference between being fat and having the thought, ‘I am fat’”.