Psych Central

Eating disorder in the making

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I have been in counseling for almost two years in regards to issues that have nothing to do with body image, etc. Over the years we’ve discovered that due to havin a lack of control in so many aspects of my life (in previous years, and now) that I like to control …almost “microcosms” if you will. I like to bake, clean, etc compulsively because of control.
Recently I’ve entered a relationship (well, not too recently..but it’s only been several months) and I’ve noticed I’ve started to have an immense issues with my body image. I’ve always been athletic and I’ve always been a healthy (whole foods/non-gluten) eater (due to allergies). However, I’ve noticed I’ve started drinking disgusting amounts of water to try and keep myself full – and have started doing this thing where I start to eat something, but then spit it out in fear that I might gain weight. Also, I try and wake up late so that I can make breakfast/lunch one meal (of less than 500 calories) and then eat dinner at 5:30 or so… so I am limiting my caloric intake to about 1000-1200 calories a day at most – and I have seriously turned up my workout. I’m running 20-40 minutes, twice a day. (Plus various weight training.)
Anyway, I’m afraid that this could be turning into an eating disorder. I have no urge to throw up what I eat…but I do control it strictly.
Could this be a temporary issues due to elevated levels of stress (from a relationship…and from my parents adopting two new children) or is this something I should talk to a nutritionist about?

A: I agree with you. I think you are developing an eating disorder. Like most problems, the earlier you understand it and treat it, the more likely it is that you will manage it. Since you already have a relationship with a counselor, that’s the place to start. If you are having trouble bringing it up, just bring your letter to her.

My best guess is that you are correct about the connections you are drawing. Most relationships that have promise move closer after a few months. Becoming closer requires being willing to be more vulnerable. You may be having difficulty tolerating that. You may be exercising your most practiced coping skill, control, as a way to manage. I don’t know how your parents’ adoption of more children fits in but it probably does since you mentioned it.

Please trust your own good instincts and follow through on getting the help you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 May 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Eating disorder in the making. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/05/28/eating-disorder-in-the-making/