Mind Over Meal: The Role of Mental Health Care in Eating Disorder Treatment - The Meeting Matters

Mind Over Meal: The Role of Mental Health Care in Eating Disorder Treatment - The Meeting Matters

February 6, 2024by Mishaal Babar0

We all love eating and enjoy our favorite foods. While food is to help us sustain life, it is also a source of joy for most of us. Who doesn’t love pizza on a tiring day or a burger to celebrate weekend. However, this takes a turn downhill when we start eating unusually, which is to say, we either start skipping meals or binge eat. There can be many factors that lead to this but an important thing to know here is that not all sorts of unusual eating indicate eating disorder. Nonetheless one must know when it becomes alarming. So, if you are a stress eater and find solace in food during moments of distress or if you stop eating entirely in times of suffering, this article is for you.


It’s a common human experience to seek comfort in meals, but when does it cross the line into something more significant? In this journey of self-discovery, we delve into the intricate web of eating disorders. It starts innocently, perhaps with stress-induced eating, but when signs like excessive weight loss, energy depletion, or nutritional deficiencies emerge, it’s time to pay attention. While occasional concerns about health, weight, or appearance are common, some individuals develop an excessive preoccupation with weight loss, body shape, and regulating their food consumption. These behaviors could indicate the presence of an eating disorder.

Understanding Eating Disorders


Eating disorders are complex conditions that affect a person’s relationship with food, body image, and overall well-being. It is marked by significant distress along with drastic weight fluctuations leading to other health issues such as nutritional deficiencies. Some of the common prevalent forms of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-eating or Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.


Common Symptoms Include:


  1. Distorted Body image: A persistent dissatisfaction with one’s body shape, often leading to drastic attempts at weight control.
  2. Obsessive Food Habits: Constantly thinking about food, calories, and dieting, which can result in extreme behaviors.
  3. Secretive Eating: Concealing eating habits due to shame or guilt, a common trait in various eating disorders.


At its core, an eating disorder is not merely a matter of food or body image but represents a profound disturbance in one’s relationship with food, body, and self. The common verbatim of people with eating disorder may look like, “eating is like a crime”, “I cannot forgive myself for eating”, “the calories haunt me”, “I cannot control my hands when eating”, “I hate myself when I look in the mirror”. These are some of the thoughts that people with eating disorders experience. This does not stop here, and people find unhealthy and regressive ways to deal with these thoughts. For instance, taking laxatives, extreme diet routines, avoiding public eating, anger outbursts, high intensity workouts and many others.

In Pakistan, the rate of eating disorders has increased drastically. The research suggests that in male population of Pakistan, the prevalence of eating disorder has increased from 75 cases in every 100,000 men to 92 cases now. Similarly for females, the common rate was 126 females in every 100,000 in 1990 to now 153 females (Zahra et al., 2023).


What causes eating disorder?


Understanding the causes of eating disorders is multifaceted. It’s not solely about appearance; psychological, genetic, and environmental factors play pivotal roles.

  1. Psychological Factors: Trauma such as bullying or being target of family jokes for being ‘too thin’ or ‘too fat’ has seen to be a major contributor in development of eating disorders. Comments from family members about weight or appearance, whether well-intentioned or not, can impact an individual’s body image. Similarly, low self-esteem or perfectionism can also contribute to the development of eating disorders.
  2. Genetic Predisposition: A family history of mental health issues can increase the vulnerability to these disorders.
  3. Societal Pressures: Unrealistic beauty standards and societal expectations can fuel unhealthy relationships with food. In Pakistan, several cultural factors play a role in shaping attitudes towards body image, food, and weight, which can exacerbate the insecurities in people. Pakistani culture often places a strong emphasis on traditional gender roles and societal expectations regarding beauty standards. Women, in particular, may feel pressure to conform to idealized notions of femininity, which often include being thin and fair-skinned.


The Healing Power of Psychotherapy


Navigating the path to recovery often involves psychotherapy. Professional support can make a significant difference by addressing underlying issues and promoting healthier coping mechanisms. Luckily, there are Psychologists in Islamabad for people looking to treat eating disorder. The females suffering from eating disorder should consult some of the Best female psychologists to seek help and begin their journey of healing.

Here is How Psychotherapy Can Help:


  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Identifying and challenging negative thought patterns associated with body image and food. CBT aims to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs surrounding food, body image, and weight. CBT helps individuals recognize and replace these harmful thoughts with more balanced and realistic ones. Eating disorders are often accompanied by difficulties in managing emotions, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. CBT equips individuals with coping skills to effectively deal with emotional distress without resorting to disordered eating behaviours. This may involve learning relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills, and assertiveness training. Best clinical psychologist in Islamabad can help people in seeking help for the eating disorders and impairments caused by it.
  2. Family-Based Therapy: Engaging the support system, particularly in cases involving adolescents. Family therapy provides a safe space to explore family dynamics and relationships that may contribute to the development or maintenance of an eating disorder. By involving family members in the therapeutic process, underlying issues such as communication problems, conflict, or dysfunctional patterns can be addressed. This can reduce stigma and increase empathy and support for the individual struggling with the disorder.
  3. Mindfulness and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: Focusing on building a balanced and mindful approach to food and self-perception. By practicing mindfulness, individuals can develop a non-reactive stance toward their thoughts and feelings, which can help reduce impulsive or emotional eating behaviours. By learning to identify and regulate their emotions more effectively, individuals can reduce reliance on maladaptive coping mechanisms such as binge eating, purging, or restrictive eating. DBT also focuses on building a life worth living by helping individuals clarify their values, set goals, and develop healthier ways of coping with life’s challenges. This can contribute to long-term recovery from eating disorders.If you are someone struggling with eating disorder or know someone who might be dealing with this, this is your sign to reach out for professional help.

Mishaal Babar

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