Eating Disorders: Overcoming Them (cont.)

poontaasha: How can a parent distinguish between a child that is watching closely what they eat versus being obsessed about what they eat?

Barry Tigay, PhD: Obsessions are generally recognized by an extreme concern with their appearance. These children will spend a lot of time in front of mirrors, will be concerned with their clothing, and may be picky eaters. Look for the distortion of body image. They might see themselves as much heavier than they actually are. Look for self-depreciatory comments about their weight and other aspects of their physical appearance. Also, be more concerned if they are below normal weight standards.

mtwhitneyplace: I'm having a hard time controlling my appetite and food intake. What can I do?

Barry Tigay, PhD: It is very difficult to stop eating or slow down your eating on willpower alone. I usually counsel people to do the positive things they can do rather than trying to exert maximum willpower. By positive things I mean start exercising, begin even by walking gradually. Add to your exercise program and you will be burning calories, getting yourself off the couch, and building self-esteem. Take a look at the article "Exercise Programs" in the self-help section at Also, start looking at what you can eat instead of just thinking about what you can't eat. Plan your meals in advance. Include high fiber carbs and lean protein. Eat lots of lean poultry, fish, and soy products like veggie burgers and low fat egg substitutes. Also, add in lots of broccoli, cauliflower, and sprouts. Enjoy eating healthy things. You will have a full feeling. Drink lots of water. Take control of your situation rather than trying to exert the discipline to tolerate hunger. Don't let yourself be hungry. Eat the good healthy things and you will feel good while you get fit and stay healthy. If you have any current health problems or any doubts about this, check with your physician before making any changes in your routine. This program will make you feel more confident for taking positive actions.

kristiny_1999: I have an 11-year-old and already she worries about her weight. She cries that she is fat and I am unsure how to help her. What can I do?

Barry Tigay, PhD: You haven't stated what the reality of the situation is. I would respond differently if I knew that she was indeed overweight. You should do the best you can to make her comfortable but it is important that your feedback is accurate. If she is overweight, the advice I just gave is good even for an 11-year-old. If she is underweight, she may be already showing some symptoms of an eating disorder. If she is in the normal range, then concentrate on building self-esteem and help her find interests that can help her develop more self-esteem.

dash_ing98: I was told there is a connection between sexual abuse as a child and women who have eating disorders. Is this true?

Barry Tigay, PhD: There may well be a connection with some people and others can have eating disorders without sexual abuse in the picture. They are connected because of self-esteem issues and also an alienation from one's body. People who are sexually abused often develop a negative view of themselves, their physical self as well as their personality. They also feel somewhat alienated from their body. In these cases, therapy should explore the history of abuse and the part it plays in their self-image.

innocent93_99: Is it possible for an anorexic to know what they have to do to get better, but they are not able to do it?

Barry Tigay, PhD: It is both possible and very common. This is true with most psychological disorders. Knowing what to do can be worlds apart for us. The therapy needs to work through and integrate these solutions with the patients. Solutions cannot be imposed from the outside. They need to be understood and felt as well as thought. The patient has to have the confidence to try new behaviors before they can successfully give up old habits. All of this requires a great deal of trust between patient and therapist and courage on the part of the patient. It is very challenging to make these kinds of changes but the rewards are great and well worth it.

Moderator: We would like to thank everyone for joining us today! We would also like to thank Dr. Tigay for joining us.

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