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Eating Disorders - It's Not About the Food

By Kelly Lopez

If it’s not about the food, what is it really about?

The eating disorder serves a function, it does a job. Despite the problems an eating disorder creates, it is an effort to cope, shield against, communicate, and solve problems. Behaviors may be a way to establish a sense of power or control, self-worth, strength, and containment. Bringing may be used to numb pain. Purging may be a way to release emotions. When one cannot cope in healthy ways, adaptive functions (behaviors) are created to ensure a sense of safety, security, and control.
According to Carolyn Costin*, some of the “adaptive functions that eating disorder behaviors commonly serve are”:
It’s not about the food, it’s a way of coping with low self-esteem, negative emotions, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, unstable home, difficulty resolving conflict and much more.
*Costin, Carolyn. The Eating Disorder Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments and Prevention of Eating Disorders. 3rd. edition, McGraw Hill, 2007.
Fuller, Kristen. “Eating Disorders: It’s Not All about Food.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Mar. 2017