Bulimia is characterised by a pattern of binge-eating and then induced vomiting. Apart from the mental stress of bulimic behaviour, it can have severe effects on the teeth, stomach lining and the oesophagus. Bulimia is often a mechanism for getting rid of bad feelings but sufferers rarely feel good for long and need to binge-eat again and vomit when the feelings build up again.

Anorexia is characterised by a pattern of rigid weight control, often to the point of starvation. Sufferers very often feel out of control in their own lives and get a strong feeling of control over the one thing that no-one else can interfere with - what food enters their bodies. They are often actually obsessed and fascinated by weighing and eating food and can have an altered body image where they see themselves as fat and ungainly even when they are skeletal in appearance.

Overeating is characterised by a need to eat until the sufferer feels better but usually this is impossible. Sufferers feel they have a huge hole to fill inside themselves and that their hunger is unassuagable. The need to fill themselves with nourishment is difficult to satisfy and can often mean that either they are missing out on emotional nourishment somewhere else or that they subconsciously feel they need a layer of fat, the bigger the better, between them and the world. Fat is seen as a protection, perhaps against feeling small and weak or maybe a protection against being recognised as a sexually available person.

If you know that you are using bulimic or anorexic behaviour or that you are over-eating to make yourself feel better, there are a few guidelines on normal eating that might help if you follow them.
  • Try to eat three times a day
  • Eat foods that you enjoy the taste of and that satisfy your mouth
  • Don’t feel bad if you over-eat or under-eat sometimes
  • Eat good or bad foods without feeling guilty
  • Eat socially in a similar manner to others around you
  • Be aware that eating is not the most important thing except for your good health


Recognise anxiety, tension or unpleasant feelings prior to eating
Re-organise your lifestyle to avoid your particular triggers ie loneliness, boredom and tension

  • Try to recognise genuine hunger signals
  • STOP dividing foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’
  • Learn that dieting is unnecessary and makes you miserable
  • Realise that most foods can be eaten in moderate amounts without dramatic weight gain
  • Understand that the urge to binge may take many months to go completely
  • Try to decrease your preoccupation with food

For anorexics only

  • Are any other family members collaborating with your behaviour, whether they are aware of it or not?
  • What other feelings are you avoiding by being preoccupied with food?
  • Do people expect as much from a thin person? Are the expectations of you too great?

For bulimics only

  • Write down your feelings before you vomit and ten minutes afterwards. Has it helped?
  • Do you like to keep this secret? What would happen if people found out?
  • What other situations make you feel like this?

For over-eaters

  • Do you feel safer being fat?
  • Write down how you feel when you eat normally
  • Write down your feelings when you eat too much to be comfortable