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Session 2

Disordered Eating

Session 2


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Possible consequences of irregular eating patterns


Cravings, especially for sugar and carbohydrates


Loss of hunger cues

Increased risk of developing an eating disorder


Low blood sugar

Low energy

Nutritional deficiencies

Benefits of regulating eating patterns

Regular eating gives structure to eating habits so that eating can start to become a regular part of life again.

Regular eating also maintains a steady metabolism and prevents the body from going into ‘starvation mode’ in which the body stores energy from food.

It helps to combat delayed, infrequent or unstructured eating and reduces binge eating.

Regular eating helps the body to:
  • Stabilise blood sugar levels.
  • Reduce tiredness and increase energy levels.
  • Increase concentration.
  • Prevent dizziness and other physical symptoms.
  • Reduce irritability and improve mood.

What can I do to help with irregular eating patterns?

Beginning to set up regular eating habits is a fundamental intervention for anyone experiencing disordered eating patterns. Regular eating is the foundation upon which other positive changes in your eating habits will be based.

Try to eat roughly every three hours, taking the form of three meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two or three snacks per day. This can be changed as needed later on.

Regular eating gives structure to eating habits so that eating can start to become a regular part of life again. It helps to combat delayed, infrequent or unstructured eating and reduces binge eating. It stabilises blood sugar levels reducing tiredness, dizziness and increased irritability. Regular eating also maintains a steady metabolism and prevents the body going into starvation mode in which the body stores energy from food.

Tips for regular eating

Plan your meals and snacks for the day. Meals and snacks should take precedence over other activities.

Try to stick to the plan and avoid eating between meals and snacks.

If you're tempted to purge or use laxatives, learn ways to ‘surf the urge’, such as distraction or taking yourself away from the situation, which will help you to avoid these behaviours.

The hot cross bun model

The hot cross bun model shows how thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and behaviours all interact with each other in one situation. In some cases, a vicious cycle can be formed, with unhelpful behaviours triggering negative thoughts.




Physical sensation

The hot cross bun model

Changing one section of the 'hot cross bun' cycle can help to create changes in other areas. Lets think about how to communicate your feelings and emotions and write some ideas in the hot cross bun...




Physical sensation

Asking for help

Patterns of disordered eating can become hard to give up and other areas of your life might start to suffer as a result, therefore it is important to seek support rather than trying to do this alone.

You may feel worried about telling someone about their feelings and emotions, perhaps it's not something you've done before and therefore it is natural to feel unsure about this.

Learning to cope in a different way

Irregular or disordered eating patterns are often used to manage difficult emotions, however this can become a problematic coping strategy.

It is important to find more helpful ways to communicate and manage these emotions. This can be done through acknowledging and talking about your emotions - this can be difficult, so you could let others help you with this!

What can help?

Speak to someone that you feel most able to talk to, share how you are feeling and what has been difficult for you.

Reach out

This might be a parent, or a teacher, or perhaps a professional such as a CAMHS worker or your GP.

They will be able to help you to think about how you can share these difficulties and help you to get the right support.

Sometimes communicating how we feel can take some practice.

Here are some ideas...

Have some quiet time to identify
and reflect on your feelings.

Find the right time to communicate
with your trusted loved one. This could be at a set time each day or each week so you are not distracted or busy whilst talking.

Find ways of communication that feel comfortable for you e.g. writing things down, sending text messages, giving your trusted loved one a hug/cuddle.

Plan ahead – agree on ways you might communicate
how you feel when you feel overwhelmed.

Agree to send a text message when
distressed to your trusted loved one.

Agree on a particular ‘code word’ or ‘emoji’ that will be
able to show them how you are feeling.

Give it a go…


Think of some ways you might be able to speak about your feelings or difficulties.

Who might you speak to?


Where would be best to do this?

Will it make it more comfortable doing this in person or perhaps over the phone?


Do you need to write some notes beforehand to help you?

Emotion coaching

You might notice that your parent or carer are talking to you differently, or doing things in a different way… You might be wondering, why are they talking to me like that, it’s weird?

Emotion coaching is a way to connect with others and get the support we need. It can also be used to support the development of emotional health in general through strengthening connections in the brain involved in the regulation of emotions. This helps you to manage your own emotions in a more helpful way, rather than using behaviours such as irregular or disordered eating.

This is something we all need as humans, regardless of age!

Acknowledgments: What is disordered eating?

Created by:

  • Dr Salma Suri (module lead) – Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist NELFT (London) Eating Disorder Service
  • Dr Katie Quayle (module lead) – Clinical Psychologist NELFT (London) Eating Disorder Service
  • With contributions from Dr Nadia Daer – Clinical Psychologist NELFT (London) Eating Disorder Service

Emotion-Focussed Family Therapy (EFFT) material used with permission from the International Institute for Emotion-Focussed Family Therapy - Adele Lafrance, Natasha Files, Sheila Paluzzi and Jennifer Danby.

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My Notes

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