Focusing on Food – Positives and Negatives

I have noticed in my practice an increase in clients bringing issues relating to eating disorders. I wonder whether this is because there is an increase in the number of people suffering from eating disorders or an increase in awareness that problems they having been experiencing have a name to them.

The focus on food in society can be seen everywhere, such as in advertising and the rising number of screen programmes on cooking. It is positive to have access to a wide range of information on healthy cooking and healthy eating. However, it can have negative consequences. An example is when clients embrace calorie counting to such a degree that it becomes all-consuming. Rooted in issues such as low self-esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety and depression, this can become a toxic mix.

The central issue for the client is often one of control. Food becomes a refuge as perhaps the only area of life over which a client thinks that s/he has control. The reality is that food has control over the client. The amount of time spent in a day thinking about food becomes disproportionate and becomes a major part of decision-making about the structure of the day. Such focus on food interferes with clients’ ability to be fully ‘present’ and to derive enjoyment from their experience of what is going on around them.

The counselling work involves helping clients explore and understand better their relationship with food so that they can regain control over it and have a healthier relationship with food. The aim is to work with clients to reduce their focus on food and allow greater space to focus on non-food related activity/ies from which clients can derive enjoyment and achieve more balance in their life.