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An Eating Disorder’s Complexity


By Columnist Eleni Psillakis – Eating Disorder Educator: 

Photo credit: FAT via photopin (license)

“Just eat! I don’t understand how you can not like food!” I heard this comment often during my battle with Anorexia Nervosa. It would cause my body to physically tense and sent my thoughts into a tangled mess of complexity. The dictionary definition of the word ‘disorder’ is a ‘lack of order or regular arrangement; confusion’. If you could put a recording devise inside the mind of a person who suffers from an eating disorder, you may gain some understanding.

This is the first of a series of articles that hope to do just that; allow you to gain insight into how someone with an eating disorder thinks. Eating disorders are serious mental health issues, which manifest into behaviours that cause an array of physical problems. Here lies the problem. We see the physical and therefore make assumptions that they are ‘body image’ issues, and that they may be ‘fixed’ by merely correct eating.

A seriously underweight person may be labeled as having anorexia nervosa and an overweight person may be labeled as obese. These are labels according to a person’s size. What about all the body shapes and sizes in between? The thought processes are not seen. The battle that occurs within the mind around having a sense of worth, having value, being loved, a sense of identity, being heard, trying to deal with an issue that causes a person to feel shame etc etc, all become messed-up with food, eating and exercise. This is all ‘served-up’ with huge amounts of guilt and shame on a daily, if not, hourly basis.

A person that appears to have ‘normal’ body weight may be having an ongoing battle in their mind. Not just every now and then, but constantly. Food, exercise, control and self-image, not body image, become all-consuming, to the point where you become numb to everything else. Eating disorders are no respecter of age, race, gender or status. For males that suffer, the shame and guilt is heightened, as they are generally seen as ‘women’s issues’, and so men often do not speak-up or seek help.

Eating disorders are a rip-off of a fulfilling, productive life. If untreated, they also claim many lives. I believe it is time to stop staring at the ‘elephant in the room’ and start talking about these issues that generally have a stigma associated with them. Stay tuned for next month’s topic… Types of Eating Disorders.

About Our Eating Disorder News and Review Columnist – Eleni Psillakis


Combining over 27-years experience in the fitness industry, education and a lived experience, Eleni Psillakis is raising awareness of eating disorders as serious mental illnesses. In this time as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, secondary and tertiary educator, she is aware of the fine-line that may be crossed from healthy to unhealthy diet and exercise habits.

Using resistance training to gain weight to her 39kg frame at age 19, Eleni physically recovered and went on to compete in women’s bodybuilding. However the underlying emotional issues and thought patterns resurfaced 25-years later when her marriage broke down and she was diagnosed with clinical depression. Antidepressants and 8-years of psychological counselling, assisted with unlearning of negative thought processes that Eleni had of herself for most of her life. These were nothing to do with body image, but self-worth.

Resistance training again helped the process of stopping her thoughts racing during this time of depression and she stepped back onto the competition stage gaining a top 3 place in her division for each of the 5 competitions since. It was the psychological help that has made the difference this time around.

An Insight to Anorexia and Other Eating Disorders for Fitness Professionals”, a seminar that Eleni has written, has been approved by Fitness Australia for continuing education.

Eleni Logo

Disclaimer: The information published in this column are based on the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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