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Eating Disorders and Other Destructive Behaviours


By Columnist Eleni Psillakis – Eating Disorder Educator and Filex 2016 Inspiration Award Winner:


Photo Credit: Eating Disorder by Christy McKenna 2010

Hating the mistakes we have made or wrongs made against us, is a very different head-space to hating ourselves. Low self-esteem is a common characteristic for those that suffer with an eating disorder, although the causes of the low sense of worth may stem from a variety of circumstances including emotional and/or physical abuse, bullying or post traumatic stress. A person who does not have positive strategies to cope with these circumstances is vulnerable to using destructive behaviours including a poor relationship with food, excessive exercise, substance abuse, both legal and illegal or other means of self-harm. I see all these behaviours as self-harm, and they strengthen cycles of low self worth, guilt, shame and unhealthy behaviours.

Low Self Worth

Low self-worth can also cause one to look to external sources for validation. They say the story you believe is the one you live. I believed I was worthless unless I pleased others, seeking their praise. I found that my sense of worth came from doing more, and this included what I did to my body. I dieted more and exercised more. I used always to turn anger inwardly towards myself rather than be assertive to express how I felt. This lead to hating who I was, especially in the last few years of my marriage, when I thought that destroying my body would be the answer, as I had done in my teens. I took to external sources of validation, including promiscuous behaviour. And so more shame, more guilt and a strengthened negative cycle.

Substance Abuse

Research shows a co-morbidity between eating disorders and substance abuse, with 50% of sufferers dependent on illicit drugs. This study highlights the complexity of these mental health issues where one’s sense of worth is ritualistic behaviour based. The abuse of substances, whether drugs or food may stem from a need to control, a means of dealing with anxiety, negative feelings or a combination of these. This need becomes complicated by the effect of some of these substances on body weight.

Your Beliefs

Believing you are worthless may cause a person to make poor decisions they would not normally make, as the need to feel some sense of value dominates. Both of these can lead to incarceration which then exacerbates the problem, and adds to the cycle of guilt and shame. The majority of women in custody have had serious mental health issues before incarceration. Under the conditions of such a strict environment, freedom on many levels is taken away, which can heighten the intensity of negative behaviours associated with eating disorders.

Eating disorder behaviours alone are complex mental health issues. Combined with other destructive habits increases the risk of both physical and psychological complications. To treat the symptoms alone is not enough. The deep underlying reasons need addressing, alternative methods of coping need to be learned and practised. Unlearning negative thoughts about one’s self is not an easy process but is vital. The destruction begins with the negative thoughts one has about themselves as a person. These ideas have clouded who you are. Self-acceptance and self-worth, based on WHO you are and NOT based on what you do or dependent on external praise is an essential component to recovery.

Further research on these topics are at:



About Our Eating Disorder News and Review Columnist – Eleni Psillakis

IMG_0727Combining over 27-years experience in the fitness industry, education and a lived experience of eating disorder, 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.


In 2016, Eleni received the ‘Inspiration Award’ at the prestigious FILEX health and fitness convention, an event that recognises excellence within the industry. Eleni won the award due to her commitment in promoting awareness of eating disorders and dedication to educating others in how to overcome feelings of self-loathing.


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 are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another 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.




7 thoughts on “Eating Disorders and Other Destructive Behaviours”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for the past few years now and I loved this read. Just followed your blog and looking forward to more of your posts (be sure to check out mine too!)

    1. HI Angie,thank you for your openness. I read some of your Blogs 🙂 Love WHO you are and not just because of WHAT you do or what you achieve. Those things will follow. Peace to you 🙂

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