Online Counselling for Eating Disorders
Our relationship with our bodies, food and sense of self can be a delicate dance.
What is an eating disorder
Eating disorders are functional, ego-syntonic disorders. Basically, fancy words that mean the experience of an eating disorder can feel consistent with a person’s ideal self-image and the disorder can serve a purpose in a person’s life.
The purpose of eating disorders may include the management of personal, emotional, and psychological difficulties to:
1. Numb painful emotions which have not found another way of being expressed or supported
2. Distract from issues that feel overwhelming
3. Provide a sense of control in one’s life
4. Inform a meaning or special identity
Understanding eating disorders and the different types
How eating disorders can develop
- Experiencing trauma or abuse (which could be physical, emotional or sexual)
- Societal/cultural/familial fixation with body image (reinforced by social media)
- Our relationship to family or friends
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- Stress and a lacking in healthy ways to cope with it
- Unable to manage one’s emotions
- Feeling that life is out of control
- Chemical imbalances in the brain
- Physiological impacts of dieting
Anorexia nervosa commonly starts in adolescence, although many people begin showing symptoms between 8-10 years old – note: dieting is the number 1 risk factor to look out for (more on this later).
People who suffer from anorexia are obsessive about losing weight and petrified of gaining weight: all to achieve their ideal body image (often influenced by social media and aligned with a Eurocentric standard of beauty).
People with anorexia have a distorted view of their weight, believing they are overweight even when they reach a weight that is unhealthily underweight. Most, but not all people suffering from anorexia are underweight.
- Excessive focus on body weight and appearance
- A deep fear of gaining weight and intense need to be thin
- A belief that they are overweight (whilst being objectively underweight)
- Not wanting to eat and dieting
- Denial of hunger
- Obsessive interest in food facts
- Constant need to check weight
- Over exercising
- Low body weight or significant weight loss
- Absent or irregular menstrual cycles
- Sensitivity to cold
- The appearance of fine body hair (lanugo) on the face or body
- Hair loss (head)
- Brittle nails and hair
- Dry and yellowing skin
Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa
Treatment can be difficult as often, people with anorexia nervosa do not believe they are unwell enough (or thin enough) to justify seeking help. The truth is, anyone who is suffering from anorexia needs support, no matter the severity (or perceived severity) of the illness.
You might be worried that if you start treatment, you will be forced to eat or that someone will get in the way of your dieting, ultimately interfering with your chances of happiness or achievement of your ideal body weight. The flip side to this is that there is no ideal body weight and avoiding treatment often leads to longstanding relationship difficulties as you try to hide your inner world from others.
Treatment options for supporting anorexia nervosa include:
- Counselling and intervention
- Nutritional advice (typically from a dietitian) and
- In severe cases, hospitalisation
Our therapists take a holistic approach to treatment of eating disorders. The concerns addressed in sessions will involve talking about your eating habits and your feelings about these eating habits, your confidence and sense of self-worth, your background and what may have led you to feel or act in a certain way. Your therapist will support you to find healthier ways to manage your eating.
PSA: In situations where body weight is so low or where the food restriction is so severe, that we deem your health is in danger – time in a specialist hospital unit may be necessary to stabilise health and eating habits, or consultation with a GP may be required alongside psychological treatment.
Bulimia is categorised by eating excessive amounts of food, followed by intense feelings of guilt and panic and the use of extreme methods to purge and eliminate the food from the body (including vomiting, use of laxatives and excessive exercising). Bulimia can strike at any age, and is considered one of the most severe eating disorders.
- Eating unusually large amounts of food (often eating fast and/or in private)
- Episodes of binge eating happen regularly (several times per week) and reoccur for at least 3 months
- Feeling a lack of control when eating
- The presence of a binge/purge cycle
- A belief that one’s body size is excessively large
- Difficulty coping with uncomfortable and distressing emotions
- Eating habits are hidden
- Dental problems
- Bowel problems
- Severe electrolyte imbalances
- Heart arrythmias
- Esophageal tearing
Treatment for Bulimia
The development of bulimia is often triggered by uncomfortable emotions – and in a way, internally “stuffing” the distressing feelings instead of dealing with them.
We all grab comfort food when difficult feelings arise: you know, those soft foods loaded with carbohydrates (ice-cream, chocolate, mashed potatoes, gravy). This is because when metabolised, we gain a feeling of fulfillment and pure joy. When this euphoric feeling wears off, we may then feel guilty about eating “bad” foods” and become determined to rid ourselves of the extra calories (i.e., by inducing vomiting, using laxatives, excessive exercising, restricting food intake). This cycle and can become extremely dangerous to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Our therapists can help you develop healthier coping skills by identifying the underlying reasons for developing bulimia and other eating disorders. We assist improving self-esteem, body image and setting realistic expectations for eating habits.
Binge eating is an intense compulsion to eat where a person is unable to control the quantity of their consumption. Binge eating can impact anyone at any age. Like bulimia, binging is often triggered by uncomfortable emotions and so we eat high calorie foods for temporary relief. This is where binge eating can become an addictive coping strategy to deal with low mood.
Our bodies are not designed to eat huge amounts of foods that are usually consumed during a binge episode. During an episode, a person might consume the equivalent of several meals in the one sitting. The episode typically lasts a few hours, so the stomach and oesophagus stretch dangerously. We all eat comfort foods from time to time – however, binge eating is a serious disorder that can lead to serious health consequences to your digestive and intestinal systems, if you’re unsure if this is you, seek support to check in out.
- Eats excessive amounts of food in one sitting
- Feeling a lack of control when eating
- Unable to cope with uncomfortable emotions
- Stomach aches and feeling sick
Our therapists can help unpack the underlying reasons for your need to binge eat when you are feeling emotionally dysregulated. Dealing with the underlying issues will help achieve ways to sustainably reduce the urge to binge eat to take control of your eating habits and ultimately develop a healthier relationship with mealtime.
Social Media & Eating Disorders
Questions to keep in mind when scrolling:
- Is this photo realistic?
- Is my content diverse?
- Do I feel good about myself online?
Reminder: social media is a curated highlight reel.
Debunking diet culture
Dieting can create and reinforce unhealthy relationships with food – as mentioned – it’s the number one predictor of eating disorders.
Often dieting habits develop because the initial dieting is not carefully planned or monitored – you might lose weight initially, but you soon find it difficult to maintain the weight loss (aka it’s not sustainable). And here develops the “yo-yo” effect: where your weight increases once you stop dieting, decreases again when starting a ~new and exciting~ dieting regime, and then increases again over time. This causes a lot of strain on your physical health.
We tend to begin a diet when we are dissatisfied with our body weight or image. Our desired body weight and shape tends to be informed by popular culture and fashion. Unfortunately, a body type which is generally unrealistic for many – yet the thin ideal remains strong.
Our therapists offer psychoeducation to help with eating disorders, harmful social media use and in debunking diet culture. If you are concerned about your eating habits, body image, or feel at risk of developing an eating disorder, let’s chat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is The Indigo Project?
We are a progressive online counselling practice, providing telehealth services in Australia. Our passionate and experienced local team includes psychologists, psychotherapists & counsellors, coaches and therapists that are trained to deliver online therapy to you in a safe and convenient way.
Whether you are looking for short or long term support through a challenging time, or looking to discover your potential, we want you to feel comfortable on every step of the journey.
Read more about Our Story
Telehealth: About Therapy and Online Counselling
What can I expect from therapy? What is therapy like?
Every therapist is different and their therapeutic style and personalities are all unique. However, all of our Indigo practitioners will hold a compassionate and non-judgmental space for you, where you are free to be who you are. Your therapist is there to listen to you, guide you, and help you overcome life’s challenges.
Generally, you’ll spend the first session getting to know each other, talking about your history and what it is you’d like to work through. From your second session onwards, you’ll get to go deeper, peeling back the layers and all the while learning practical strategies to help you transform and grow.
At Indigo we encourage our clients to have at least 10-20 sessions, because we believe that therapy is a long-term journey of commitment, growth and investment in yourself. After seeing your therapist for a while, you may continue to book occasional check-in sessions as you feel more confident doing life with the knowledge and tools you have gained.
Who is online therapy for?
Everyone is welcome to attend online counselling or therapy with one of our practitioners at The Indigo Project.
Online counselling or therapy via Zoom is an accessible, safe and convenient option for those who are unable to attend face-to-face appointments, or simply prefer to meet online. Whether it be a busy schedule due to work and family, health-related reasons or distance, online counselling can help you.
What issues are suited for online therapy?
Our team of trained clinical psychologists, psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors attend to a range of common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, grief and loss, life transitions, relationship issues and more.
A number of practitioners also specialise in areas such as sexuality, gender and identity, addiction, sports and performance, personality disorders and therapy for children and adolescents.
Several therapists also provide services in marriage counselling and couples therapy.
Finding the best psychologist or counsellor for me - where do I start?
We highly encourage you to view our practitioners and use the filtering options to find a psychologist or counsellor who can help you with the issues you are seeking help for.
Meet our therapists and what they can help you with here.
If you need help, our Therapy Matchmakers team will be able to match you with a practitioner. Give us a call on (02) 9212 5469 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can support you on your journey.
What if I can’t see the therapist I had in mind?
Our therapists typically have capacity to see several new clients each month. However these openings can get filled up fast from those who have been on a waitlist. If there is someone that you particularly want to see but is currently unavailable, we can place you on a waitlist until there is an opening.
If you prefer to attend an online counselling session sooner, our Therapy Matchmakers can help you find an alternative practitioner based on your needs and what you are looking to achieve in therapy.
Meeting a therapist for the first time can feel like a first date. If you don’t connect with your therapist on your first or second session, we’ll pair you with a new practitioner and your next session will be on the house* as part of our Perfect Match Promise.
*Terms and conditions apply.
Can I make an appointment for my child or dependent?
If you are the parent or legal guardian of a minor, you will need to make an appointment online or via the phone.
We have many psychologists, psychotherapists & counsellors who have experience dealing with children and adolescents in therapy. See who can help here.
Someone I know needs counselling. Can I book an appointment for them?
Those who require online counselling or therapy will have to make an appointment directly with The Indigo Project via our online booking form or on the phone. We do not accept bookings on behalf of an individual or couple from a third party unless as part of an insurance plan, support scheme or similar arrangement.
We want marriage or couples counselling. Can we see a couples counsellor together?
Couples are welcome to attend online therapy sessions together with one of our couples therapists.
Do I need to do anything before my first session?
We recommend setting up for your online therapy session 5-10 minutes before it commences. Make sure your computer or phone microphone and video is working, and that you are comfortable and ready to sit through your session uninterrupted.
There’s zero pressure to prepare anything for your first session but if you find it helpful, you can jot down some points about specific things you’d like to work on or discuss with your therapist.
Are my therapy sessions confidential?
Everything you discuss with your therapist here at Indigo is absolutely confidential, and will not be shared unless you or someone else is at risk of serious harm.
How do I pay for my online therapy session?
For first time clients, payment is made via debit or credit card at the time of booking. For returning clients, there are a number of payment methods available such as authorised direct debit or online via the payments link on your invoice.
Who to contact if you are in crisis
The Indigo Project is not a crisis service.
- If you are in a crisis, if you are experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or somebody else is in danger, DO NOT use this service.
- Call 000 or use these contacts for immediate crisis support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
Lifeline 13 11 14 - A crisis support and suicide prevention service for all Australians.
Mental Health Line 1800 011 511 - The Mental Health Line offers professional help and advice for everyone. Operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 - Beyond Blue provide support to address issues related to depression, suicide, anxiety disorders and other related mental illnesses.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 - A free service for people who are suicidal, caring for someone who is suicidal, bereaved by suicide or are health professionals supporting people affected by suicide.
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 - A counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.
Parentline 1300 1300 52 - Parent Line is a free telephone counselling and support service for parents and carers with children aged 0 to 18 who live in NSW.
What else does The Indigo Project do?
Our courses, workshops and events are designed to transform the way you think, feel and live.
Not ready to commit to therapy? Indigo founder Mary Hoang has created Get Your Sh*t Together, a self-directed digital course for those who want to develop greater self-awareness, tackle stress and anxiety, and learn practical skills to help heal, grow and thrive in life.
Mary has also written a book Darkness is Golden: A Guide to Personal Transformation and Dealing with Life's Messiness that combines her experience in the therapy room with unique audio experiences framed by her research in music psychology.
Although an online counselling practice, The Indigo Project believes in the power of community, and we often host events throughout the year. Keep an eye out for events such as Listen Up, a contemporary digital sound bath some describe as a “soundtracked therapy session”.
We are also available for corporate events, workshops and related projects. Please contact us at email@example.com if you’d like to know more.