About Freedom with Food

What can you offer me?

• an initial meeting, so that you can make an informed decision about whether a course of sessions would be right for you. You are welcome to bring whanau to the meeting if you wish.


• a course of weekly sessions to support you in healing any eating issues (difficulties with food) and transforming any body image issues (appearance concerns). For some people, this process mainly involves finding strategies to change how they deal with thoughts, feelings and food in their everyday life. But for many, this is not enough for sustainable change, and the process needs to involve a transformation of how they experience themselves, others and life. To find out more, see the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Freedom with Food also runs the following kinds of courses:
  • learning courses for those wanting to focus on strategies for dealing with thoughts, feelings and food in their everyday life. These courses are held in small groups.
  • training courses on eating issues and body image issues for those in the helping professions (including counsellors, social workers, nurses, dieticians, occupational therapists, and psychotherapists)

You may also be interested in the Freedom with Food blog, which offers some self-help ideas.

What happens in appointments?
You will find the answers to this and some other frequently asked questions on the FAQ page.

Where, when, how much and how long for?
You will find the answers to these and some other frequently asked questions on the FAQ page.

About Lena Cromartie

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Lena is of Scottish descent and grew up in a number of European countries. New Zealand is now her permanent home.

Lena has recovered from Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. She trained in the UK as a counsellor and then completed a further qualification on eating disorders. After several years gaining skills and experience as a generalist practitioner, in 2009 Lena set up Freedom with Food, a private practice dedicated to helping people resolve eating and body image issues. More recently, Lena did a 3 year training in Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy and is now working towards becoming a registered psychotherapist. She is committed to continuing to add to her knowledge and skills, and to staying informed of the latest research in Eating Disorders.

Among other qualifications, Lena has a Diploma in Practitioner Skills for Eating Disorders, a Post-graduate Diploma in Counselling, and a Diploma in Life Coaching. She is a full member of, and registered with, NZAC (New Zealand Association of Counsellors). In the UK, she is a registered counsellor and accredited member of BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy). She is the author of Bingeing, Dieting and You: 30 things every woman needs to know.

Lena's background enables her to offer both an understanding of the challenges faced by people experiencing eating and body image issues, and knowledge of possible solutions. Her professional experience continues to provide evidence for her belief in the potential people have to find an easier, happier relationship with food and with their body, and to enhance their overall wellbeing.

To find out more, you are warmly invited to make contact.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do I have an eating disorder?
If your relationship with food (the way you think about food, and your eating or avoidance of eating) is a concern for you or those close to you, then it’s possible you have an eating disorder and it would be worth finding out. This is true whatever your age, gender, weight, and whether you regularly overeat (eat more than your body needs) or undereat (eat less than your body needs). If you have an eating disorder it’s important to find healing, and getting help as early as possible will make this easier.

You could ask a health professional about whether you fit the latest criteria for having an eating disorder; if you do, you may be eligible for funded help. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that the criteria are designed to guide professionals in treatment and research decisions, rather than provide some objective ‘truth’. They are subject to change from time to time; and at any one time there are many people whose experience doesn’t match the criteria but who are even so experiencing a distressing or disordered relationship with food. If you are one of these people, a useful question to ask yourself is: is the way I think about food and behave around food affecting me or my life negatively? If the answer is yes, it’s worth seeking out support in making some positive changes.

What kind of help is available?
This will depend on where you live. In some areas, there is DHB funded help for recovery from eating disorders, although due to funding limitations this may not cover all eating disorders. DHB help may include residential, day or outpatient treatment, including one-to-one psychotherapy.

If you aren’t eligible for this or would prefer other sources of help, you can look for a private practitioner counsellor, psychotherapist, clinical psychologist, or dietician. Some offer more affordable rates for those on lower incomes. It’s a good idea to find one with specialist knowledge of (or considerable experience of) working with people experiencing difficulties with food.

There may also be a 12 step programme group in your area. Some people find the group experience and structure of these helpful and that the philosophy is right for them and provides a supportive framework; some find the approach to food too rigid; some find that the philosophy of the 12 step approach doesn’t fit with who they are or with how they want to be with food in the future.

What is the Freedom with Food approach?

Overall, the approach involves first coming to a more complete understanding of what is going on for you so that the next steps can meet your needs as fully and precisely as possible; then support with making any necessary personal and practical changes to heal and transform the difficulties. How this looks in practice depends on your individual needs and what you want to change, and you are welcome to arrange an initial meeting to discuss it. Sessions may draw on understandings and techniques from a wide variety of sources, including: contemporary psychotherapy theory, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), neuroscience, and mindfulness (awareness of mental, emotional and physical experiences).

With regard to how, what and when to eat, it is recognised that there are many conflicting theories about nourishing the human body. So you will not be told what to do, but supported in finding out what is right for you at this point on your journey.

What happens in appointments?

One possibility is that process starts with you gaining more understanding of the present situation: how you think about, feel about, and deal with food and your body; also your lifestyle, your environment, your health, your relationships, and any current challenges you are facing. Understanding how things came to be as they are may also be important; this may include considering the part played by your life history, your genes, how the human brain and nervous system operate, and the ways you have responded to this unique mix of ingredients. It is then likely to become clear what needs to change or heal, and how this could happen.

The hard work of making changes may take place by both
  • with the support of the therapist, learning new ways to deal with feelings, and re-evaluating long-held ideas within the sessions
  • with the support of the therapist, finding practical ways to put the understanding you have gained into action in your everyday life, in a way that works for you.
The overall aim is that the appointments offer a supportive environment where your unique needs can be recognised and responded to. As Lena believes that difficulties always arise as an understandable response to life history and current circumstances, there is no judgement.

Can I use the appointments to deal with other issues?
Yes. While Lena specialises in the treatment of eating issues (difficulties with food) and body image issues (appearance concerns), she also has experience in working with a range of other issues. These include low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, difficulty managing emotions (emotional dysregulation), self-harm, post-traumatic stress disorder and other unhealed memories, obsessive thinking, and compulsive behaviour. Sometimes these difficulties are closely related to the difficulties with food and body image, and resolving one will involve resolving the others too.

Appointments take place in central Wellington, just off Lambton Quay. (Skype and phone appointments are not available.)

Appointments are usually during the afternoon or early evening. Research and experience shows that for maximum effectiveness, these need to take place on a weekly basis (with occasional exceptions, such as when you are on holiday).

How much does it cost?
An initial half hour meeting is available, to help you decide whether this kind of help would be right for you; there is a charge of $25 for this meeting ($10 for those on low incomes). Any appointments after this are charged on an income-related scale (or at a fixed rate if you prefer). If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for WINZ to meet most of the cost of sessions.

How long does it take?
Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question as it depends on your individual situation. Occasionally people find that their history and situation means it possible for the difficulties to be resolved in two to three months. But more often these difficulties are related to the fundamental ways people experience and deal with themselves, their bodies, their feelings, other people and life. As a result, longstanding patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour may also need to be addressed as part of the process of creating lasting change to eating and body image issues. Some people find it helpful to think of the time, energy and cost involved as an investment in their future. To discuss all of this you are welcome to arrange an initial meeting.

Not found the information you were looking for? You are welcome to contact Lena.