in the mirror
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. 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 (like a doctor or ‘talk therapy’ practitioner) 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. For these people, a more useful question to ask themselves 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 such as a counsellor, psychotherapist 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?

This depends on your individual needs and what you want to change.

For some people the best approach involves a structured way of finding out the most important factors contributing to your current difficulties with food, and dealing with these factors one by one. These factors may include feelings, thinking patterns, lifestyle, environment, nutrition, brain chemistry, the challenges you face, your coping style, or unhealed past experiences.

For others it is more effective if they find out and transform any underlying issues, which often have their roots in the past. Doing this can lead to deep changes not just in the area of food and body, but also in a person's everyday experience of being themselves, being with others and being in the world. An approach like this is less structured as it responds to whichever aspect of someone's life needs attention now, but it usually includes helping them understand how they have come to be the person they are.

Can I use the appointments to deal with other issues?
Yes. While Lena specialises in the treatment of eating disorders, body image issues, and other difficulties with food or appearance concerns, she also has experience in working with a range of other issues that can occur alongside these difficulties. 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.

How much does it cost?
A 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 your employer subscribes to an EAP service, it may be possible to have a few of the sessions paid for through this. If you are on a low income, help that covers most of the cost of sessions may be available from WINZ; or it may be possible to have a few appointments paid for through an scheme called Primary Solutions. For more information about this, you are welcome to contact Lena.

How long does it take?
Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this question as it depends on your individual situation. Occasionally difficulties with food and how people experience their bodies can be resolved in weeks. But usually they are longstanding mental, emotional and behavioural habits which were created for strong reasons, and these habits may be connected with the fundamental ways we relate to ourselves, our bodies, our feelings, to other people and to life. As a result, for many people it can take much longer to make lasting changes. 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 further you are welcome to arrange an initial meeting.