October 23rd, 2023
Dimitra Theofili is a renowned expert in the field of eating disorders. Dimitra’s extensive knowledge and experience in this critical area of mental health have made her a respected figure among professionals and advocates alike. With a deep understanding of eating disorders’ complexities, Dimitra has dedicated her career to raising awareness, providing support, and offering invaluable insights to those affected by these challenging conditions.
This interview delves into Dimitra’s expertise, discussing the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and the broader impact of eating disorders on individuals and society. Join us as we gain invaluable insights from Dimitra Theofili’s wealth of knowledge and unwavering commitment to promoting healthier lives.
Question 1: Introduce yourself, your qualifications and your role with UKAT.
My name is Dimitra Theofili, a systemic eating disorders and addictions therapist, DBT accredited, REWIND technique qualified, working as a therapist at Banbury Lodge with an MSC in Forensic Psychology and criminology.
Question 2: In a world where body image ideals are constantly changing, how can individuals build a healthy relationship with their bodies and resist societal pressures?
Social media can have a negative impact on people’s beliefs about body and shape. Negative body image can increase the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours, for example, restricted dieting, purging, use of steroids, or excessive exercise.
For an individual to build a healthy relationship with their body, they need to be kinder to themselves, avoid triggering situations or social media that negatively impact their self-esteem (e.g., Instagram), and practice self-love and intuitive eating. Each human body is unique and amazing, and because it is unique, it comes in different shapes and sizes and is beautiful no matter what you think. Fake it until you make it, work on positive affirmations to challenge negative beliefs and retrain your brain. Think of calories as something that gives you energy and keeps you alive; take the fear out!
Question 3: How do eating disorders impact a person’s overall health and well-being?
Eating disorders are taking a toll on sufferers’ mental and physical health. The eating disorder is the mental disorder with the highest death rate among all the mental disorders. It is a lethal condition that will take over and make your life unmanageable with a strong, addictive nature. Some negative effects are negative emotions, low self-esteem and loss of self-confidence, preoccupation with the body and shape in an obsessive manner, stress, anxiety, social isolation, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Eating disorders lead to a very poor quality of life, physically and mentally.
Question 4: Can you explain the concept of body dysmorphic disorder and how it relates to eating disorders?
Body dysmorphic disorder or body dysmorphia is the preoccupation with body and shape, for some individuals for their whole body, others for specific parts of their bodies. As above, it will affect your quality of life and can result from trauma. The sufferer is either checking their bodies in the mirror or avoiding mirrors altogether as something that terrifies them. They tend to wear baggy clothes to hide their bodies and generally feel they are bigger than they are, comparing themselves with others.
Muscle dysmorphia is a dysmorphic disorder that mainly affects males who feel they are smaller than they are, seeking improvements with intense exercise or steroids. Although body dysmorphia is not an eating disorder, it can lead there. A body image disorder is part of both eating disorder and body dysmorphia.
Question 5: Can you describe any innovative or creative therapies or interventions you’ve seen or used to help individuals recover from eating disorders?
Dialectical behavioural therapy can be really useful, focusing on mindfulness, emotional regulation and distress tolerance. CBT can also work with meditation, talking therapy and group therapy. All of the above are important parts of Banbury Lodge’s treatment programme and nutritional rehabilitation. At Banbury Lodge’s groups, the sufferer can share in a safe environment with the support of a highly skilled team, getting help with the mental aspect of the eating disorder, the physical aspect and rebuilding their relationship with food with a nutritionist’s support.
Question 6: How do you think the portrayal of eating disorders in popular media and entertainment impacts public perception and understanding of these conditions?
I feel that eating disorders are misrepresented in the media and can potentially glamorise eating disorders by portraying a thin body image as the “perfect body”. A lot of attention is given to anorexia, but little has been said about binge eating, body dysmorphia or bulimia. This results in false beliefs that an eating disorder is only for people with low body weight or that it only affects women, leaving men feeling stigmatised and unsupported.
Question 7: Are there any unconventional or surprising factors that can contribute to the development or exacerbation of eating disorders, which people may not be aware of?
Many factors can contribute to the development of eating disorders. Early or late trauma, bullying at school, negative beliefs around food, body and shape in the parental family, social comparison, social media, preoccupation with “healthy BMI”, preoccupation with calories, cross addiction/addictive behaviour. Recently, we have seen calories on restaurant menus, which has brought massive anxiety to eating disorder sufferers.
Question 6: To finish off, what would you say to someone looking for help for them or their loved ones when it comes to having an eating disorder?
The best thing you can do is to let them know you are there to listen and support them. You can encourage them to get help, but you cannot do it for them. Let them know help is available in the form of residential treatment, 1-1 psychotherapy and fellowship meetings (ABA – anorexia and bulimics anonymous, OA- Overeaters anonymous).
It’s evident that eating disorders, as well as related conditions like body dysmorphic disorder, pose complex challenges that demand attention and understanding. We are truly grateful to Dimitra for sharing her invaluable insights and expertise in this critical area of mental health. Dimitra’s dedication to raising awareness and providing support is commendable, and her contributions to this discussion have been enlightening.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or any related mental health concerns, we want to emphasise that help is available. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at UKAT London Clinic. Our team of professionals is committed to offering the guidance and support needed to embark on recovery. Your well-being is our priority, and together, we can work towards a healthier and happier future.