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Ask Julie: Is This Obessession Really About Food?

Q: I had naturally been apprehensive to meat when I was younger. I liked to eat, but I didn’t really like meat (aside from the taste). Then, 6th grade came along, and I started having problems: depression, (the past, not now) suicidal and many other things. Along with that, a lot of changes were entering my life: I was about to enter junior high, and I had insomnia. Then, I decided to become vegetarian and anorexic. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a complete vegan at first. I was “98% vege”, meaning that I ate hotdogs/hamburgers/chicken nuggets/bacon/top ramen soup. In seventh grade, I became full-fledged vege, and continued to have problems. In eighth grade, I turned my life around, and was the food nazi: no food additives, no meat, healthy as you can be.

Then I started running in 9th grade, that brought problems of enough energy, so I just ate more. (Oh and I have ran ever since in xc and track up until senior year 2nd semester, now I am training for a marathon). 10th grade came, and I found out that cheese had rennet….so I stopped eating it. 11th grade came, and I learned about gelatin….stopped eating it. 12th grade 1st semester: (btw, I was slower this year), I have stopped eating yeast (they eat things unlike plants, they seem too much like an animal).

Now, I am scared to eat eggs (not because anyone told me anything which I DON’T WANT TO KNOW), or anything with them in it: bread, pasta, brownies….Right now I am reduced to potatoes/rice/beans and some fruits/veges. I want to eat yeast again, and I might want to eat the things with eggs in it (because I used to LOVE pasta and bread)….thing is, I can’t. I am not that caring of a person, I am just slightly autistic and I have sensory issues and images get burned easily in my mind…. What should I do? Oh, and is this more of a mind issue or food issue?

A: Thank you so much for reaching out for help The short answer is that your food issues aren’t really about food. From what you describe, 6th grade was somehow a turning point in your emotional life and you developed depression, insomnia and anorexia. I’m curious about what happened that year. Was there an event or situation that triggered your symptoms? Were there changes in your family or environment?

You mention that in 8th grade you “turned your life around,” and yet you continue to become even more strict about your diet. Controlling what you eat and the size of your body can be a way to gain a sense of control when other parts of life seem out of control.  Focusing on food can be a way to manage intense emotions or a way to numb your emotions in general. I encourage you to get into therapy with an eating disorder specialist in addition to meeting with your doctor for a thorough physical evaluation. To find a therapist in your area click Find Help at the top of this page.

Your food obsession is a sign that you have intense unresolved emotional pain that needs attention, and that you are likely suffering from an eating disorder. Please, seek help so you can heal from your food obsessions and learn healthier ways to cope with the difficulties that you’ve experienced in your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my column

The 4-Letter Word Husbands Hate (Diet): Quoted in July Cosmo

It’s that time of year. SWIMSUIT time. A time that many women dread. A time that men dread too. All this talk about weight, diet, exercise can leave husbands puzzled. “Why are you so obsessed with this?” they wonder.

I recently talked with journalist Kristina Grish of Cosmopolitan Magazine to help her, and other women, understand how to approach her husband when it comes to weight concerns, why men don’t “get” it, and why it’s sometimes best to spare him the details of your weight woes.

Click link below to download article pdf…

Cosmopolitan May 2011 The 4-Letter Word Husbands Hate


Ask Julie: I’m Scared To See A Therapist For My Eating Disorder

Q: I started out with anorexia but now am bulimic/anorexic and have been this way for about 3 yrs now.

I am on a binge/purge cycle and have purged everyday at least since November. One person knows about my ED and I am so scared to get help even though I know that I need it. I am fully aware of the dangers of bulimia. I am being treated for one of the symptoms of bulimia, which is passing out because of malnutrition. However, the doctors did not figure out that it is due to an ED. I’m 18 so I can get help without my family knowing which is a big deal for me because I can not let them know. They have a lot to deal with right now plus my mother does not really understand how to deal with things. Shes Bipolar and every once in a while has a Schizophrenic episode. I am scared of my father and stay away from him so I can’t tell him either, my whole family dynamic is screwy. However, I am considering getting help for my ED. What should I expect if I do decide to go to a therapist? What kind of questions will they ask me. Thanks for your help.

A: First of all, I’m so glad that you are considering eating disorder treatment because the fact that you are passing out means that you are not only suffering from psychological problems but that you are in physical danger too.

Please disclose your eating disorder to your physician so he or she can be a resource for you and can help you find a psychotherapist or eating disorder treatment center.

While every therapist is different, I can give you a general idea of what to expect on your initial evaluation session. The initial session is an assessment where you’ll sit down in the therapist’s office and talk about what brings you to therapy; you’ll get a feel for the therapist’s style. This session will include filling out some paperwork – a mental health and family relationship history, rating scales or a brief checklist to establish a baseline to track your progress, and a release of information so your therapist can communicate and coordinate care with your physician and request your medical records, if needed. After gathering this information, the therapist will give you a diagnosis and make treatment recommendations. The recommendations may include outpatient psychotherapy, intensive outpatient psychotherapy, or inpatient treatment.

As you seek a therapist, make sure you find one who specializes in treating eating disorders. A great resource to find a therapist is available’s Find Help link. Another excellent resource is and they have several eating disorder therapists listed in your state. It can be helpful to meet with a few different therapists so you can find one you feel most comfortable talking with and you feel most confidence in. Just like any other relationship, you’ll click with some therapists over others. Consider your physical symptoms as warning signs telling you that you need to address this problem now. Please, don’t wait to get help.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

*This article originally appear in PsychCentral’s Ask the Therapist column

Love the Body You Have Today: Latter-day Woman Magazine Article

If you haven’t read the amazing  online magazine “Latter-day Woman” please check it out. It’s relevant, classy, and practical and I’m thrilled to be a writer for their quarterly magazine and a regular Love & Relationship blogger “Ask Julie”. They’re launching a  NEW website TODAY so check it out at

My “Love” article for this issue focuses on loving and accepting our bodies – something that’s a struggle for many women no matter what your size. Click the links below and find practical tips to help you love the body you have today.

Read “Love the Body You Have Today” online (flip to pg 36-37)

Download “Love The Body You Have Today” (pdf)

Send me your “Ask Julie” love & relationship questions here!

Love your body workshop

Thanks for a wonderful evening, sisters. I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion and feel inspired by your comments and spirit. Thank you.

Love your body handout

Click here for free handout

Purchase full workshop transcript

To purchase a transcript of tonight’s workshop click the link below to pay via PayPal (cost is $5.99). Transcript will be emailed to you as soon as it is available.

If you want to purchase a transcript of tonight’s workshop don’t have a PayPal account, please contact me here to request transcript.

iTunes song links

Here are links to the songs from tonight’s workshop…

God’s Signature

Make Enough Of Me

Other songs you may enjoy…


What If?

Lose the excuses! Exercise for your mental health

Lose the excuses! Exercise for your mental health

Exercise and fitness have been on my mind lately. As a faithful watcher of The Biggest Loser’s inspiring stories of overcoming personal hardship to reclaim health and fitness I’m looking forward to the show’s season premiere next Tues. Popular health guru Dr. Oz launched his “Just 10” challenge earlier this week, encouraging viewers to reduce heart disease by 50% & diabetes by 60% & arthritis by 50% by losing 10 lbs. The health benefits of physical activity are well-known, but you may not be aware of the significant mental health benefits of moving your body.

Exercise Improves Your Mental Health by:

Improving Mood

Researchers at Duke University found that exercise is as effective as antidepressant medication for treating depression.

Decreasing Anxiety

University of Georgia study found exercise to be effective at reducing anxiety symptoms.

Improving Memory

Exercise may stimulate areas of the brain responsible for age-related memory loss.

Managing Stress

Exercise may help the body’s systems practice dealing with stress.

Improving Self-esteem

Physical exercise has been shown to improve physical self-concept.

In my therapy practice I’ve often “prescribed” exercise to clients as a means to improve their mood, decrease anxiety, and manage stress levels and I’ve heard all kinds of excuses as to why clients can’t/don’t/won’t exercise. I’ve also used all of these same excuses in my own life at one time or another. Few of us are able to spend several months in a fitness camp, like The Biggest Loser contestants, but all of us can lose our excuses and learn to make exercise a priority for our physical and mental health. Here are some solutions to common exercise excuses.

Solutions to Common Exercise Excuses:

“I don’t have time”

Solution: Build it into your Schedule

Make your personal physical self-care a priority by putting it on your calendar. I recently hired a personal trainer and her available times are in the middle of the day – a time I have never exercised because I don’t want to be sweaty the rest of the day. I have worked through that and show up at my scheduled times because it’s on my schedule.

“I don’t have motivation”

Solution: Buddy system

Exercise with a partner or friend. Find someone who is relying on you to join them in exercising and will hold you accountable. The social aspect of exercise also has benefits for emotional health.

“I don’t have anyone to watch my kids”

Solution: Exercise with family

When you take your child to soccer practice bring your walking shoes and walk around the field for an hour. Put your baby in the stroller and stroll around the block. Find an activity that you can enjoy with your children. Consider joining a recreation center that provides child care. Baby sit swap with a neighbor.

“I don’t have the money to buy a gym membership or workout gear”

Solution: Choose free activities

Walking and hiking are great free activities that only require shoes. Also, check with your local recreation center for low cost or free activity options in your community.

For additional self-improvement & relationship resources connect with me at Visit to learn about my therapy clinic and individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family!


Do you have exercise excuses? How do you make the time to exercise? Comment below (email will be kept private)



Struggling with negative body image? Watch this!

Here’s yesterday’s KSL TV Segment “Love your body with out losing a pound”.

How are you doing with accepting your body just as it is? I welcome your thoughts and comments below (your email will not be published)