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Binge Eating

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Dr Kelly Baez – Licensed Counsellor and Psychology PhD

Binge Eating is a clinical term, a diagnosis that sums up a collection of behaviors and related feelings.

Occasional overeating, as you might do with Christmas dinner, is normal. However, binge eating takes overeating to a new level and turns overeating into a coping strategy.

Indicators of Binge Eating

  • Eating more than would be considered normal.
  • Feeling remorse after eating.
  • A behaviour that occurs at least once a week for at least 3-months.

What is the Cycle of Binge Eating?

Please keep in mind, this is a general overview and experiences can and will vary.

Before the Binge Eating – There is likely a history of fights or feelings of powerlessness surrounding food. This scenario places food in a highly emotional part of the brain rather than in the place where it belongs: nutritional or cultural. It then becomes a go-to coping strategy when emotional pressure builds.

During the Binge – You might feel pressure to eat with the intent to calm negative feelings.

After the Binge – Typically, feelings of remorse and regret follow a binge. This attitude perpetuates the cycle further because the negative self-talk erodes self-esteem and wears down the belief that change from within is possible.

Where to Go From Here?

Binge eating is a cycle. As such, effective interventions come from attempts to interrupt the cycle, not just to suppress the act of overeating. This method can be done in a number of ways.

  1. Exercise. Daily exercise can reduce anxiety and depression and increase confidence and self-esteem.
  2. Boundaries. Learning to set boundaries with anything or anyone who has a negative impact on your life. Awareness of this is key, and it can be hard to achieve. Counselling can help tremendously.
  3. Delay. The typical food craving lasts about fifteen minutes. If you feel the need to binge eat, then acknowledge the craving and choose to do something else for fifteen minutes. Even if you end up binge eating, you learn a lot in those fifteen minutes. Practised over time, you will have a strong emotional resiliency which can help alleviate the need to binge eat.

Binge Eating can be hard to treat because it’s impossible to abstain from food. However, it is possible to rethink your relationship with food. In fact, redefining this new relationship with food can be exciting and open your life up in ways you could never imagine!

Dr Kelly BaezDr. Kelly Baez, is a Licensed Professional Counsellor with a PhD in Psychology. In her 10+ years in practice, she has been a trauma counsellor, crisis counselor, and addiction counsellor. Currently, she is the founder of FitShrink and serves as a weight loss consultant for people who have tried everything to lose weight but feel stuck.

Through her supportive, information-packed blog posts, on-demand classes, and 1-on-1 coaching, she’s here to show you how to implement a healthy lifestyle change — while making it feel insightful, empowering, and sassy.

And when she’s not FitShrink-ing, you can find her running with her dog, watching her husband play polo, and being an all-in mommy.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/fitshrink

Deborah Stevens – ACA Level 3 Counsellor (BS, MASS)

This month’s topic is an interesting one to say the least! So what is binge eating? The word binge is defined as: an unrestrained and often excessive indulgence; an act of excessive or compulsive consumption (such as eating).

When you have that second helping or over eat, you know that feeling of being so full you just want to curl up and have a sleep that is not binge eating that is just enjoying a good meal or celebration!

Binge eating is when a person consumes a large amount of food and feels unable to stop. This action is usually followed by purging or eliminating the contents either through forced vomiting or use of laxatives. Emotions associated are shame, guilt and even fear. It is comfort eating in excess, to the point of self-loathing or punishment. A cycle or pattern forms around the binge eaters life, they are triggered and unable to cope, they binge eat, feel shame/guilt, purge, followed by a promise that it will never happen again, but it usually does. Thus, the cycle begins again.

How Does Binge Eating Start?

Not much is certain about the how and why of binge eating, but theories suggest control, self-image (image dysmorphia), and abuse, contribute to binge eating compulsions.

Binge eating is not gendered. However, more females than males are diagnosed, usually comorbid with bulimia, self-harm, depression and anxiety. Further binge eating is not demographically or economically directed, but it is reported more in industries such as fashion and the performing arts.

Binge Eating Treatment

The treatment can be done in rehabilitation or as an outpatient in a hospital or specialist clinic for those with eating disorders. Binge eating is most commonly treated with a combination of therapies, such as psychology for mental health issues, then a dietitian to sort out dietary/healthy eating habits, with ongoing support and encouragement from friends and family.

DeborahDeborah Stevens is a registered (ACA Level 3), qualified counsellor in private practice. She has a diploma in applied science counselling, a Bachelor Science (Psychology) and a Master of applied social science counselling. Deborah is an ACA supervisor and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. She has recently published a children’s book ‘I Am Wren’ about a young boy with Asperger. Her work includes use of creative therapeutic approaches, as well as traditional theories. Deborah works with all ages and provides Employment Assistance Programs and career coaching. You can follow her on Facebook at BeeCon Counselling or contact her via email: beecon@optusnet.com.au.

Zoe Markopoulos -Psychologist (MAPS, CEDP)

Most people overeat on occasion, for instance having dessert when you are already full. But for people who binge eat, overeating is compulsive, regular and uncontrollable. Food is often used to cope with stress and other challenging emotions. Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that can have serious effects on both physical and mental health, such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, insomnia, sleep apnea, depression and anxiety.

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder

There are a number of factors that can influence the development of binge eating disorder that include:

  • Biological – biological abnormalities (i.e. hormonal irregularities or genetic mutations) that are associated with compulsive eating and food addiction.
  • Psychological – depression, body dissatisfaction or low self-esteem can contribute to binge eating disorder.
  • Social and Cultural – traumatic situations (i.e. history of sexual abuse) can increase the risk of binge eating, while social pressures to be thin can trigger emotional eating.The symptoms of binge eating disorder usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood. It is possible for individuals to display a combination of symptoms such as:

Signs of Binge Eating Disorder 

  • Feeling tired and not sleeping well.
  • Feeling bloated, constipated or developing intolerances to food.
  • Preoccupation with eating, food, body shape and weight.
  • Disappearance or hoarding of food.
  • Secretive behaviour relating to food (e.g. hiding food wrappers around the house).
  • Increased isolation and withdrawal from activities previously enjoyed.With the appropriate support and help, binge eating disorder is treatable. The main treatments available include:

Help and Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

  • Psychological – cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy.
  • Medication – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
  • Self-help programs – this may be on an individual basis with a book or online course, or as part of a self-help support group.

In addition to professional help, a variety of self-help strategies can assist individuals such as:

  • Managing stress – Find alternate ways to handle stress and other challenging feelings without using food.
  • Nutrition – Follow scheduled mealtimes, for example, eat three meals daily plus healthy snacks.
  • Avoid temptation – Clear your fridge and cupboards of your favourite binge foods.
  • Exercise and Rest – Regular exercise and adequate sleep.
  • Keep a diary – you may see patterns emerge that reveal the connection between your feelings and binge eating.

Image - Z MarkopoulosIn her professional practice, Zoe Markopoulos applies her psychological and educational expertise in the effective delivery of psychology services to children and families. She recognises the importance of fostering resilience and addressing the social, emotional and educational needs of students. Zoe predominately aligns her work with the principles and techniques of cognitive behaviour therapy, positive psychology and mindfulness. A significant part of her work involves psychological counselling and assessment, developing and implementing evidence-based programs, and consultation. Zoe is also interested in self-care activities to help maintain physical, mental and emotional health.

Zoe has contributed to academic publications focused on coping, bullying, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, children and families. She is a member of the Australian Psychologist Society and is regularly involved with the College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists (Victoria), as a committee member. Zoe is currently completing the Psychology Board of Australia Registrar Program in Educational and Developmental Psychology.

Jaime Parnell – Clinical Psychologist

Binge eating is gaining more attention in the media, and in mental health fields, with a vast increase in research. The criteria for binge eating includes eating a large amount of food discretely, usually alone, in a short period of time; eating until uncomfortably full, even when not hungry; and feeling depressed or guilt afterwards. This cycle may go on several times a week, or for months at a time. It is important to note that binge eating does not include purging, fasting or excessive exercise after the event.

Some people will try to keep it a secret or deny that they have a problem, and the difficulty is that the binge eating occurs in isolation so often family and friends are unaware that it is impacting on a persons’ life. The perpetual cycle and lack of control influences a person and they may feel that they are unable to stop eating or control how much is being eaten.

The Binge Eating Cycle

Binge eating has a cycle and characteristics, such as feeling a sense of relief and comfort after consuming food, followed by guilt and remorse that can lead to depressive symptoms. The person then recommits and can cope with a period. When stress increases, the person is likely to begin the cycle again. Because of the cyclic nature, it is important to provide supports and interventions to people so that they can manage stress effectively. By having a clear plan for relapses, and working with a therapist or support team to manage stress and difficult feelings, people can move forward. Interventions include learning to manage unpleasant feelings such as stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness and boredom. It is important to have a clear assessment and be able to prioritise interventions, and regular contact with your GP and therapists and supportive family members are encouraged.

Binge Eating Treatment

Treatment can involve both behavioural interventions, change of eating, monitoring and tracking of foods, as well as cognitive interventions. Enhancing problem-solving skills by helping to identify external stressors is essential with a combination of addressing cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are the unhelpful thinking patterns, and styles include extreme perfectionism and low self-esteem.

Recovery Record – Eating Disorder Management is a free app developed by a team of psychologists in California. One of the benefits is that it has a built-in feature to be able to share information with other professionals, GP, and psychologists to ensure an integrated approach.

For further information, please contact your GP, and visit these helpful websites in Australia for local supports. www.eatingdisorders.org.au.

Jaime ParnellJaime Parnell has a Masters in Clinical Psychology and has a strong interest in working with anxiety and difficult behaviours in children, adolescents and young adults. Having previously worked with children who have suffered trauma; and with an extensive history in working with children and teenagers with difficult behaviours, Jaime provides assessment, individual and group counselling tailored to individual needs.

Located in the Central Queensland region, Jaime is particularly involved in working with clients who have complex presentations, and offers several outreach services, and skype consultations for the regional area. Jaime’s skills lie in providing a thorough assessment and being able to tailor interventions in a way that is solution focused. Jaime encourages using feedback informed services with clients to ensure that services are meeting clients’ needs. Jaime uses technology in her sessions and has recently released two apps — 30 days of gratitude, an app to appreciate the world around you, and Jacob the Frog, a guided breathing app for managing stress, worry and anxiety. Both, of which can be downloaded from the iTunes store.

Jaime Logo

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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