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I haven’t had much time to read in the past week, but yesterday I finally got around to Chapter 2 of this book by Dr Christopher G. Fairburn. I didn’t find it too riveting (I’m waiting for the “solutions” part of the book), but it was mildly interesting nonetheless.

In this chapter, Dr Fairburn states although the awareness of eating problems and disorders is growing, the meanings of terms such as “disorders”, “bulimia”, “slimmers disease”, etc. has become blurred. He goes on to say that not all binge eating is classified as a problem and that if it is, it may or may not be 1 of 4 eating disorders:

Bing Eating is a problem if the quality of life is impaired. The 4 classifications of disorders related to this problem are: Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa and then Other Binge Eating Problems.

So, what that means is a person who binges may not necessarily have an eating disorder, depending on whether or not it can be classified as a “problem”.

Bulimia and anorexia are closely related – both disorders are the result of problem binging, relative to the person’s normal food intake and both involve an excessive concern about shape and/or body weight that goes beyond just feeling fat or unhappy with the physical appearance. In the case of bulimia, the person must regularly use a method to control weight, such as self-induced vomiting or laxatives. Most people with bulimia have chaotic eating habits and, like anorexics, may fast or eat very little in between binges. In the case of anorexia, the person must be significantly underweight and they do not regularly use extreme weight control measures although they may exercise excessively. About 30% of anorexics binge, with the size of the binges being relatively small (it may just be a few cookies), but they still lose control. Anorexia may develop into bulimia.

Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia, except for the fact that the person does not take extreme weight control measures. Not all people with binge eating disorder are overweight.

  • Bulimia Nervosa = binge problem, excessive concern about body weight/shape, extreme weight control measures
  • Anorexia Nervosa = significantly underweight, binge problem, excessive concern about body weight/shape,
  • Binge Eating Disorder = binge problem, excessive concern about body weight/shape

According to Dr Fairburn, classification and descriptions of various eating problems and disorders is an ongoing process and there seem to be discrepancies amongst professionals as to how to accurately identify and diagnose them. I’m not entirely sure where exactly I fit into all this as he doesn’t go into any detail about “Other Binge Eating Problems” but bulimia and anorexia definitely don’t apply to me.

Chapter 3 will explore who binges, the issue of detection and the rate of increase.