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Overcoming Binge Eating – Chapter 4

In this chapter of the book Dr Christopher G. Fairburn deals with the psychological and social problems associate with binge eating.

Again, just for the record, I am neither bulimic nor anorexic but as I read this chapter, I found that could relate to issues like the diet-binge cycle, the effects of this cycle (and being highly concerned about my appearance) on my moods and relationships, plus the character traits common among those with binge eating problems.

Binge eating may be an isolated behaviour, but in most cases it is associated with other problems – some may a consequence of binge eating, others may promote the binge eating and some may result AND encourage binge eating which causes a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. An example of this kind of behaviour is dieting (most people who binge also diet) as it neither be classified as either a cause or effect of binge eating.

Dieting often precedes binge eating, but it also a response to binge eating. It is most obvious in bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, where the dieting is generally extreme to the point of fasting. In binge eating disorder, dieting tends to be less extreme and intermittent, not continuous, and these people alternate between phases of successful dieting and periods of overeating which may continue for years if left untreated. (Because dieting is one of the main factors that contribute to bingeing, treatment is geared at reducing the tendency to diet.)

Dr Fairburn goes on to tell us that there are 3 types of dieting: avoiding eating (fasting between binges), restricting the overall amount eaten (calorie restriction) and avoiding certain types of food (those perceived as “forbidden” or “bad”). There is also mention of dieting in other guises, practiced by those who influence their weight or shape by changing their eating habits and justifying it by attributing it to things like food allergies or being vegetarian. What he says is that if you practice any form of dietary restriction to influence your weight or shape, you are “dieting”.

When strict dieting is practiced, failure is inevitable and this may be extremely demoralizing which in turn leads to binge eating. This vicious cycle operates among those who adopt strict dietary rules, not all those who binge.

Measures for controlling shape or weight are covered next – self induced vomiting, laxative and diuretic misuse and over-exercising.

It was interesting to read that most people are ignorant of the fact that self induced vomiting only purges a maximum of 50% of the calories consumed in a binge. Even the use of “markers” (such eating tomatoes at the start of a binge to ensure that all food has been purged when they reappear) is entirely inaccurate as food in the stomach gets churned around and it’s never a case of “first in, last out”.

Other misconceptions revolve around the use of laxatives and diuretics (water pills) – neither of these eliminate any excess calories, but they do make people feel “cleaner” and less bloated, so that’s probably the main reason for people using them.

Over-exercising is common among those with binge eating problems, particularly bulimics and anorexics. They feel compelled and driven to exercise to the point where don’t eat anything until they feel they have burned up enough calories to justify the intake of food.

All these measures may encourage further binge eating and perpetuate the cycle.

Most people who binge are highly concerned about their appearance and weight. Many tie their self esteem into their appearance and are terrified of weight gain. Some may weigh themselves up to 15-20 times per day and measure themselves continuously. Shame over how they look can interfere with their day-to-day life and many may withdraw from society and isolate themselves. This obviously has many detrimental effects on their mental health (depression is common), moods and their relationships. These people may become completely preoccupied with food, extremely anxious and unable to focus on anything else which can lead to them finding it difficult perform everyday activities such as reading, conversing or even watching tv. Some binge eaters, although overweight, are still very concerned about their appearance and may develop feelings of disgust and self loathing. Some refuse to look at their bodies or allow anyone else to see them. Binge eating problems can affect every aspect of life.

There are certain character traits that are common among those with binge eating problems: low self-esteem, perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking and impulsivity.

Chapter 5 will cover the physical problems associated with binge eating.

Information about previous chapters can be found here:

  1. What is a Binge?
  2. Binge Eating, Eating Disorders and Obesity
  3. Who Binges?

The first chapter

So what can I tell you about Chapter 1 of “Overcoming Binge Eating”? Firstly, I had no idea how widespread this problem actually is today. According to Dr Fairburn, 1 out of 5 women are binge eaters, that is, they experience “an unrestrained and often excessive indulgence” in eating. That’s a lot of bingers! Of course, not all of them binge in the same way, some of us do it regularly (more than twice a week) while others only do it occasionally. Some purge, others don’t, and just so you know, I don’t purge.

So what defines a binge, as opposed to just plain overeating? Well, apparently there are 2 main characteristics that apply to a binge:

1) eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time, eg. within 2 hours.

2) a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode, eg. feeling that one cannot stop or control what or how much one is eating.

These 2 things certainly apply to me …

And there some introductory notes about binge triggers that I can also relate to – all revolving around unpleasant feelings – tiredness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, breaking a diet, feeling fat and gaining weight (yes, really!)

The book includes many first hand experiences from people that convey their different experiences of binge eating. It’s mildly comforting to read what these women do and how bad they feel about it; it gives me some encouragement to continue reading, knowing that I do and feel things in a very similar way – eating mostly “forbidden foods” that require no preparation, eating in secret with no sense of control and feeling sick and disgusted afterwards. If these experiences are included and they match mine so closely, the author surely understands the issue and will be able to help me sort it out, right?

Gym really sucked

OMG, I nearly passed out! Jeez, it was bad!!! I felt so weak after being off for 3 weeks; it was a bit of a shocker actually. I thought I was either going to pass out and/or my head was going to explode and/or my legs were going to cave in … I stopped about 10 minsutes before the hour was up and then I could hardly walk up the stairs to the changing rooms afterwards =( Right now, my legs feel like jelly and I am so ended!! One good thing about today’s session though, I managed to do 40 push ups at least – 15 guy push up and 25 ladies push ups. Not my record, but pretty good going anyway I guess.

I also had my measurements taken – oh poohy!!  I was right, I have lost muscle. Apart from losing scale weight and another 6cm off my waist (15cm alltogether), everything else was either the same or slightly up. I suppose its not THAT bad after eating badly for a over month and not training for so long, but I’m hard on myself, so I feel bad that I’ve put on fat. So I’m up to about 21% body fat now, which is perfectly acceptable for a lady of my age and height but I want to get down to at least 18% and lose another 4-5kgs. It will probably take me the whole of winter to do that. 

Speaking of eating, the book Sir G ordered for me has finally arrived. He went to fetch it for me on Saturday. It’s called “Overcoming Binge Eating” by Dr Christopher G. Fairburn. Here is the Amazon editorial review:

“This ‘reader-friendly’ book provides a lucid and comprehensive account of the nature and treatment of binge eating by one of the world’s leading clinical researchers. Based on the most recent scientific evidence, and reflecting Fairburn’s many years of unsurpassed clinical experience, this text is unrivaled as the best source for educating both the public and patients about binge eating. But it does more than educate and enlighten.”

And this is the part I’m excited for:

“It includes a detailed self-help program for overcoming binge eating in bulimia nervosa and obesity. The state-of-the-art techniques in this program have proved effective in numerous scientific studies. The program can be used on its own or in combination with therapy.”

I’m really pleased to have it at last and I’m looking forward to starting it. I’ll try and squeeze in a few pages after work, before I settle down to some knitting, and watching my absolute FAVOURITE tv show, LOST. It’s been off the air for 3 weeks, not sure why, and replaced by that ghastly local version of “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” Thank goodness we no longer have to be subjected to that crap during prime time viewing!

Well, I need to go eat and get some work done before I have to fetch the boys from school. Later …

Weighty matters

I’m feeling a lot better today. I think I’m finally kicking that horrible flu bug that’s kept me under the weather for over 2 weeks now. At long bloody last! I’m so over being sick and feeling like crap!

So, I’m going to hit the gym tomorrow. Ooooooh – that’s gonna hurt! But I have to do it, it’s been nearly 3 weeks since I last went and I don’t want all my hard work going down the proverbial toilet. I’ll have to take it easy though as I won’t be up to full strength.

At least I haven’t put on any weight while I’ve been off though, so that’s a relief. It’s also a total miracle, seeing as I have been on my night binge wagon again recently. I know, I know, I know … you don’t have to tell me! It’s a bad thing, it’s unhealthy, it’s illogical, and it’s stupid. In my rational mind I know all these things, but there are times (normally at night) that ration and logic do not apply to my eating. I am fine during the day – I am super disciplined, but when the clock strikes 6pm, it’s like my feeding switch gets turned on and eating is all I can do!!! I hate myself for doing it, I always feel awful afterwards for so many reasons, but I feel powerless to stop. I’ve read so many explanations for binge eating (suppressing emotions / self-medicating / looking for comfort / etc) which is all great, but I’m yet to come across any useful advice on exactly how to put an end to the madness of it all. Sir G is trying to help me though (he’s such a yummy sweetie-pie) – he’s found and ordered a book that should be arriving soon and it seems like it could hold some good solutions. I really hope so … we’ll see …

Actually, I’ve managed to lose nearly another kilo, don’t ask me how (perhaps I’ve lost muscle), so that’s 4.5kg down in 3 months now. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless. That takes me halfway to my goal of dropping 8kgs altogether! Given my current rate of fat loss, I should emerge from winter as a ripped bikini babe LOL =) I wish …

I’m not very good at this, am I?

Blogging, I mean …

It’s been AGES (nearly a whole month!) since I updated this site with some news – I’m sorry about that. I have all the usual, appropriate excuses: too busy, too tired, too sick, yadda yadda yadda …

Actually, I’m a bit sick at the moment. I caught a flu bug a while ago and I thought I’d gotten rid of it but it hit me again over this last long weekend and I feel horrid =(  I slept for most of the day yesterday so I’m really behind on work now and trying to catch up.

I have loads to do, so I’m going to have to leave this for now and get on with things before I fall too far behind and I plunge into panic-mode!

Later …