Carolyn Ross MD, an expert on healing food and body image issues, will join Green Mountain at Fox Run January 8-14, 2012 for the special workshop “Why Can’t I Stop Overeating?: Mastering Binge Eating, Emotional Eating & Compulsive Eating.”In today’s guest post, she explains the prevalence of binge eating disorder and her approach to healing from it.
It’s a little known fact that binge eating disorder is more common than anorexia and bulimia combined. It even has its own suggested criteria for diagnosis, including the eating of large quantities of food in a small period of time, loss of control over eating, and the lack of a compensatory purge. It is often marked by remorse or shame after eating, eating very rapidly, and eating when not hungry and past the point of fullness. Roughly 60 percent of binge eaters are women with an average age of onset in the 20s, according to the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA).
Binge eating, compulsive overeating and emotional overeating are all related in the use of food to self-soothe emotional discomfort. For this reason, the constant focus on weight loss and dieting to treat the consequences of these disorders – obesity – is not successful. No matter how many times weight is lost, when the underlying core reasons that lead to weight gain are not addressed, weight will be regained.
An example of this phenomenon is a patient I saw in my private practice a few months ago who had been overweight since she was a teenager. She had been on numerous diets and often was successful in losing weight but eventually the weight came back. Her focus was on the number on the scale. In our conversations, I learned that she had experienced a traumatic incident when she was fifteen. She had not received any treatment or therapy after this and she felt she was “over it.” However, as she discussed the shame and fear associated with what happened, she also noticed cravings for the sweets she usually binged on. This long-ago trauma had not gone away. It had been submerged over and over with food. Over time, she was able to process her trauma and learn new coping strategies for dealing with emotions and body sensations rather than food.
My approach with my patients starts with the belief that food and body image issues are not about food – they are about how we use food. If food is our only source of comfort, self–soothing or emotional regulation, it’s likely that this will lead to weight issues. This is also a result of not addressing core issues in our lives – even small ones – that over time crush our spirits. The ultimate goal of weight management should not be satisfying the scale, but satisfying our souls. When we reconnect with our soul’s purpose, our deepest desire to be whole, loved, nurtured and accepted by ourselves and by others, we are more able to make lasting changes in our behaviors and reach a healthy weight.
If you struggle with binge eating, consider joining us for this in-depth week on binge and emotional eating.