Binge eating disorder should receive the same compassion and support as anorexia, says our member Ruth Micallef.

Ruth was speaking after reality TV star James ‘Arg’ Argent told the ITV programme Loose Women of his plan to undergo gastric surgery after reaching 26 stones during lockdown.

Our member Ruth encouraged former Only Way Is Essex star James, and others in a similar position to him, to explore the psychological reasons for their binge eating with the help of a professional therapist.

Struggling to cope

Ruth said: “If you think of anorexia nervosa and a weight of six stone what kind of picture comes to mind? Someone struggling to cope, in need of our support and compassion.

“Now if you think of a weight of 26 stone does this bring up a different picture and different feelings, of greedy, lazy and unmotivated?

“Clients who come to me with binge eating disorder feel just that. The world has told them so and, at their lowest, they believe it.

“But obesity through binge eating disorder deserves just as much compassion and support as anorexia because these clients are equally coping in the only way they know how.”

Brave step

Ruth, who is based in Edinburgh where she specialises in trauma and eating disorders, said James was brave to disclose his issues.

“James in 2020 made the brave step of recovery from his coping strategy of drug use,” she said. “Alas, he’s moved on to a coping strategy of another kind, food.

“Recovery from binge eating disorder is not merely about weight loss, it’s also a journey to understand why we have to cope in the way we do.

“If we don't find and process the why, we’ll move to another form of coping and this cycle is endless.

“Recovery from binge eating disorder should not only show compassion towards the body but also to the mind. In our image-obsessed society, we only focus on the external as a benchmark for one's wellbeing.

Seek support

“Loneliness and boredom were James’s reasons for his weight gain. Still, I encourage him and others to seek the support to delve deeper.

“Dig to the roots of these feelings, and we’ll find much more in the reason for this weight gain.

“Unmet childhood needs, traumas and the life challenges we struggle to work through all insidiously hide under innocent feelings like loneliness and boredom.

“By discovering our why, we also allow ourselves space to finally process these adverse life experiences.

“For those struggling as James has, you deserve to explore the why because you’re absolutely worthy of recovery.”

“Thinness alone will not bring you the contentment you seek. Allow yourself more, and don't let the world or tabloids tell you otherwise.”

Find a BACP counsellor near you through our therapist directory.

Picture credit: ITV1/Loose Women