"I've always thought I was just lazy, greedy, disgusting" - similar words echo through my counselling room weekly. Coping with food is still seen as such a taboo subject due to the fatphobia which surrounds it. Rarely discussed in public or the media, one would suppose binge eating is not a problem at all. So why are the majority of the referrals I receive related to overeating?
Because a minimum of 22% of Britons are struggling with binge eating disorder, and that's why it's the focus of this year's Eating Disorders Awareness week.
So what is it?
The charity Beat classifies binge eating disorder as:
"…a serious mental illness where people eat very large quantities of food without feeling like they're in control of what they're doing. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background."
My clients seeking support with binge eating disorder often hold off due to the shame surrounding their coping mechanism. The Government's 'War on Obesity' assumes that people struggling with weight gain are wrong, defective and something to be fought against.
The reality? These clients are the most in need of our support and compassion. Plus, who said it's just our clients who suffer? Their families, friends and loved ones may also be affected.
Of the 22% of Britons coping by bingeing on food, you could well be one of them, in need of compassion and space to talk. We define binge eating disorder with some of the following questions;
- do you eat when you're not hungry or until you're uncomfortably full?
- do you hoard or buy lots of food for bingeing 'episodes' or 'just in case' you need to binge?
- do you organise your life around bingeing episodes or avoid eating with others?
- do you binge during or after stressful, emotional, or tedious moments?
- or maybe you spend most of your day thinking about food or have a sense of a lack of control around food?
You are not alone, and there is nothing defective about you! Binge eating disorder is simply a strategy you have subconsciously developed to help you cope with difficult events or traumatic experiences.
There are professionals like myself ready to help you work through these events and experiences to allow you to move on from binge eating disorder. Your weight is not a 'war' to fight; your mind and body are deserving of love, support and empathy.
Don't let Government campaigns or fatphobia shame you into silence. Get in touch with a BACP counsellor who specialises in eating disorders who can help. Binge eating disorder is a way of coping, not a defective part of your personality.
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.