Healing Our Past Experiences
Self-help and support services for men and women survivors of childhood and adult sexual abuse
Charity Registration number 1119389
There are many diseases, disorders, and problem conditions involving food, weight and eating, but in everyday conversation, the term "eating disorders" has come to mean anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder and obesity,
Person diets, becomes hungry, and then binge eats in response to powerful cravings and feelings of deprivation.
Feels out of control while eating.
Fears gaining weight and frantically tries to "undo" the binge. Vomits, misuses laxatives, exercises, or fasts to get rid of the calories.
Swears to "be good," to never binge eat again, but then continues to restrict food intake which starts yet another repeat of the deprivation-hunger-binge-purge cycle.
Believes self-worth requires being thin. (It does not.)
May shoplift, be promiscuous, and abuse alcohol, drugs and credit cards. May engage in risk-taking behaviour and have other problems with impulse control. Person acts with little thought of consequences.
Weight may be normal or near normal unless anorexia is also present.
The person binge consumes large amounts of food frequently and repeatedly.
Feels out of control and unable to stop eating during binges.
May eat rapidly and secretly, or may snack and nibble all day long.
Feels guilty and ashamed of binge eating.
Has a history of diet failures
Tends to be depressed and obese.
People who have binge eating disorder do not regularly vomit, over exercise, or abuse laxatives like bulimics do. They may be genetically predisposed to weigh more than the cultural ideal (which at present is exceedingly unrealistic), so they diet, make themselves hungry, and then binge in response to that hunger.
Or they may eat for emotional reasons: to comfort themselves, avoid threatening situations, and numb emotional pain. Regardless of the reason, diet programs are not the answer. In fact, diets almost always make matters worse. Information reported in the March 2003 New England Journal of Medicine suggests that for some people, but not all, a genetic flaw in combination with lifestyle factors can predispose to binge eating and subsequent obesity.
The above eating disorders are treatable, and lots of people recover from them. Recovery, however, as noted above, is a difficult process that can take 2 to 3 years or even longer. Some people do better than others and make faster progress. The folks who do best, work with physicians, counsellors and support groups, who help them resolve both the medical and psychological issues that contribute to, or result from, disordered eating.
Like most things, obesity is a complex phenomenon about which it is dangerous to generalize. What is true for one person is not necessarily true for the next. Nevertheless,
New research suggests that there is a biological link between stress and the drive to eat. Comfort foods -- high in sugar, fat, and calories -- seem to calm the body's response to chronic stress. In addition, hormones produced when one is under stress encourage the formation of fat cells Nature Medicine, a journal published online by the University of California at San Diego; 2007.)
Recent studies suggest that sleep deprivation (common in survivors of sexual abuse) (anything less than 7-9 hours per night) can contribute to obesity. Bodies that aren't rested produce less than optimal amounts of leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite, leading to increased cravings for candy, other sweets, and salty carbohydrates like chips and french fries. (Source: David Rapoport, MD, director of the sleep program at New York University School of Medicine. Reported in Health on Parade; August 28, 2005)
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