In a culture rife with unhealthy messages about food and the body, people with binge eating disorder often suffer in silence. But it is possible to break the binge-diet cycle so many are caught in.

What’s a common misperception about binge eating disorder?

The most common misperception is that if people had more willpower they could stop overeating. That’s just not true. For people with binge eating disorder, eating feels out of control, is often secretive, is disconnected from physical hunger, and is often connected to other issues such as anxiety or depression. Also, people with binge eating disorder come in all sizes. Some are at higher weights and some are at average weights.

What cultural issues factor into the disorder’s development?

There’s a lot of pressure to be thin in our culture, which often leads to the pursuit of weight loss, yet people who diet are at much greater risk for developing eating disorders including binge eating. There are also many people who don’t meet the criteria for binge eating disorder but have developed disordered eating patterns, such as skipping meals, overeating, or restricting certain foods. Unfortunately, there are constant messages in our culture that normalize these behaviors.

What’s the significance of binge eating disorder now being recognized as a distinct condition in the new DSM-5?

 It gives validity to the diagnosis. It means that more health care providers will recognize the disorder and that, as an official diagnosis, insurance reimbursement may be available to cover treatment costs.

What led you to write this book?

 As clinical social workers, my co-author (and sister!), Ellen Frankel, and I noticed that many of our clients reported positive outcomes from previous psychotherapy yet were unable to resolve their binge, compulsive, or emotional overeating. Most professionals don’t receive training in this area. We wanted to offer a comprehensive resource that discusses all aspects of eating and weight issues so people can get the help they need.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered in researching/writing it?

New research shows that up to 30 percent of people who seek weight-loss interventions, including surgery, meet the criteria for binge eating disorder. That means people are pursuing the wrong solutions for their problems, especially since food restriction actually exacerbates bingeing.

What is the most important point you want to get across?

If you’re caught in the diet and binge cycle, quit dieting! Instead, learn the steps of attuned eating, develop compassion for yourself, understand emotional aspects of your bingeing, and discover new ways to comfort or soothe yourself without turning to food.

Who would most benefit by reading this book?

Health and mental health professionals as well as anyone who has struggled with overeating, dieting, and body image issues.

Was there a personal component that led to your interest in this subject?

Early in my professional career, I worked in a weight-loss program where people invested incredible amounts of time, energy and money. They lost weight in the short run and gained it back in the long run, which happens for the vast majority of dieters. A few people kept it off, but to do so they were preoccupied with food and weight, constantly counting, weighing, and measuring their food, over-exercising, deciding whether it would be a good or bad day based on the number on the scale, and more. I realized that I was helping people to be obsessed with food, and that didn’t sit well. When I discovered the non-diet approach, it resonated with my personal and professional experiences.

If you had one piece of advice, what would it be and to whom would it be aimed?

For health/mental health professionals, familiarize yourself with the research on dieting, weight, and health that challenges conventional thinking so you can work with your clients to solve, rather than perpetuate, disordered eating. For people struggling with binge eating, remember that you’re not alone. There is hope and help for you.

What would you like to see happen as a result of your book?

On an individual level, I’d like to see people become free from the diet/binge trap and instead find peace in their relationship with food and their body. On a cultural level, I’d like to see all of us stop putting out messages that blame and shame people about eating and body size. I’d love to see us focus on what really matters: practicing healthful behaviors, having positive connections with other people, and finding work and activities that give us a sense of meaning and purpose.

About THE AUTHOR SPEAKS: Selected authors, in their own words, reveal the story behind the story. Authors are featured thanks to promotional placement by their publishing houses.

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Beyond a Shadow of a Diet

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