Signs you might have an unhealthy relationship with food & when to see a Dietitian

Signs you might have an unhealthy relationship with food & when to see a Dietitian

To move toward a more positive relationship with food, it’s important to recognise what an unhealthy relationship with food might look like and when to seek additional support.

So how do you know if you might have an unhealthy relationship with food?

The following might provide some insight:

  1. Do you feel emotions like guilt, shame, fear or anxiety around food and eating?
  2. Do you have specific rules around eating that you must follow? E.g. What, when and how much you are allowed to eat?
  3. Do you have a list of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods? And do you deny yourself from eating things that you truly want to eat because they are ‘bad’?
  4. Do you rely on calorie counting apps, smart watches or other external cues to tell you what, how much and when to eat?
  5. Do you withdraw from social activities that include eating because you fear what you might have to eat?
  6. Do you feel like you have to compensate for what you eat with exercise or by limiting your next meal?
  7. Do you feel like you can’t stop thinking about food, diets, calories and/or weight?
  8. Do you constantly feel dizzy, weak and/or tired?
  9. Have there been changes in menstrual regularity? E.g. Stopped or missed periods.

You don’t have to experience all of these signs to improve your relationship with food. A tell-tale sign that your relationship with food could be improved is if you feel guilt, shame, fear or overwhelmed around food.

It’s also important to recognise that your relationship with food may ebb and flow. Some days you might eat with complete food freedom, and other days you might not, or you might be somewhere in between. The goal of improving your relationship with food is to have more positive experiences and build upon strategies to help you when you are struggling. When you improve your relationship with food, you’ll notice less guilt and anxiety around eating and more food freedom.

So when should you see a Dietitian?

If you feel as though you might have an unhealthy relationship with food, or there are negative emotions and behaviours around food and eating that are interfering with your ability to live a full and meaningful life, please consider reaching out to a non-diet Dietitian and therapist for support.

A non-diet Dietitian can support you to:

  • Heal your relationship with food, body and exercise
  • Foster behaviours that will support your physical, emotional, social and mental wellbeing
  • Reconnect with your body’s physiological cues, trust your body’s inner wisdom and eat intuitively
  • Find satisfaction in food choices
  • Fight against diet culture and reclaim your mind and self

As you navigate your relationship with food, remember that food is not inherently good or bad, and neither is a person for eating a particular food. There is nothing wrong with valuing nutrition, but when it takes away from your overall physical, mental and social wellbeing, including your quality of life, it becomes unhelpful and unsustainable.

Food is so much more than just physical nourishment – it is a source of connection, celebration, pleasure, culture and tradition. You are allowed to enjoy it.

The journey toward a more positive relationship with food can be a long process that has many levels to it. It will look differently for everyone. But, it is absolutely worth it. You will learn to understand and appreciate your own body.

 

Learn more about how Glow Group can help you reconnect with your body and step away from diet culture for life here or book now.

Follow our Instagram at @glowgrouphealth for more non-diet & body positive content! 

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any health conditions and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

What to expect in your first session with a Body Inclusive Dietitian

What to expect with a body inclusive dietitian

At Glow Group we are huge advocates for finding health professionals that are the right fit for you, and like a psychologist or your GP, finding a Dietitian that fits your needs is so important. 

To assist in your decision making, we thought it might be helpful to detail down what you can expect in a first session with one of Glow Group’s Body Inclusive Dietitians. 

 

Before your first session

Prior to your first session you will be sent an online form to complete which includes questions about your health and wellbeing, as well as a nutrition questionnaire. 

The more information you can provide before your initial consultation, the better prepared your clinician will be to understand your intentions for the session.  

Depending on the reason you are visiting, you may also like to bring along any recent blood results, or a doctors letter/referral (if you have one, please note this is not required and you can still see our Dietitians without a referral). 

 

During your first session

We use the time in our initial meeting to get to know you, and understand your own individual story. 

We will discuss your reason for coming in, and will also complete a comprehensive assessment to ensure we are providing a tailored and individualised service for you. 

With your permission, we will also explore: 

  • Your personal health and medical history 
  • Your digestive health 
  • Your eating patterns 
  • Your exercise and activity levels 
  • Your thoughts and feelings about food 
  • As well as your thoughts and feelings about your body 

 For some people an initial assessment may be completed over 2-3 sessions. 

 Depending on your presentation, at the end of your visit, we may ask you to: 

  • Commence a food journal 
  • Monitor your thoughts and feelings around food 
  • Try an activity or self assessment at home 

Or, you may receive:  

  • An information resource 
  • An article or book recommendation 
  • Or, some simple initial dietary strategies 

 

A little note on meal plans:

Many clients naturally believe they may receive a meal plan or meal guide during their initial session with a Dietitian. At Glow Group we value safe and healthy relationships with food and body, and as such, your Dietitian will discuss whether a meal plan is the right fit for you over the coming sessions.  

 

After your first session

Based on your assessment, we will schedule your follow-up visit, which will typically be within 1-2 weeks. 

We may also write a letter to your GP or another health professional such as your Psychologist. 

Lastly, we will always check in with you to see if the session met your needs, and whether there is anything you might like to focus on during our next meeting. 

A session with any Dietitian should leave you feeling heard and understood. Take the time to seek out someone who is the right fit for you.  

What to expect in your first session with our Paediatric Dietitians

What to expect in your first session with our Paediatric Dietitians

If you have never seen a Dietitian before, we appreciate that you might have some questions about the process. We hope this guide can help you and your child start to understand what to expect when you meet us.

Before your session:

If your child is a private or Medicare client, you will be emailed our online intake form, which will prompt you to fill out some background information about your child.

If your child is an NDIS participant, you will likely be sent a link to help us gather some background information about your child, including their disability and NDIS plan details (only those that are relevant). We will not ask to access your full NDIS plan.

If you have any relevant documents, including letters from Specialists, blood test results or referrals, please bring these alone with you to help your Dietitian complete their assessment.

Session location:

If your child is a private or Medicare client, we will be meeting you in one of our clinics or online via telehealth depending on your preferences.

If your child is an NDIS participant, we can meet you in clinic, online via telehealth or at your own home, if your funding allows for this.

During the session:

The assessment session is an opportunity for the Dietitian to get to know you and your child. Topics covered may include medical and mental health history, growth and development patterns, mealtime experiences, gastrointestinal health, activity levels, sensory preferences, relationship with food, and food choices (safe foods, challenging foods etc). Your Dietitian may also arrange for a session to observe your child eat and/or drink, called a “mealtime observation”.

If at any time you or your child does not feel comfortable talking about a specific topic, please let us know and we can accommodate.

An assessment typically spans over anywhere between 1-3 sessions.

At the end of the session your Dietitian will provide you with an overview of what the next steps in the process are. This may include access to resources, planning at home activities, food or supplement based recommendations or discussing a plan for the next session.

Interventions are tailored to your child’s special interests and readiness for change, and may include:

  • Working with preferred foods to support nutritional adequacy
  • Utilising supplements if appropriate
  • Advocating for accommodations to your child’s environment, to help them feel more comfortable in the eating experience
  • Interaction with food, if this feels like a good fit for your child, such as cooking or grocery shopping tours
  • Coaching parents on how to support their child’s relationship with food

When starting with the Dietitian, you may feel very eager to get started on multiple strategies with your child, as you care so much about their health and wellbeing. We invite you to be gentle with how you may introduce new foods or routines to your children, as in our experience, a child’s relationship with food is very sensitive to any perceived pressure. Our Dietitians will be very happy to discuss this more with you in session and guide you through this process.

After the session:

The Dietitian may ask you to send through any information/documentation to help them complete their assessment. If your child’s’ Dietitian would like to talk to any of your children’s other health practitioners, they will be sure to obtain your consent first.

If your child is an NDIS participant, we typically create a formal assessment report after the assessment process is complete. Again, our Dietitians will discuss this option with you in case this is something you would like to opt out of.

Positive non-diet intentions for the new year

Positive non-diet intentions for the new year

We aren’t big fans of New Year’s resolutions here at Glow. We find they are often based on things people feel they need to ‘fix’ or change about themselves. Which is why we would like to encourage you to try make some positive non-diet intentions instead.

 

Ideas:

💛 I will make time for self-care each day

Block out a few minutes each day to take care of yourself. This could look like taking more mindful breaks throughout the day, making yourself a soothing cup of tea, going to bed half an hour earlier etc.

💛 I will develop a toolbox of coping mechanisms for when I’m feeling stressed, anxious, upset etc.

This could include guided meditations, baking something you enjoy, doing a fun activity with a friend, watching an episode of your favourite TV show, journaling, making an appointment with your therapist/counsellor/psychologist etc.

💛 I will focus on participating in movement that makes me feel good

This could look like trying different forms of movement throughout the year to see what feels fun and joyful for you. That might be a run or gym class some days, and on others it might be a short stroll or yoga flow. Notice how different movements feel for you.

💛 I will be critical of diet culture and diversify my social media feeds

Gradually work through unfollowing, unliking, unsubscribing to content that is promoting unhelpful ideas that make you feel like you need to change your body or food choices. Try following a diverse range of content that uplifts all bodies, including different shapes and sizes, genders, abilities, ethnicities, cultures and more.

We have a list of body positive Instagram accounts, books and podcasts here.

💛 I will provide my body with nourishment, rest and movement in a way that makes my body feel good

We appreciate that exploring some of these concepts in a blog can be complex. If you are noticing this blog or time of year brings up challenges for you, please consider reaching out to a non-diet Dietitian, trusted GP or mental health practitioner.

Reach out to one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians here.

 

Written by Andriana Rudnytski, Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Navigating the festive period in a non-diet way

Navigating the festive period in a non-diet way

The festive period is often a time for holidays, gift giving, quality time with loved ones and of course, sharing delicious food.

But for many, the focus on food can bring up feelings of fear and guilt, which is not helped by our media feeds and unhelpful comments or conversations from family and friends.

It can be especially difficult when you are just starting or working through building a more positive relationship with food and body, so we’ve put together this blog in hope of helping guide you.

Maintain a regular meal routine

It is not uncommon for some to fall into the mindset of restricting their food or ‘saving room’ in the lead up to an event. Doing so, often backfires. When we restrict our food, we are more likely to eat past the point of uncomfortable fullness or eat in a way that feels chaotic when we eventually do allow ourselves to eat. This can negatively impact on your enjoyment of the meal and the day/event itself.

Instead, fight the urge to restrict your intake and try to nourish your body adequately and consistently throughout the day with regular meals and snacks.

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat, and enjoy, all foods!

Similar to restricting how much we eat, when we deprive ourselves from eating the foods we enjoy, we are more likely to eat past the point of uncomfortable fullness or eat in a way that feels chaotic when we eventually do allow ourselves to eat the thing we enjoy. Food rules can also increase feelings of anxiety and stress toward food and eating.

Rather than ignoring your cravings, try to honour your cravings and allow yourself to eat what you crave. Take the time to really enjoy them, without the side of guilt. The holiday season only happens once a year and is a time to fully experience the joy of food and quality time with friends and family!

Something to note is that it is very normal and perfectly ok to feel extra full after a Christmas event (or any time really). It’s also very normal to eat when you aren’t feeling particularly hungry. Often the feeling of fullness or eating in the absence of hunger can kickstart the guilt, restriction and food rules. Try to practice self-compassion and resist the urge to restrict or skip meals after an event. You are allowed and encouraged to eat regularly and enough in the days following Christmas or other holiday events, even if you have eaten more than you normally would on the day.

Navigating diet-talk with friends and family

Time with friends and family isn’t always joyful. If you anticipate that you will be around family or friends that are known to make unhelpful comments, it can be helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve to be able to dodge those pesky comments or unhelpful conversations.

This could look like changing the topic, politely advising that you would rather not discuss that particular topic or even physically removing yourself from the situation.

Understandably this can be tricky, if you would like some further tips on managing this, please see our blog post on how to respond to comments about food or your body here.

Find the joy in other parts of the festive period

Since food does take up such a big part of festive celebrations, it’s easy to let it become the main focus. Focusing on some of the other exciting aspects can help to reduce the pressure and stress you may feel about food and eating. Other things to look forward to may look like playing games with friends and family, making homemade gifts, watching cheesy Christmas movies or taking time to have some great conversations to catch up on the year that was. There are many ways to spread joy and excitement over the holiday period!

Prioritise self-care and self-compassion

Whilst this time of year is often seen as exciting and fun, it can also bring up feelings of stress and anxiety. Try to schedule in some time to yourself, even if it’s a couple of minutes in the morning or at night to practice self-care. We have some ideas on ways to incorporate self-care in your day here.

If this is a time that brings up heightened feelings of stress, uncertainty or worry, it can be helpful to reach out to a trusted health care practitioner (e.g. therapist, counsellor, non-diet dietitian or GP) to help build strategies ahead of time for the holiday season.

And remember, you are exactly where you are meant to be in your journey. You are doing the very best you can in what can be a very challenging time of year. Look after yourself and reach out for support from those around you or a trusted health practitioner if this is something that would be helpful to you.

We wish you a happy holiday and a joyful new year. 

If you require any assistance or support over the holiday break, we have linked some services and supports below:

Butterfly Foundation 1800 33 4673

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia 1300 789 978

Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36

Headspace 1800 650 890

 

Written by Karly Rugolo, Accredited Practising Dietitian.

How to support someone with an eating disorder this holiday season

How to support someone with an eating disorder this holiday season

The holiday season is fast approaching and while most of us look forward to it, it can be an especially difficult time for people living with an eating disorder or struggling with their relationship with food.

Between the increased chatter about food and eating experiences, and seeing family and friends that we may not have seen for a long time, the holidays can understandably bring up some stress and anxiety.

It can feel difficult to find the right words or actions to support a loved one living with an eating disorder, so we’ve put together this blog in hope of helping guide you.

Here are a few tips on supporting someone with an eating disorder this holiday season:

Take the time to learn about the complexities and effects of eating disorders.

There is so much information available. Podcasts, books, articles and organisational websites can help you to better understand and support your loved one. You may find it helpful to use the resources available to you to reflect on your understanding of eating disorders.

Eating disorders are a complex mental illness. Everyone will have different needs and boundaries but building a baseline understanding of what your loved one is going through and an appreciation of some strategies that can be helpful (and unhelpful), is a great place to start.

Some resources we recommend:

Butterfly Foundation – Eating disordered explained

Headspace – Understanding disordered eating and eating disorders – for family and friends

How to Nourish Your Child Through an Eating Disorder [Book]

Navigating their way to Health – A brief guide to supporting someone with the challenges, treatments and pathways to recovery from an eating disorder

There is also a comprehensive list of resources for families & carers here.

Ask them ‘How can I best support you?’

Know that your loved one might struggle to express what they need from you during this time as it can be hard for them to speak up against their eating disorder voice. Just know that they will really benefit from you showing up, being there and listening without judgement. Your loved one’s therapy team can really support here.

It can be helpful to build a plan with your loved one if this is something they would find helpful. For example:

  • Ensuring there is a place for your loved one to take a break if they need to
  • Choosing a signal for them to let you know they are having a hard time and would like support. This could look like a gesture, hand signal or a phrase e.g. “X can you help me with something outside?”. Make sure to discuss with them ahead of time the type of support they would like e.g. talking through what they are feeling, doing a guided meditation together, validation or just your presence.
  • Helping distract your loved during the eating experience if this helps reduce their anxiety, for example, playing music, colouring, talking about their favourite topic.
  • Shifting the focus after the meal to an activity that doesn’t centre around food. For example, Christmas-inspired charades, minute to win it, scattergories, murder mystery, ring toss. You can find printable game sheets and ideas if you search “Christmas Party Games” in your web browser.

Avoid commenting on physical appearance and eating patterns.

Even if you think it is a compliment or it is directed at another person, we invite you to put a stop to conversations that centre around food and body image. Your loved one’s eating disorder voice is already so critical of their eating and body, that we are sure they’d appreciate a break from having to think about this.

If you know there will be other family or friends present that tend to make comments about food, diets or bodies, it can be helpful to have a few phrases ready to quickly shut down the conversation. For example:

  • While we are talking about food, I had the most amazing meal with [name] at [location] not long ago, have you seen them lately/have you been there before?
  • Someone else’s [food choices/body] is really none of our business. They are so much fun to be around.
  • Let’s just focus on enjoying ourselves.

Seek guidance from a professional that specialises in eating disorders

  • A trusted GP or Paediatrician
  • Mental Health Professional e.g. Psychologist, Psychiatrist
  • Accredited Practising Dietitian

Whether you are a partner, parent, guardian, friend or colleague, know that your support means the world, and it’s okay to not know how to respond or react.

Eating disorder support/helplines:

Butterfly Foundation 1800 33 4673

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia 1300 789 978

Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36

Headspace 1800 650 890

 

Written by Andriana Rudnytski, Accredited Practising Dietitian

Maximising energy and fighting fatigue in athletes

fighting fatigue in athletes

Maximising energy and fighting fatigue in athletes

It is quite normal for most people to experience tiredness and fatigue at some stage. General tiredness and feelings of ‘acute’ fatigue are also common for athletes when there is an increase in the amount or intensity of training. This usually disappears as the body adapts to the new workload provided this is supported with adequate nutrition.

If training loads are not supported with adequate nutrition, an athlete may experience low energy availability (LEA). This occurs when an individual does not match their energy intake to the demands of training and their lifestyle requirements, leaving inadequate energy to support health and normal bodily functions. Chronic or prolonged low energy availability can lead to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) which results in impaired physiological and performance consequences. 

 

Understand key symptoms

As a coach or parent you might notice some of these physiological and performance symptoms in your athletes:

  • Drop in performance or lack of expected improvement in performance
  • Increased perception of effort during exercise and general daily activities
  • Altered mood and attitude to training
  • Muscle soreness and poor recovery between sessions
  • Loss of appetite and/or sudden weight loss
  • Reduced strength due to weight loss
  • Low resistance to infection (colds/flu)
  • Sleep disturbances

Tips for coaches and/or parents

Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional strategies that can assist in minimising fatigue in your athletes:

Showcase the role of carbs!

  • Carbohydrate foods are important sources of energy for athletic performance pre, during and post daily training sessions as well as across a week
  • Carbohydrate is crucial to support immune function and to nourish the brain, supporting concentration, mood and skill acquisition
  • After moderate to high intensity exercise, consuming a carbohydrate based drink/snack or meal is the most effective way to initiate the start of muscle fuel store recover, followed by further intake of carbohydrate rich foods across the day
  • If there is a longer time between training sessions, your athlete may not need to be as aggressive with their carbohydrate intake across the day, provided they consume enough for their daily requirements

Optimise iron rich foods

  • Athletes and active individuals can be prone to iron deficiency due to iron loss in sweat, urine and faeces. Females also have increased losses due to menstruation
  • Poor dietary choices, total dietary intake or food avoidances may result in low iron intake
  • Iron needs are higher for athletes and those who follow a plant-based diet
  • Low iron stores may cause general tiredness with an increase in recovery time, poor immunity, cold-like symptoms, poor appetite, and changes in mental health

Help hydrate

  • As a coach you can help support adequate hydration status by creating regular training breaks or identifying opportunities across a training route for your athletes to drink
  • Your athletes may not drink enough fluid during or after to replace their sweat losses and therefore can experience ongoing dehydration
  • Including a drink with every meal and snack will assist with daily fluid needs

Be proactive in engaging with an Accredited Sports Dietitian, and involve a great support team around your athlete. Book an appointment with our Sports Dietitian, Georgie Tran here.

Seek appropriate support from a health professional e.g. Psychologist and Exercise Physiologist, and GP where appropriate.

Food and mood – what does the science say?

Food and mood

Food and mood - what does the science say?

Even at rest and while we’re asleep, our brains are always at work to keep our bodies going – from regulating our movements, our breathing and our heartbeat.

Fun fact: Turns out our brains are very hungry creatures, using more energy than any other organ in our body – around 20% of our average daily energy requirements!

Keeping our minds well is an important part of our overall health and wellbeing.

The relationship between nutrition and mental health is highly complex and yet to be fully understood, however research is now showing a link between what we eat and how we feel – which is also connected to a better night’s sleep, increased energy and improved concentration.

These links appear to involve interactions between our gut microbiota (trillions of microorganisms collectively living inside our digestive system), our immune system (the military protecting our body) and glycaemia (glucose aka sugar in the blood).1

Although this area is evolving and there is still so much more to learn, research like the SMILES Trial found that overall dietary patterns may play a role in the relationships between food and reductions in depressive symptoms (irrespective of body weight changes and physical activity).2,3  

So….. what does this all mean?

Spoiler alert!

No ‘restrictive diets’ or ‘superfoods’ here….. the good news is it’s all about variety, balance and ALL foods are welcome!

Some ways to fuel your brain and optimise mental health and wellbeing:

  1. Eat regularly throughout the day and avoid skipping meals – this will help to provide a steady source of fuel to help maintain our blood sugar levels and to avoid feeling tired and irritable aka ‘hangry’. Tip – carry snacks for times when your on-the-go or busy!
  2. Be flexible and enjoy a colourful variety of ALL foods and food groups rather than following food rules.
    • Wholegrains – carbohydrate rich foods are our brains preferred source of energy and an important source of fibre, which helps to feed our gut bacteria. 
    • Fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices – provide our bodies with fibre, vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols and minerals to support a diverse gut environment and overall brain health.
    • Protein (e.g. legumes, fish, poultry and eggs) provide amino acids a.k.a the building blocks for many brain chemicals and hormones that help to regulate our thoughts and feelings like serotonin a.k.a ‘the happy hormone’.
    • Omega-3 and omega-6 rich foods like olive oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish and legumes have been shown to support positive mental health and have protective properties against dementia and depression.
    • Dairy foods, milks, yoghurts, cheeses and alternatives
  3. Stay hydrated – our brain is made up of over 70% water stay hydrated helps to promote concentration, improved mood and less headaches!
  4. Probiotics and fermented foods like wholegrains, legumes, sauerkraut, yoghurt, and kimchi contain live bacteria that can boost our gut health and improve our mood!
  5. Include Joyful Movement – physical activity increases feel-good chemicals like endorphins. Some studies have shown for some, that it is as effective as anti-depressants in individuals experiencing mild to moderate depression4
  6. Enjoy meals with others – food can help us connect, can show love and is an important part of our social and cultural lives!

References

  1. Firth J, Gangwisch JE, Borsini A, Wootton RE, Mayer EA. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ. 2020;369:m2382.
  2. Jacka FN, O’Neil A, Opie R, et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’trial). BMC Med. 2017;15(1):1-13.
  3. Firth J, Marx W, Dash S, et al. The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Psychosom Med. 2019;81(3):265-280.
  4. Mikkelsen K, Stojanovska L, Polenakovic M, Bosevski M, Apostolopoulos V. Exercise and mental health. Maturitas. 2017;106:48-56.

*Mental illnesses are complex and highly varied. Please seek support from a trusted GP, healthcare provider or a loved one if you are experiencing mental health concerns. The suggestions discussed in this blog are not intended to substitute information or advice that you’ve received from your doctor or healthcare provider.

Alternatively contact support services such as Lifeline (13 11 14), Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute or Headspace

Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder

Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder characterised by recurrent episodes of binge eating, whereby a binge is defined as eating an amount of food that is larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time whilst lacking a sense of control. These episodes of binging can feel chaotic and highly distressing for the individual and often is followed by feelings of guilt and shame.

BED is the most common eating disorder in Australia and it affects people of all of all ages, backgrounds and genders and can occur regardless of one’s weight and shape. BED can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health and quality of life. It can affect one’s social life, relationships, work/education, and the ability to do the things that give them joy and a sense of purpose.

What causes Binge Eating Disorder?

As with all eating disorders, the factors which contribute to the development of BED are complex can include factors such as a genetic predisposition as well as psychological, environmental, social, and cultural factors.

Binge eating can often develop as a coping mechanism in response to emotions or difficult life circumstance and can serve the function of numbing emotions or being a distraction to life’s challenges.

Dieting and concerns about weight and shape is another major risk factor for the development of BED. Restricting food causes a series of psychological and physiological changes to occur in the body as a survival response to prevent starvation. This can lead to extreme hunger, preoccupation of food and can initiate a drive to eat large quantities of food. Having strict dieting rules can also lead to binge eating once the rule is eventually “broken” which then initiates restrictive eating practices once more. This pattern is commonly known as the binge-restrict cycle.

Binge Eating Disorder signs and symptoms:

In addition to the recurring episode of binge eating and feeling of lacking control whilst eating, other signs and symptoms include:

  • Preoccupation with eating, food, body shape and weight
  • Extreme body dissatisfaction and shame about appearance
  • Feelings of extreme distress, sadness, anxiety and guilt, particularly after eating or after a binge episode
  • Depression, anxiety or irritability
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling tired and not sleeping well
  • Feeling bloated or constipated
  • Increased sensitivity to comments about food, weight, body shape and exercise
  • Secretive behaviour relating to eating, such as hiding food and wrappers
  • Evading questions about eating, food and weight
  • Withdrawal from activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Erratic behaviour including stealing food or spending lots of money on food

What to do if you suspect you have binge eating disorder

If you suspect you have BED, a great first step is scheduling an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns and treatment options available. It may be helpful to find a GP who has experience in eating disorders, however if you feel most comfortable seeing your usual GP that is still a great option.

Due to the complex nature of BED, it is likely that your GP will recommend further support from other health professionals such as a psychologist and dietitian. Treatment is often targeted at understanding and addressing the underlying causes for binge eating and can include evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy

Working with a dietitian skilled in eating disorder recovery can be helpful in understanding and repairing your relationship with food and your body. A dietitian can assist in breaking down and overcoming food rules, help with a regular eating pattern to overcome the binge-restrict cycle and assist with building food knowledge and awareness without avoidance and fear of food.

It can feel overwhelming if you suspect that you may have an eating disorder. You may have tried countless times to try and gain “control” of your eating only to find your efforts to be short lived or feel impossible. As discussed, BED is a complex mental health condition which can be caused by many different factors. Whilst recovery is certainly possible, stopping binge eating is not a simple task and, in most instances, require extra support and guidance.

References:

https://insideoutinstitute.org.au/assets/what-is-binge-eating-disorder.pdf

https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/types/binge-eating-disorder/