What Calorie Labelling does to People with Binge Eating Disorder

Trigger warning: description of binge eating.

A few nights ago, I went out for dinner for the first time since lockdown lifted here in the UK.

After months of being stuck at home, I sat in the restaurant with a big grin on my face, soaking up the atmosphere.

I was quite hungry but, as usual, took my time exploring the menu. Like a buzzard circling its prey, I was on the lookout for the dish that would truly satisfy me.

I knew I’d found it when I got that familiar “eureka” moment. Something in me said “that’s it!”. Instinctively, I knew it was exactly what I felt like eating and that I’d enjoy it.

I made my choice without judgement – either of the food or of myself.

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What’s Missing from the Conversation about Eating Disorders?

When you hear the term ‘eating disorder’, what comes to mind?

Is it anorexia?

Or maybe bulimia?

It’s not surprising.

When someone asks me what I do and I explain I’m a psychotherapist who works with clients with eating disorders, they usually tell me about someone they know who’s experienced anorexia.

While it’s a really good thing that awareness around anorexia and bulimia has increased significantly over the years, there’s yet to be the same level of awareness about binge eating disorder or OSFED.

In case you don’t know, OSFED stands for “other specified feeding or eating disorder”.

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Mental Health and Weight Loss Ads

I was recently asked to contribute to an article on the mental health impact of weight loss advertising for Metro.

You can read the article here, but I also wanted to share with you the questions I was asked and the answers I gave.

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Dieting is Never the Answer

This is the time of year when most New Year diets have failed.

Yes, The Eating Silly Season is coming to a close. To be fair, Eating Silly Season is now all year long, but in January it’s especially silly as Diet Culture stages its annual Grand Parade of Bullshit and Misinformation.

Look – there’s that “celebrity doctor” shamelessly promoting disordered eating on social media in the name of “science”. There’s that “diet guru” on TV forcing people who are Not Thin to lose weight rapidly with zero regard for their psychological wellbeing.

Then there’s you.

How are you doing with all of this?

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Why the UK Government is Getting it Wrong on Obesity

The Guardian recently reported the UK Government is planning to launch an “emergency drive” to reduce obesity rates in anticipation of a second Covid-19 wave later this year.

There’s concern Coronavirus disproportionately affects overweight and obese people. According to the article, the Government programme will be “based on encouraging people to reduce their calorific intake and lose weight rapidly”.

If accurate, the UK Government is acting on a dangerously incorrect assumption – that obesity is purely a physiological, rather than a psychological, issue.

It’s a mistake that’s made often.

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Expert Insight: Dieting and the Fear of Famine

“Our ancestors did not have a constant supply of food. When a large animal – a whale, a bison, a woolly mammoth or an elephant – was killed, everyone feasted, gorged… it might be weeks or months before another big kill, so large amounts had to be eaten quickly and then stored in the body for the times of scarcity that were sure to come.  

This is an ancient or atavistic memory that calls us to eat all we can now, even if we are not hungry, just in case there won’t be any food tomorrow… there is something deep in our primitive brain that still fears starvation, scarcity, famine.”

Jan Chozen Bays, “Mindful Eating”

Remember the panic-buying we witnessed when the Covid-19 crisis first hit?

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