What are Eating Disorders?
“Eating disorder” is a term for a group of serious mental illnesses that cause individuals to jeopardize both mental and physical health due to problematic relationships with weight, body image, eating, and food. These disorders can at times be life threatening. A problematic relationship with eating or body image can manifest itself in the form of binge eating, purging, food restriction, driven exercise, and a number of other eating or body-image related issues.
Often, those struggling with an eating disorder derive a large portion of their sense of self-worth from their weight or body image. Eating disorders are also often accompanied by depression or anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, substance use disorders, and other mental illnesses. It is crucial that addressing all concurrent mental illnesses, including behavioral addictions, form part of a comprehensive treatment program so that patients can recover and achieve the lives they aspire to live.
Eating disorders may take various forms, including the following.
Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa restrict their caloric intake due to an intense fear of gaining weight. The caloric restriction results in significant weight loss, loss of menstrual periods in women, as well as other significant negative health consequences. Some individuals with anorexia also engage in compensatory behaviours for eating, such as excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and diuretic use. Anorexia can, in some cases, result in death. Affected individuals perceive themselves as being overweight despite their weight being dangerously low.
Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by periods of binging on foods, often followed by various ways of trying to compensate for the binging, such as self-induced vomiting, driven exercise, or other behaviours. Individuals living with bulimia base their sense of self-worth on their weight or their body image.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by periods of binging on foods. Unlike bulimia, those with binge eating disorder do not generally attempt to purge after binging. They may, therefore, become significantly overweight and suffer the negative health consequences. Depression, shame, and low self-esteem are also often associated with binge eating disorder.
Unspecified Eating Disorders
This describes individuals who may have some combination of anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating symptoms, but who do not necessarily fit into one category. This is generally the most common experience for most people who struggle with eating disorders.
We Can Help You
If you would like to learn more about the eating disorder support programs or counselling services offered by EHN Canada, or if you have any other questions about addiction or mental health, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.
- 1-800-387-6198 for Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, ON
- 1-800-683-0111 for Edgewood Treatment Centre in Nanaimo, BC
You can also find more information on our eating disorder support and counselling page. Please note: eating disorder programming is not currently available at our facilities, but a comprehensive Eating Disorder program is now available at Bellwood in Toronto. Please call us–an admissions counsellor can help you learn more.
What is OSFED: Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are diagnosed under a list of symptoms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM5) that can leave many people out who may not have ALL the symptoms. According to Dr. Jennifer J. Thomas, co-director of The Eating Disorders Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of Almost Anorexic, states that at least 1 in 20 people will show eating disorder symptoms that could be diagnosed as an OSFED- Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. Unfortunately, OSFED is a diagnosis that isn’t discussed as often as other eating disorders.
What is OSFED?
Questions still remain several years later after the DSM5 changed the classification for eating disorders that don’t meet the criteria for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. The DSM5 changed Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) to Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).
The change in classification from EDNOS to OSFED was significant. It was realized that not everyone shared the same symptoms and therefore many people were getting placed into the same category, which was affecting their ability to access care and perform appropriate research. Eating disorder behaviours that weren’t previously included within EDNOS, such as purging disorder and night eating syndrome are now included under OSFED.
These are examples of behaviours that are now diagnosed as OSFED subtypes:
- Atypical Anorexia Nervosa: Behaviours of anorexia but does not have low body weight.
- Bulimia Nervosa: Less frequent than what’s required to meet the criteria for diagnosing bulimia nervosa.
- Binge Eating Disorder: Less frequent and/ or limited duration.
- Purging Disorder: Contrast to bulimia nervosa, a person will purge but not binge.
- Night Eating Syndrome: Individual will eat very little during the day and then consume most calories in the evening or wake up in the middle of the night to eat.
How Common is OSFED?
OSFED is more common than previously believed. A study published last year in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, took a look at eating disorders in adults between 18 and 75 years because most research on eating disorders has focused on adolescents. All of the participants in the study were seeking treatment for eating disorders. Almost 28% of the participants met the criteria for OSFED.
In addition, the study also revealed that those participants with OSFED may “struggle with more severe cognitive eating disorder-related symptoms and potentially more severe body image distortions” in comparison to other groups of the study who were of younger age.
Characteristics of OSFED
Both males and females may develop an OSFED. People with OSFED share some common characteristics:
- Intense fear of weight gain
- Distorted body image
- Overly conscious about their weight and body shape
- Heightened anxiety or stress around food
A common misconception is that people with OSFED don’t have an eating disorder and therefore won’t seek eating disorder treatment. The truth is, OSFED can be just as serious as other eating disorders. In addition, similar health complications that are related to other eating disorders are also experienced with OSFED as a result of suffering with it for a long period of time.
If you know someone who may check off on some of the symptoms and signs of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder but not all, it’s still crucial to get help. Give us a call to learn how we can help. Our calls are private and confidential: 416-495-0926.
WaterStone Clinic provides options that include outpatient treatment, residential stays and a concurrent addiction program. Our goal is to give clients the skills to build healthy, happy and meaning
 Massey, Alana. The Most Common Eating Disorder Is One You’ve Probably Never Heard of: BuzzFeed. February 24, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.buzzfeed.com/alanamassey/osfed-hidden-eating-disorder?utm_term=.uoG44y3Rxo#.neMDDEYzWj
 Farrar, Tabitha. What is OSFED? Retrieved from: https://www.mirror-mirror.org/ednos.htm
 Barak-Elran, Roni PhD, et. Al. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder in Midlife and Beyond. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease- Issue: Volumne 203(8), August 2015, p.583-590.
Breaking Stereotypes: Study Reveals More Middle Age Women Are Hiding Eating Disorders Than Previously Believed
Admit it. When you hear the words Anorexia or Bulimia you often picture a female teenager starving herself or eating tons of food before purging. That’s what earlier research and the media have always told us about people with eating disorders. We’ve been told that it’s mainly young females struggling with anorexia or bulimia. Well, a new study in the U.K. has revealed that this isn’t always the case.
New research from the University College London states that approximately three percent of women in their 40s and 50s have an eating problem. Whereas other studies suggest that almost 1 in 100 women between 15 and 30 have a diagnosed eating disorder.
The study included 5,300 women in Britain in their 40s and 50s. It found that 15 percent had an eating disorder in the past and 3 percent within the past year. It’s not uncommon for someone to live with an eating disorder for several years before actually seeking help.
Eating Disorders Have No Limits
It seems thousands of middle-aged women are silently living with an eating disorder brought on by divorce, financial problems and bereavement in mid-life. The most common eating disorder in this study was binge eating disorder. Many of them had long histories with eating disorders, but 2 out of 5 actually developed an eating disorder later in life. In short, this study confirms that eating disorders are mental illnesses that are chronic and can still develop at a later stage in life.
Unfortunately, many middle-age women studied in this group revealed that it was the first time that they spoke about their issues with eating. Why do these women avoid seeking help? Have we, as a society, become so obsessed with dieting and being the perfect size that when our problems with eating spiral out-of-control we fail to recognize that its become a full blown eating disorder?
We spoke to Ann Kerr, Clinical Director at the Waterstone Clinic for eating disorders in Toronto. Ann Kerr is both a Registered Occupational Therapist who has worked in the field of mental health for over 30 years. We asked Ann Kerr why in her experience, middle-age women may develop an eating disorder, “Developing an eating disorder may relate to the changing shape brought on by middle age, such as menopause, changes in fat disposition and shape changes. There is an increase in body image concerns and pressures to defeat old age and signs of old age. Still, the most common reason is underlying body image, weight or shape issues throughout life.
According to Ann Kerr, middle-age women may not seek help because they may have a bigger desire to control their weight or shape rather than deal with other more painful emotions related to eating disorders. Another reason may be because eating disorders are still viewed as a young person’s issue.
Stereotypes can influence how eating disorders are diagnosed. For example, men often struggle in silence with eating disorders. A mental illness that is commonly associated with young females can make men feel ashamed and prevent them from coming forward to seek help. A small study with 470 men between the ages of 40 and 57 in Austria discovered that 32 men with eating disorder symptoms had “significantly greater pathology on scales assessing eating behaviour, exercise addiction, satisfaction with body shape, and weight.”
Ann Kerr believes that physicians can play a role in the diagnosis and recovery of individuals with eating disorders, “Doctors can absolutely make a difference. They can educate, advocate, and provide sensitive medical care in the context of knowing their clients have risk factors. Some doctors may be comfortable directly treating patients using motivational interviewing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as well as providing referral and follow ups.”
Eating disorders are not a mental health issue that people face at a younger age. It’s not a mental illness that is confined to a certain age group, gender or race. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, we can help.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week February 1 – 7 , 2017
On February 6th, Waterstone Clinic and Waterstone Foundation are hosting a free public education evening on Treatments for Eating Disorders in Toronto with Dr. Blake Woodside MSc MD FRCPC in recognition of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017 #EDAW2017.
In addition, Waterstone Clinic is hosting a clinical webinar for healthcare professionals who want to learn more about Binge Eating Disorder Treatment on February 7th from 1 pm to 2 pm EST time with Dr. Allan Kaplan, MSc MD FRCP (C ). For more information and online registration, click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4033983197950304003
 Thousands of middle-aged women suffering eating disorders in secret. (2017, January 17). Times [London, England], p. 6. Retrieved from https://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=rpu_main&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA477779213&sid=summon&asid=451bf93c974cccd5eed943b9b53f4f9f
 Mangweth-Matzek, B., Kummer, K. K. and Pope, H. G. (2016), Eating disorder symptoms in middle-aged and older men. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 49: 953–957. doi:10.1002/eat.22550
EHN Provides Customized Eating Disorder Treatment By Combining Services of Bellwood and WaterStone Clinic
During the holidays, many people are busy shopping for gifts, baking Christmas goodies or decorating their Christmas tree. They are spending time with their families and friends, and enjoying holiday celebrations. But for someone with an eating disorder, this time of year can be a nightmare. There is such an emphasis on food and indulging. Relatives who are unfamiliar with eating disorder make comments on weight, shape or the amount of food consumed. It causes a lot of stress and anxiety as they think about large groups of people watching them eat. Close family members are often on high-alert, running interference between relatives, as well as keeping any eye on any restricting, binging or purging behaviors.
So, how many Canadians have an eating disorder? The latest statistics reveal that approximately 300,000 Canadians – that’s men and women – are suffering with an eating disorder. And it has the highest mortality rate in comparison to all other mental health illnesses. The wait lists for beds at eating disorder units in Canada can be very long. By then, several people may get worse or die from their illness.
In order to expand the available eating disorder programs, we are combining our two established eating disorder programs, Bellwood Health Services and WaterStone Clinic. With this partnership, we will be able to offer residential stays and addiction treatment through Bellwood Health Services and eating disorder treatment through WaterStone Clinic. Whether a client suffers from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, we will be able to create a customized treatment plan that is tailored to them and takes advantage of all our new capabilities. Moreover, this clinical initiative will simultaneously offer treatment for clients with co-occurring addictions and eating disorders.
Together, we will be able to provide customized treatment and on-going support for people with eating disorders.
Here are some tips for those in eating disorder recovery for getting through the holidays safely:
- 1. Develop a plan and decide what tools or techniques you will use in case you encounter a specific place or person so that you can ensure you practice healthy eating habits.
- 2. It’s important that you take care of your body to ensure your emotional health is in check. Getting enough sleep, exercise and proper nutrition will allow you to be in a healthy state of mind.
- 3. Reaching out and staying connected to your support buddies will help you manage stressful situations that are making you feel anxious or sad.
- 4. The holiday season can be extremely hectic and it’s easy to get caught up in the commotion, so try to be mindful and stay present.
- 5. By the way, you don’t have to love the holidays. You just have to get through it- and you will, with the right tools and support from your family, coworkers, friends or recovery network.
If you need to get in touch with someone at any of our treatment centres or at the Edgewood Health Network, please call:
Bellwood Health Services at 416-495-0926 or visit bellwood.ca
Edgewood Health Network at 647-748-5501
Binge Eating Disorder Deserving of More Recognition and Treatment Options
Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 1–7, 2015 and Bellwood Health Services is using this opportunity to raise awareness of Binge Eating Disorder – the most common but least talked about type of eating disorders.
When asked about eating disorders, most people immediately think of Anorexia Nervosa. Although anorexia is a very serious and sometimes life threatening eating disorder, years of movies, and magazine articles focusing on celebrities struggling with this issue, has given us the idea that it is also the most common of all eating disorders. In fact, it is actually the least prevalent of the eating disorders.
Research has found that binge eating disorder affects 3.5% of women and 2% of men, with an average lifetime duration of 8.3 years (Hudson, Hiripi, Pope & Kessler, 2007). This means that binge eating disorder affects more people than anorexia and bulimia combined, and can be life-long problem.
The primary symptoms of binge eating disorder are consumptions of large quantities of food, and the individual feels as though they have no control over this consumption. The individual often eats large amounts quickly, and secretively. Unlike bulimia, the individual does not attempt to compensate for food intake through purging or over-exercising. Binge eating disorder affects men and women fairly evenly, and the affected age group is broader than other forms of eating disorders.
According to Lauren Goldhamer, Eating Disorders Therapist at Bellwood Health Services, there are many misconceptions about binge eating that have helped keep it in the shadows. “Most people feel shame, and hide the problem from others. In fact, in front of others, they may eat normally or even appear to be dieting to conceal the problem. You usually cannot determine if someone is struggling with binge eating based on their body size. For these reasons, the problem can be ‘invisible.’”
Bellwood Health Services is one of the few residential eating disorders treatment programs in Canada that treat binge eating disorder. “The lack of quality or available treatment options are often reasons why there are not more people seeking help for the problem,” states Ms. Goldhamer. Other reasons why few people tend to seek treatment include:
- Feelings of shame and guilt that could result from others learning about the problem
- A belief that it is not a serious issue and that they do not deserve help the way those with anorexia or bulimia do
- Difficulty in discussing their concerns with their family physician
“Orthorexia”: When Healthy Eating Becomes a Problem
Orthorexia is a relatively new term used to describe a type of problematic eating and food preoccupation. As orthorexia is somewhat unknown, there is some confusion about what it actually means, and whether or not it is an emerging eating disorder, distinct from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
The term orthorexia first appeared in a 2001 book by Steven Bratman entitled Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa – Overcoming the Obsession with Healthful Eating. The author, who is a physician specializing in holistic medicine, coined the term and defined it as an “unhealthy obsession with healthy food.” The root “ortho” comes from the Greek meaning “correct” or “right” and “rexia” implies that it is an eating disorder similar to anorexia but with an emphasis on correct or “pure” eating. The term orthorexia is not listed in the dictionary, nor is it an official diagnosis, and as a result there are no associated criteria for diagnosis. However it may useful to think about the idea of having an “unhealthy obsession with healthy food.” Can one take an interest in healthy eating too far? If so, how far is too far? Can the interest in healthy eating lead to negative physical and mental consequences? In my everyday life experiences and in my experience as a therapist working with clients who have eating disorders, I have seen examples that I would define as “taking an interest in healthy eating too far.” I have seen the obsession with healthy eating affect people’s lives, health and happiness. I have seen this become a contributing cause of death.
I believe an interest in healthy eating can be seen as part of an attitude and behaviour continuum that ranges from those who know about, and try to make wise choices in their food selection most of the time, to those who cannot eat food that is deemed “imperfect,” even if it means starving themselves.
I personally know of an example whereby an individual let their obsession with healthy eating ultimately lead to their premature death. Not long ago, I received a call from a friend whose elderly father was in the hospital with a medical illness. My friend was very concerned because while in the hospital, his father refused food and water. For years, this man had controlled his diet by choosing foods that he thought were healthy. He tried to buy everything organic, would not eat certain food for reasons that to me seemed obscure, was vegetarian, mostly vegan and drank only bottled water. He felt good about making these choices and generally talked about them with an air of pride. However, when in the hospital, he was not eating or drinking. He stated he considered the water to be unsafe because it came from the tap, and the hospital food, which was not organic, would make him sicker. Had it not been for these attitudes and fears, which led to his refusal to eat while in the hospital, his medical issue probably could have been treated successfully.
Although this story may seem extreme, it is not uncommon. For example, someone can start out with good intentions to improve their health, but this can spiral out of control. The ways in which it can spiral out of control include limiting or avoiding social eating when the food provided is not considered healthy enough, becoming preoccupied with food and health in general. This in turn can affect mental health and happiness, and even the ability to focus on other important aspects of life such as recreation, school and career. What started out as a seemingly “normal” interest in a healthy diet ironically becomes unhealthy.
Part of the problem is that all the messages we currently get from media, Internet, books etc. about healthy eating and healthy foods can be very confusing. Almost any food you choose can be seen as either healthy or unhealthy depending on the source of the information. If you were to follow all the advice, there would be literally nothing left to eat! And don’t forget, many sources of information such as the Internet and TV can be sensational, and not based on scientific evidence. One extreme reaction to this type of information is to try to restrict all foods that are considered “bad”, as evidenced in those exhibiting “orthorexic-type” behaviours. The other is to disregard all nutritional information, because it is impossible to meet these standards. These individuals end up eating a predominance of fast food and foods with little nutritional value.
What is ideal, however, is the idea that one can develop a balanced, middle ground approach to diet and nutrition. Granted, this is not sexy or exciting. However, it can be maintained in the long term, and would not negatively impact one’s emotional and physical well-being. In a balanced approach, one thinks of healthy eating “guidelines” rather than rules or absolutes. Food is neither good nor bad, and all food can be eaten in moderation. An example of a healthy eating guideline is “whole grains are better than processed grains – I aim to have whole grains about half the time.” Or that “desserts or other “fun foods” taste great and add to pleasure in life. I can allow myself to have a portion of these foods daily.” This balanced approach is one which promotes recovery from eating disorders, and which I espouse in my own life.
If you are finding yourself preoccupied with healthy eating, or other eating concerns, it can be very helpful to seek counselling. The diagnosis or label (“orthorexia”, bulimia, etc.) is not the important thing. What is important is whether food is interfering with your life; making you feel overwhelmed, taking too much time and energy, affecting relationships, self-esteem or your mood. If this is the case, a therapist, especially one familiar with eating disorders, can be of great help.
Understanding Emotional Eating
We all deal with our emotions in different ways. One may seek refuge in a friend, while others may withdraw and seek solitude. Some people turn to food as a source of comfort and pleasure. This scenario is not typically ruled by physical hunger, but rather an emotional hunger that is satisfied by specific foods, such as potato chips, ice cream or chocolate. Most comfort foods have something in common; they contain sugar, fat and/or sodium. It may be difficult to control how much we eat during these times, as ‘comfort foods’ elicit a calming feeling and ultimately improve our mood – fueling us to continue eating. We have all engaged in this behaviour on occasion in the past, but at what point does this behaviour become problematic? When one eats to create a feeling, or to manage emotions regardless of hunger levels, this creates an unhealthy relationship with food.
Food in the Reward System
Food, music and sex are stimuli that naturally release dopamine, initiating the reward center in our brain, which deem them as rewarding and worth repeating. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter commonly known as the ‘pleasure molecule’ is increased in our brain nerve endings and creates feelings of happiness and pleasure. While food does not affect dopamine levels to the degree that addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol do, it triggers the brain to repeat the rewarding behaviour, in this case – eating. Refined foods that are heavily processed are often higher in sugar and sodium, and these are broken down and absorbed into our bloodstream quickly, giving the brain a sudden rise in dopamine levels. These refined foods are more likely to stimulate dopamine levels, versus foods that our body has to work harder to process – such as complex carbohydrates or protein including whole grains or meat.
Food is much more than just a source of energy for our bodies. It is an integral component of sustaining life. However through habit and our own experiences, we have learned that we can manipulate how we feel by choosing certain foods. For some, this can become an all-consuming behaviour in ones’ life.
Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger
Food is commonly a source of stress relief for many. People may indulge in food cravings in hopes of easing stress and anguish, or to feel happy. However, many who find themselves in these scenarios are left with feelings of regret or guilt.
How do we differentiate between emotional hunger versus physical hunger? There are many differences that can help identify whether food may improve or harm the situation.
Physical hunger is a biological signal indicating a need for food to provide our body with energy. Physical hunger is gradual, whereas emotional hunger is sudden. Emotional hunger is usually urgent, and often involves very specific foods, which are often unhealthy. However physical hunger can be delayed or addressed at a later time, and we are open to more choices in what will be satisfying.
Often emotional eating leaves one unsatisfied, which encourages more food in order to feel content. Whereas in physical hunger, our body registers food consumed and we feel satiated. It is common to experience feelings of guilt over the food choices made when emotional eating, while still feelings of stress remain unresolved.
Structure is an integral part of addiction recovery, and this practice is applicable to practicing healthy eating as well. It is common to eat sporadically and consume unbalanced meals when eating to fulfill feelings. These maladaptive behaviours can impact the way our brain responds to foods, which affect ones mental and physical health.
So what does balanced and structured eating look like? While there is no ‘right’ way of healthy eating, there are many principles that we can practice that allow us to enjoy food in moderation.
Balancing each meal with a good source of grain/starch, protein and vegetable/fruit allow us to get the necessary nutrients from our food. Most ‘comfort’ meals are high in carbohydrates and fat, but often lack fiber or protein. Each macronutrient has its role within our body.
Carbohydrates provide us with immediate energy, and also supply us with many vitamins and minerals.
Protein helps our body repair damage and produces certain neurotransmitters.
Polyunsaturated fats play a role in heart health, cognition as well as producing feelings of fullness and satiety. These are a few examples of the importance of including balanced meals in overall health.
2. Timing and Eating
While balanced meals are important, another component of structured eating is timing. Abstaining from food for long periods of time can trigger negative feelings such as anxiety, irritability and fatigue. Small snacks are beneficial, as they allow us to refuel our body before the onset of those negative symptoms. It can also deter us from impulsive eating or acting on food cravings, as we feel satisfied and full. Three meals and three snacks a day provide us with long lasting energy throughout the day, and promote optimism, concentration and alertness. Establishing structure in one’s meal plan is beneficial in creating a healthy relationship with food, as well as improving one’s overall mental and physical health.
3. Habit & Learned Behaviours
While practicing balance and moderation are an important part of breaking the cycle of emotional eating, there are other components that lead one to rely on external sources of pleasure in times of need. Habit and learned behaviours also factor into how we utilize food during these periods. Identifying triggers can help to determine the underlying cause of stress. Boredom, stress and loneliness are often prime times when food can be an outlet for distracting one from these negative emotions.
Being able to recognize these triggers and time frames in the moment can help us make healthier choices including balance and moderation, seeking support and utilizing healthy coping mechanisms.
How to Break the Cycle of Emotional Eating
If you would like to learn more about emotional eating, or you need help, talk to your family doctor who can refer you to a nutritionist/ dietitian. Here are some places, you can visit too:
- Heart & Stroke Foundation: https://www.heartandstroke.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ikIQLcMWJtE&b=4016859&ct=12044291
- Dietitians of Canada: https://www.dietitians.ca/
- Canadian Diabetes Association- The Plate Method:https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/diet-nutrition/basic-meal-planning
If you or someone you know is struggling with overeating, please call Bellwood to speak to one of our counsellors to get help: 1-800-387-6198
How Sugar Affects the Brain: Video Highlights Similar Effects Between Drugs & Sugar
Food is one of our primary sources of pleasure, and critical to our survival. In a healthy reward pathway of the brain, food is a natural stimulus that produces feelings of pleasure from the release of dopamine. This gratifying feeling makes this activity worthy of repeating, as we want to experience it again. However, not all foods have the same effect on the brains’ reward system. So why do certain foods activate the brains’ reward system more than others? Sugar, salt and fat are three substances that ‘hijack’ the brains’ reward system, by releasing a burst of dopamine, similar to the effects of drugs and alcohol. As more research emerges, we gain knowledge about how a diet of large portions of refined and processed foods affect the way our brain responds to food. Some individuals develop a dependence on these foods to feel happy and satisfied, and eventually develop a tolerance by needing more of these ‘addictive’ foods to experience feelings of pleasure. Dependence and tolerance are fused with the fundamentals of addiction, reinforcing the link between food and addiction. This video from the TED Talks series highlights how foods high in sugar can have a similar effect on the brain as drugs, alcohol and other addictive behaviours.
Binge Eating Disorder is Now Recognized as an Eating Disorder in the DSM V
As clinicians and researchers learn more, categorization of various mental health issues and disorders changes to reflect more precise diagnostic criteria, thus helping those who are seeking treatment and understanding. For example, the tool that mental healthcare professionals use to help guide their diagnoses and treatment plans – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is revised from time-to-time to ensure that updates are made as more information about various disorders becomes clearer. In its latest edition, the DSM-5 has included an important revision in the chapter involving Feeding and Eating Disorders.
Definition of Binge Eating Disorder According to the DSM-5
In the latest edition of the DSM, Binge Eating Disorder has now been recognized as separate and distinct from the “catch-all” category of eating disorders labeled “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS).” In the past, this category was used for individuals who had disordered eating and behavioural patterns that did not fit into the DSM-IV criteria of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. However, it is now recognized that a large number of individuals diagnosed with Eating Disorder NOS category may actually have Binge Eating Disorder. This is an important distinction because diagnostic criteria for this disorder can be more clearly articulated. According to the DSM-5, Binge Eating Disorder causes distress and significant physical and psychological problems. It is defined as:
- Recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances
- Eating episodes marked with feelings of lack of control
- Eating too quickly, even when not hungry
- Feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or disgust
- Eating alone to hide the behaviour
The Implications of this New Diagnosis
This new distinction of Binge Eating Disorder in the DSM has important implications for individuals seeking help. The DSM criteria associated with the disorder will hopefully be associated with a more meaningful and accurate diagnosis. In addition, healthcare professionals can improve communication among service providers and improve treatment planning given their shared understanding of what the disorder represents, as compared to the previous diagnosis of an eating disorder, “not otherwise specified.”
In addition, the formal categorization of binge eating disorder may also reassure individuals who are attempting to seek help for this cluster of behaviours that causes them a significant amount of pain and distress. Family members or others may have told individuals with binge eating disorder that they simply are “overeating,” making the individual with the problem feel like the problem should be within his/ her control to fix. The diagnosis of binge eating disorder, when indicated, may help the individual to realize that seeking help for the problem is necessary and appropriate. It may also provide the individual with insight into the fact that binge eating disorder is more than simply “overeating” – that it is far more severe and requires treatment by professionals who can help. When an accurate diagnosis is made, an appropriate treatment plan can then be developed. With the appropriate treatment plan and guidance and support from professionals, an individual can begin to recover from their binge eating disorder.
Think you might have an eating disorder? Do you have a family member or friend who may require help with a binge eating disorder? Bellwood Health Services can provide you with you information, resources and support needed to recover from an eating disorder.
Contact Bellwood to learn how we can help.
Killing Ourselves to Be Thin: An Eating Disorder Infographic
Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 2-8, 2014. At Bellwood Health Services, bringing awareness about Addiction and Eating Disorders is part of our mandate. Thousands of women and men suffer from this deadly mental health illness with little or no support.
So much pressure is being placed by the media, friends, work, or sometimes family to look a certain way. For some, developing an eating disorder can be a way of dealing with the daily pressures of life. Men and women are getting caught in a cycle of weight gain and dieting to the point of self destruction.
To add to the plate, there is so much stigma being faced by these individuals, that it’s no wonder that instead of seeking help to get well, they begin to turn to drugs, sex or alcohol to cope with the uncontrollable in their lives.
At Bellwood, we have an eating disorder and addiction treatment program to help individuals struggling with an eating disorder and addiction for women and men 19 years and older.
Help Bellwood bring awareness about bulimia, anorexia, binge eating and overeating by sharing this post.
Here is a mind-boggling INFOGRAPHIC developed by Rader Programs, a treatment facility in US.
What Are the Signs of a Binge Eating Disorder or Compulsive Overeating?
What is the difference between overeating and binge eating?
How is this different from normal eating? Are these serious issues? Is change possible? Some post-holiday thoughts.
If you are asking yourself:
- Do I have a ‘real’ problem or do I just lack the willpower to stop?
- Should I just ‘try harder’ to stop?
- Will a different diet do the trick?
- Does my eating problem qualify as an eating disorder?
- What’s the difference between binge eating and overeating?
This blog post may help you sort out some of those questions and help you understand better what type of treatment you need.
It is very common and normal, in fact, to sometimes overeat. Everyone with easy access to food does this at times. We overeat at holiday time, parties, good restaurants, and even occasionally for emotional reasons. It is also common and normal to gain a small amount of weight over time. This may be due to overeating and/or slower metabolism associated with aging and decreased energy expenditure. Simple overeating and weight gain can be dealt with in a healthy way by making modest adjustments to your eating habits and/or increasing your activity level. In addition, self- acceptance of having a less than perfect body weight or less than perfect eating habits can prevent these issues from escalating and interfering with your overall happiness, well-being or self-esteem. The personal philosophy that “no body is perfect” and food and weight while important, are only a part of what makes a healthy, happy, and meaningful life, help to put perspective on weight and eating issues.
For some people, however, these issues can become overwhelming. Eating can feel out of control. Attempts to lose weight may feel desperate.
The following are some signs that you may have an overeating problem:
- While wishing to lose weight, you may actually end up overeating or binge eating.
- You may find that instead of losing, you are gaining weight and this can add to feelings of discouragement and depression.
In this context overeating is not normal. Problematic overeating is overeating that occurs regularly, from once a week to many times each day. Problematic overeating involves eating food and feeling guilty. It is often associated with feelings of being out of control.
Binge eating disorder is a specific type of overeating. The following are signs that you may have a binge eating problem:
- You eat an amount that is clearly very large, within a relatively short amount of time, rather than spread through-out the day or at just one meal.
- Large amounts of food intake are frequently done in secret due to shame.
- There is generally a sense of loss of control during a binge eating episode and the feeling that the eating episode could not be prevented.
Sometimes people experience both overeating and binge eating, while others do one or the other. If you try but cannot seem to stop these behaviors and feel that weight and body image issues are negatively affecting your self-esteem or other important aspects of your life, such as relationships or social life, it is clear that your problems are worth addressing.
You don’t need a formal diagnosis of eating disorder to warrant help. In this situation, just “trying harder” is seldom the answer. A new diet is seldom a long- term answer. On the other hand, understanding yourself emotionally, feeling supported, and learning specific tools to address behaviours can be extremely helpful.
Treatment, whether in individual or group therapy, or in residential treatment, can help you re-learn or sometimes learn for the first time, how to become a normal eater and address the underlying issues that are at the core of the eating problem. An assessment at Bellwood could help identify which type of help would be most effective.
Written By: Lauren Goldhamer, M.Ed, has been on staff at Bellwood as an Eating Disorder Therapist since 2001 and has been working with clients with eating disorders and related issues since 1995. She has a M.Ed. in Counselling Psychology, and training in both Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and Emotion-Focused Family Therapy for eating disorders. Her involvement with Bellwood’s Eating Disorders Treatment Program includes clinical assessments, group and individual therapy, outpatient therapy and meal supervision.
Her previous work with eating disorders includes: facilitating groups at Sheena’s Place; Eating Disorders of York Region, and a collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Health Services where she initiated their first body image groups supporting students at risk of developing an eating disorders. In addition to her work at Bellwood, Lauren maintains a private practice.
Top Ten Online Addiction Recovery Resources
Addiction is a disease that affects so many aspects of our being. Its very nature is complex, which makes it really challenging for many who are not addicted- to understand why people develop it in the first place. The truth is that addiction hijacks the brain and makes it difficult to understand, regardless of the consequences being faced, when professional help is needed.
Once you realize that you need help, it’s not always clear as to where to start or who to talk to.
If you have started contemplating about addiction recovery, sobriety, “getting clean”- whatever you want to call it, here is our list of the top ten online addiction recovery resources you can refer to:
1. Alcoholics Anonymous: This is a fellowship of recovering alcoholics who get together and share their experiences to gain strength from each other to stay sober. Groups can be found all across the world.
2. Drug and Alcohol Helpline: This website contains Ontario resources for healthcare professionals and the general public for substance abuse.
3. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC): If you or someone you know needs help with an eating disorder, this non-profit organization can help. This website contains information, education and support for Canadian healthcare professionals and the general public.
4. International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals (IITAP): This website is for both healthcare professionals and the general public seeking help for sex addiction and associated disorders. They promote the highest level of professional standards among practitioners that treat sex addiction.
5. Sex Addicts Anonymous: Is a world-wide fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so they may overcome their sex addiction and help others recover.
6. Responsible Gambling Council (RGC): This organization helps individuals and communities address gambling in a healthy and responsible way through information, awareness/ prevention, professional development and research.
7. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): is a government funded Canadian research facility and hospital that provides education and support for addiction and other mental health issues.
8. Addictions Ontario: Is a non-profit charitable association that works with and for its members to provide the best possible addiction resources for individuals in Ontario.
9. Hazelden: A treatment and research facility located in the US that provides excellent education and support tools to help you start and maintain sobriety.
10. Bellwood Health Services: We are an international leader in addiction treatment with 30 years of experience. Bellwood has programs that are accredited with exemplary standing and have high success rates. Bellwood offers education, counselling, outpatient and inpatient programs.
Still need help with your addiction? Give Bellwood’s counsellors a call and learn how we can help you get on your road to recovery: 1-800-387-6198.