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By Frank Minirth Paul Meier Robert Hemfelt Sharon Sneed Don Hawkins
THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERSDr. Frank Minirth, Dr. Paul Meier, Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Sharon Sneed and Dr. Don Hawkins
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Chapter OneWHEN IS A BINGE A BINGE?
Barbara Jamison, a heavy-set woman of 185 pounds, had lofty childhood dreams of becoming a woman of confidence and sophistication. The dream sustained her through a difficult childhood. In fact, she even dreamed of becoming a teacher to troubled children. Certainly no one watching Barbara on this day some thirty years later would have thought her to be a picture of confidence and success. Barbara had made certain no one could see her that afternoon. If fact, even though she was alone in her apartment, she had locked her bedroom door. Plopping onto the middle of her bed, she began ripping the bags open and savoring their contents: chocolate creams, extra-crispy fried chicken, creamy crab salad, and a yet-unopened box of doughnuts.
She always had to have high-calorie snack foods when she binged. Barbara's binges began in early adolescence as a means of coping with her harsh and demanding father, an ex-military man. When Barbara was ten years old, she lost her mother to cancer. During her teen years, Barbara not only lacked the nurturance of a mother, but also her father's "drill sergeant" family tactics and periodic rages intensified as he searched in vain for comfort or solace for his loss. Inevitably, Barbara would return to binge eating after the numerous fad diets she embarked on in high school. The Kampus Korner drive-in in college became her source for quick, inexpensive binges-downed before she raced back to the dorm to stick her head over the lavatory and get rid of it all in the binge-purge cycle of her college years. Then came Tom and their troubled marriage ... Well, at least since he'd moved out, it was easier to hide her bingeing, even though the ravenous monster seemed to demand feeding more often when she was alone.
At last the monster seemed to be stilled, and with the carton still half full, Barbara was able to put the spoon down. She was too miserable for any more movement. With a sweep of her arm she brushed the leftovers from her bed and leaned back. Her last prayer before sinking into oblivion was, "Dear God, where will it end?"
Barbara is a compulsive overeater whose addiction to food became so intense that she sought our professional counseling in Dallas, Texas.
WHAT IS COMPULSIVE EATING?
"But doesn't everyone overeat sometimes?" you may be wondering. "I always eat until I'm uncomfortable at Christmas." "I binged in college-before exams, when I broke up with my boyfriend, when my roommate got a care package." "Sure I've gone on diets and then gained it back-plus a little." "Does that mean I need counseling?"
One of the difficulties in working with food issues is these gray areas. It's much easier when dealing with alcohol or drug addictions-either you drink or you don't, you're either drug-free or you aren't-but everyone has to eat something, and the lines of what's too much are highly individualized.
Our definition of a compulsive overeater is not some fixed weight limit or percentage, such as someone who is thirty pounds over normal weight. We concentrate, instead, on the subconscious causes of this obsessive behavior.
We define compulsive overeaters as people who are eating to satisfy emotional hungers, hungers of which they may or may not be aware. The compulsive overeater may be a few pounds or a few hundred pounds overweight. The issue is not how much the person weighs, but rather his or her reasons for eating.
The compulsive overeater may be addicted to food just as the alcoholic is addicted to alcohol or the workaholic is addicted to work. This strong emotional reliance on something on the outside to make one feel good on the inside is called codependency, or addiction. Unless the causes of this behavior are identified, the person will never be free from an addictive relationship with food.
Three Eating Disorders
Compulsive overeating, like that of Barbara, is just one type of eating disorder. Two other types are anorexia and bulimia.
Anorexia is chronic self-starvation to more than 20 percent below the ideal body weight. Anorexia is an eater's attempt to control something in his or her environment-a rigid, authoritarian father, for example-by controlling food. Often anorexics are so hungry for love that they stop trying to fill their hunger. Their fasting anesthetizes the pain of love hunger. Bulimia is compulsive overeating to fill love hunger, then purging the food out in an attempt to purge out pain. The purging is one with self-induced vomiting, laxatives, or diet pills. Bulimics then feel empty, so they binge again; then they feel guilty, so they purge again.
Although the emotional dynamics of all three eating disorders and the principles of recovery are similar, this book is focused primarily on the compulsive overeater, and for the sake of simplicity, most of our references will be directed to this disorder. Anorexics and bulimics, however, share many emotional dynamics with compulsive overeaters, and we invite all who suffer from any eating disorder to walk our pathways to recovery. It is important to emphasize that anorexia and bulimia are serious, life-threatening problems, and if you identify yourself in one of these categories, you must seek medical help as well.
A SHORT QUIZ
If you're trying to decide whether or not you're a compulsive overeater, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you eat when you're angry? Do you eat to comfort yourself in times of crisis and tension? Do you eat to stave off boredom? Do you lie to yourself and others about how much you have eaten or when you ate? Do you hide food away for yourself? Are you embarrassed by your physical appearance? Are you 20 percent or more over your medically recommended weight? Have significant people in your life expressed concern about your eating patterns? Has your weight fluctuated by more than ten pounds in the past six months? Do you fear your eating is out of control?
If you found yourself answering yes to several of these questions and identifying to some degree with Barbara, you are a compulsive overeater. This book is written by doctors with a passionate interest in treating eating disorders. Dr. Frank Minirth and Dr. Paul Meier are psychiatrists who also have theology degrees. They treat patients from a psychological, medical, and spiritual perspective. Dr. Robert Hemfelt is a psychologist who specializes in obsessive-compulsive behavior and maintains an active private practice in the Dallas area. Dr. Sharon Sneed is a practicing nutrition consultant who has helped thousands of patients with various health problems associated with improper diet. Dr. Don Hawkins has helped provide insight from his many years of pastoral counseling. Our collective expertise for compulsive overeaters brings together medical, psychological, spiritual, and diet components.
Whether you are a first-time-recovery patient like Barbara or a successful dieter at your goal weight, we invite you to come along on this journey with the doctors and our unique methods for dealing with eating disorders.
We do not offer easy answers-the problem is too complex for that. But there are answers. And there is comfort in understanding the complexity of the problem. If you, like a majority of Americans, have repeatedly gone on diets and fallen off, an understanding that this is not a single problem that "just requires a little more willpower" is a key to understanding why so many past attempts to conquer the problem have failed-and why a multifaceted approach can succeed.
Excerpted from LOVE HUNGER by Frank Minirth Paul Meier Robert Hemfelt Sharon Sneed Don Hawkins Excerpted by permission.
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