x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Eating disorders can be overcome

Those suffering from binge-eating disorder need to seek professional help.

Although many of us try to restrict or change our dietary habits at some point in our lives for health reasons or the sake of appearance, our understanding of eating disorders is limited. This partly explains why binge eating does not receive adequate attention in the UAE.

One reason why this condition is often overlooked could be the lack of obvious physical signs in many cases, or it could be the inability of a sufferer to identify the causes that lead to disorders. “Ellen”, who is in her 60s, is a case in point. She told The National that she cannot pinpoint what triggered her unhealthy relationship with food when she was in her 30s. There is also a misperception that those who suffer eating disorders are all overweight. Although some of them can be morbidly obese, sufferers can be moderately overweight, of average weight or even underweight.

It is important to understand this problem because binge eating, which transcends racial, gender and socioeconomic boundaries, can be chronic and ruin lives. Some of its effects include low poor body image, self-esteem and the use of food to comfort oneself at times of stress. It leaves the person with feelings of guilt and depression. These negative feelings just add to the problem of overeating. If left untreated, the consequence can even be fatal.

The limited understanding about this condition leads a large number of patients to resort to “easy” ways to lose weight, such as with the help of pills or a new diet, which may not necessarily lead to a long-term solution. This is where the role of Overeaters Anonymous (OA), a self-supporting group, comes into play.

As this newspaper reported yesterday, the group that has a presence in more than 75 countries, including the UAE, has been encouraging people to battle eating disorders by helping them to understand that food is a symptom, and not the cause.

Recovering from an eating disorder may be difficult, but it is possible. For most people, the only way out of it is to seek professional help. The first step is to confide in someone, such as OA. The biggest mistake is to trivialise the problem thinking that we all overeat at some point, and that we are capable of controlling it on our own. It’s more complex than that.