Christmas and New Year festivities have drawn to a close and no doubt the majority of us will admit we've over-indulged. The excess calories consumed will be heavy on most people's minds with the obvious antidote to be joining the gym and extreme dieting - only to give up before the month is out (most likely). However for those who experience bouts of compulsive and binge eating, it's not so easy.
With inclusion on Binge Eating Disorder (BED) in the DSM5 for the first time men are more likely than men to fit criteria for an eating disorder. BED is often overlooked and misunderstood despite speculation that it could be the most common eating disorder. Whist statistics vary it is widely believed that males are marginally more affected. Due to little awareness, understanding and services available to treat BED, it's difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected.
The illness is characterized by compulsive, out-of-control episodes of eating followed by shame, guilt and depression has long been underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. BED can be perceived 'less serious' than anorexia and bulimia, therefore diagnosed as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).
Keith Addison, a self-confessed, binge eater, told me: "The biggest problem I encountered was often with GPs or practice nurses that I had to visit for various health reasons. I developed type II diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pains, kidney problems and liver problems to a certain degree. I would often be told that I was 'morbidly obese' and I had to change what I was eating and exercise more to get rid of my excessive weight. By this time my BMI was well into the 40% range and each time I mentioned my eating disorder it was completely dismissed. I felt so demoralised and stigmatised that I even asked my wife to sit in on the appointments with the medical professionals to verify my story was true. I used to eat a very healthy diet and stayed away from all of the fatty, sugary foods that were 'bad' for me and when I was binge eating it was these foods I was eating to excess."
Too often those with issue around over-eating may not approach their GP support, with one of the main symptoms they are looking out for is obesity. This is particularly problematic as many of those suffering with compulsive and binge eating will not necessarily be overweight or even obese.
'Fat Talk' has done little to address the health issues related to obesity. Instead, it's become an excuse to shame those who are slight or more than slightly obese. In my view, this is one of the remaining taboos in society. I beg the question: Unless we challenge the stigma, how can we become a lighter and healthier nation?
Keith added: "It is a common misconception with Binge Eating Disorder that it is always junk foods that are used to binge on. For me it was things like dried crackers, cheese, baked beans etc. Far from the crisps, biscuits and chocolates that the medical professionals assumed I was eating to excess. It didn't matter what I said to them I was always in the wrong and I was always lying about what I ate."
"Being stigmatised about my weight and my 'lack of willpower' affected my everyday life. I spent most of my time locked in the house feeling like I couldn't venture out because I was so grossly overweight. When I did venture out I would often get people laughing at me and making sly comments like 'who ate all the pies' and being called a 'beached whale' when I did try and go to the swimming baths to get some exercise. This fed into my binge eating disorder's destructive cycle and made things worse."
BED is long overdue as a recognised as an official diagnosis in the fifth edition of the manual that mental health professionals use to diagnose and treat mental disorders. This is unquestionably an important change to the DSM -the first significant update to the eating disorders section of the manual in almost 20 years. It will clearly define diagnostic criteria for BED and validate the illness as a treatable physiological disorder.
At Men Get Eating Disorders Too, we hope the addition of BED to DSM-5 will open doors for long-awaited and overdue need for increased education and support.
For more information go to the MGEDT website: www.mengetedstoo.co.uk