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Paul Morgan: mental health advisor

Paul Morgan is Deputy Director of SANE Australia, the mental health charity. He is a leading expert in promoting understanding of mental illness in the community. ASK ME A QUESTION

Obsession with food

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Eating excessively, or thinking constantly about food, becomes a way of avoiding a more worrying state of mind.

Question:
All I think about is food; day in, day out. I plan in my head what I'm going to eat next. I'm always eating every moment of the day, every chance I get. After these eating binges I feel disgusting. I sometimes try and throw it up. I have put on just over 5kg in the last year and I hate my body. I wish it could just go back to the way it was before. Help! How do I control these eating binges?

Answer:

We all enjoy a good meal. A healthy appetite is a sign of good health all round. For some people, though, eating can become a kind of compulsive behaviour. It's something they do to try to deal with feelings of anxiety or depression, for example, not because their bodies are actually hungry.

Eating excessively, or thinking constantly about food, becomes a way of avoiding a more worrying state of mind. It can be an unconscious attempt to create a sort of 'comfort zone' for yourself. It's also not good to "hate your body" as you put it.

Rather than think about it as simply a matter of 'controlling binges' or short-term dieting, it would be good to talk to a health professional about why you have these urges to eat too much in the first place, and then to start tackling those reasons.

A GP is always a good place to start with any health concern. Be very honest about your feelings and thoughts as well as your body. Remember, a doctor can only help you if you are completely straightforward about your concerns. much as possible and get on with his everyday life of being a child.

If you would like more information or want to discuss this further, call the free and confidential SANE helpline on 1800 18 SANE or send an e-mail via www.sane.org.


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