There are many variations on the theme of dysfunctional eating with a variety of consequences from mild discomfort to chronic illness. Dysfunctional eating is a trap. Once people are in the trap, they tend to fall into more disorganized, dysfunctional eating patterns. Chaotic food intake means chaotic body function and a disturbed mind. Illness is the inevitable result.
Compulsive eating often emerges in early childhood as a dysfunctional pattern. Dysfunctional eating patterns tend to persist into adult life with obesity as one of the many consequences. Many writers relate the bingeing cycles of some women to female political, social, and existential problems. The projection of blame outward, while popular, is not correct and distracts from the real issues of self control. While you can argue that the abundance of relative cheap food and persistent advertising of food is not helpful, it is more useful to argue that freedom of choice requires a well-informed, responsible person who makes the right decisions and does not become a victim of temptations, vices, addictions and other destructive behaviors.
Some diabolical genius, for example, invented food addiction to catch people in an almost hopeless situation. You crave and eat only a few foods that make you ill, but you cannot stop. You feel awful and confused. Or, because you feel so sick, you do stop eating and starve yourself. Or, you binge eat and induce vomiting to avoid the consequences. Or, you are an alcoholic and drink beer and whiskey instead of eating proper food. Or, you consume 8 cups of coffee per day and smoke, thinking that a greasy burger with fries is an adequate meal.
Proper diet revision can get dysfunctional-eaters out of trouble, but then, they need to stay out of trouble. They often need a professional “mother”, a full-time, caring custodian who would prepare proper meals and make sure that they eat them. Their first task is to develop a support system that can provide some of the features of mother, the benevolent custodian. The learning task is to develop self-nurturing. I tell patients that they need to take care of themselves in a loving and considerate fashion.
The tendency to relapse is greatest in patients who have disorganized and dysfunctional eating patterns. They tend to crave food and eat compulsively when they go off course. They tend to use anger and denial to support compulsive behaviors. They follow an addictive path and may have a history of eating disorders. Some patients who binge-eat have deeply incorporated secrecy and denial in their compulsive patterns. Their spouses often do not know what is going on. They even deceive themselves.
Psychogenic explanations of compulsive-eating focus on the personalities of the women involved. The personality profile suggests that women who are high-achievers, perfectionistic, lonely, dissatisfied, and frustrated are at high risk. A phobic fear of being too fat is usually mentioned as the cause of fasting, purging, and vomiting. The psychological or psychogenic explanations take the easy route. They simply restate a description of the problem and say it is the cause. If the patient says: "I am intense, frustrated, and concerned about my body weight...", the psychological rendering just turns this around: "Women become bulimic because they are intense, frustrated, and are concerned about their body weight.
Many patients with compulsive eating and eating disorders wisely and appropriately do not accept the psychological explanations. Patients often describe, "...something inside is not working properly; there is something chemically wrong with me". One patient stated it succinctly: "I think there is a little gizmo in my brain gone crazy...if you can only get in there and fix it, I'll be OK again."
We postulate a biological cause; an infectious agent, an environmental agent, food allergy, or other problems in the food supply. If a similar endemic involved more explicit physical symptoms, an epidemiological approach would search for a physical or infectious agent as the cause of the malady. A good biological theory would postulate "Agent X" in the food supply, which disorders appetite regulation in a predictable manner. Agent X need not be a single substance, but may be a collection of operators in the food supply, affecting susceptible individuals. Agent X has the property of triggering compulsive eating associated with aversion to the effects of overeating.
A person who refuses to eat food and loses weight dramatically causes great consternation among family members, physicians and support staff. The diagnosis often is anorexia nervosa. Some anorexic patients have a history of binge-eating and were overweight. Others may alternate binge eating and starvation. All these patterns of eating disorders suggest an appetite control system in their brain that is malfunctioning. Unstable appetite is often associated with distortions in body image and emotional disturbances, suggesting a pervasive brain disorder.
I am convinced that most theories and therapies are misguided attempts to deal with a biological problem. The more authoritarian treatment strategies verge on cruel and usual treatment of patients who need understanding, affectionate support, and, hopefully, better strategies of achieving adequate nutrient intake such as replacing food with Alpha ENF. Some patients receive wrong diagnoses and are subjected to futile treatments for diseases they do not have. Parents may deny that their child has a eating disorder and shop for diagnoses that conceal the true nature of the eating disorder. Read Anorexia
This discussion of eating disorders is continued in the book, Eating and Weight Management. You can order the book separately or as part of a Nutritional Rescue Starter Pack