Hello I'm Helen and I'm a food addict - New*

Excerpt from SMH, September 27, 2015. Konrad Marshall

Experts, though, are concerned that individuals with low self-esteem and little confidence will develop reliance on others and, in turn, powerlessness.

Prahran-based overeating specialist Dr Rick Kausman has been working on obesity for more than 25 years, and believes food addiction models are basically strict diets, which can work for some outliers like Helen, but not for most.

"The amount of energy that is spent to stay vigilant is overwhelming," he says. "It becomes their whole life focus, which is not normal, because there are other issues in life that are much more important."

Dr Kausman is the author of If not dieting then what? and director of the eating disorder support hub, The Butterfly Foundation, and believes the alternative is "the opposite of dieting".

The central thesis of any diet, he says, is to ignore your body and restrict food. Yet people who overeat are often not eating to sate hunger – they are engaged in "non-hungry eating".

The most successful treatment for Binge Eating Disorder – the only condition of this kind entered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – is not dieting.

It includes cognitive behaviour therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy, helping people better manage anxiety and regulate emotions, while handling stress, relationships and self-esteem.

Abstinence from food, on the other hand, is abstinence from a primary biological drive. Dr Kausman says you might as well be abstinent from oxygen.

When presenting training workshops, in fact, he often asks audiences to hold their breath for five seconds, and everyone does.

When he asks them to hold their breath for an hour, no one even tries.

"Yet dieting has been sold in that way: If you can do it for five days, you can do it for 50 days," he says. "They've been led to believe that it's their fault if they can't hold their breath for an hour."

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