Obesity and eating disorders (#39)
Obesity and eating disorders are usually considered to be distinct conditions, with different origins, courses and approaches to prevention and treatment. Eating disorders are diagnosable psychiatric conditions with associated physical features and consequences (e.g., weight loss, symptoms of starvation, binge eating). Obesity, in contrast, is viewed as a medical condition defined by anthropometric measurement; it is not necessarily accompanied by psychopathology; and it is not associated with a consistent psychological or psychiatric profile. However, eating disorders and obesity can also be viewed as part of a spectrum of food and weight-related problems that are symptoms of our ‘toxic’ cultural context. On the one hand, we live in an ‘obesogenic’ society, where it is easy to overconsume and to be physically inactive. On the other hand, society glorifies thinness and stigmatises obesity. Therefore, it may be helpful for clinicians and researchers to consider an integrated approach to the understanding, prevention and treatment of eating disorders and obesity. While obesity is not an eating disorder, it is common for obese people to experience an eating disorder or eating disorder symptoms. The most prevalent eating disorder in obesity is binge eating disorder (BED), and common eating disorder symptoms include excessive concern about body weight and shape and extreme dietary restraint. Adequate assessment of eating disorder symptoms in obese patients is important so that appropriate interventions, which address both the obesity and eating disorder symptoms, may be developed and prescribed. In this presentation I will describe the symptoms and associated psychopathology of eating disorders in obesity and provide guidelines for the treatment of obese patients with disordered eating, particularly binge eating.