I decided to use quarantine time to read various books I’ve bought at professional development trainings but had never had a chance to get to, and I really wanted to start with this one, both for how it can help my clients and because it’s relevant to myself.
Amy Pershing is the primary author, with Chevese Turner providing a narrative section at the beginning of each chapter. It appears to be written for both the layperson and the professional, with the understanding that it would likely be helpful for a layperson with BED to also see a therapist who can treat eating disorders. Pershing gives an overview of binge eating disorder (BED) – what it is, how it develops, and how it is often related to trauma. It is the most common eating disorder, more common than anorexia and bulimia combined, but doesn’t get near as much attention or understanding. It wasn’t even formally diagnosable until relatively recently, and therapists who claim expertise in treating eating disorders often struggle to treat BED as opposed to anorexia and bulimia. It’s also noted that BED is not just about bingeing but also about restriction. Typically there is a binge-restrict cycle.
After providing some information about BED, Pershing shifts to discussing strategies. She describes processes that she believes are necessary for long-term recovery, which includes a process she created called POWR – a series of steps to take when one is considering a binge. She also draws from Internal Family Systems Theory, especially the idea of the Self; this isn’t a theory I know much about and while there is probably enough of an overview for people to understand the basics, I do wonder if it would be helpful to know more about it or to work with a therapist who is familiar with it.
Pershing also spends some time on myths about food and body and encourages people to work on their body image. She notes that health data doesn’t show correlations with body size, other than that people who are overweight or maybe even mildly obese tend to live longer; this goes against the commonly held belief that thinner = healthier. She advocates for the Health at Every Size (HAES) model. There’s a major focus on self-compassion, even of behavior one regrets, while also showing understanding that others may be judgemental of that or of food and body choices that they don’t agree with (as if it’s any of their business. Ok, rant over). At the end she lists resources to help people connect with supportive communities online.
This is a research-driven book – each chapter ends with numerous references – but it is also accessible to general readers. It’s something that a lot people would benefit from reading, especially those who experience body shame, who have bought into the diet industry, or who struggle with self-compassion. If you struggle with binge eating or are a therapist who works with BED or would like to work with it more effectively, I strongly recommend this book.