OMG, there’s a camera in my fridge! Seriously. This actually happened. Recently. The idea came from CTV cameraman, Steve Rafuse, who accompanied Pauline Chan, Health & Lifestyle Reporter/Anchor for CTV News in Toronto, who stopped by to interview me about Binge Eating Disorder, given my personal experience, my specialization as a psychotherapist, and the book I’ve written on it. The purpose: to help spread the word about this complex, life-destroying mental illness affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Men and women, young and old.
Binge Eating Disorder is a complex, life-destroying mental illness
As we headed upstairs to my office, Pauline remarked how Binge Eating Disorder gets little media coverage, with most attention focused on anorexia. Quite understandable, I explained, given that anorexia causes more deaths than any other mental illness, and that treatment resources across the country are sparse, to say the least. Pauline seemed surprised to learn that binge eating is more common than all the other eating disorders combined. I think the numbers are much higher than the 3.5 percent usually cited (about 300,000 Canadians, 10.5 million Americans), and vastly under-reported – due to the stigma attached to any mental health issue, and the common misunderstandings about the cause and cure.
You probably couldn’t differentiate someone who binge eats from someone who doesn’t
“Just stop eating!” “Put down the fork and control yourself!” “People who binge eat are fat and should lose weight.” “People who overeat are weak and lack will power, or ‘won’t’ power – they deserve the ridicule they get.” Far too many folks think this way. And they are wrong on all counts. Many people who binge eat have lost their ability to stop, once they get started on a binge, especially with addictive types of foods. And you probably couldn’t differentiate someone who binge eats from someone who doesn’t. Many of us are within an average size or weight range. Doctors tend to make this mistake, and rarely ask anyone who isn’t overweight if they ever feel out of control with their eating. (In fact, they rarely ask this question at all, because doctors are not well-informed about Binge Eating Disorder – and even if they did ask, my guess is that binge eaters would be too ashamed to admit it.)
While there is a statistical association between binge eating and obesity, I think this happens in part because obese individuals are the ones who seek bariatric and surgical help. But not all obese people binge eat. So the whole thing gets confusing if you base your judgements on size or weight.
In this society we focus on the symptom,
judge the symptom, and try to fix the symptom
As for will power, in my own personal experience, those of us who binge eat are extremely strong people with wills of iron. The problem is, eating large amounts of food (and any accompanying weight gain or food restriction), are actually symptoms of deeper causes. But in this society, we focus on the symptom, judge the symptom, and try to fix the symptom. And it all ends up being a game of smoke and mirrors. Because if you binge eat on a frequent basis, you are unlikely to heal unless you work through the underlying issues. I hope I got that across.
Pauline was quite easy to talk to, and asked the right questions. How I answered is another story. (It’s done now, I tell myself – nothing I can do about it.). Afterwards, Steve needed additional footage to use as background. After all, TV is a visual medium and scenes need to keep changing to maintain viewer interest (and why TV provides maximum embarrassment potential.)
Move over Meryl Streep!
Steve took several shots of my book — BINGE CRAZY: A Psychotherapist’s Memoir of Food Addiction, Mental Illness, Obesity and Recovery (Arrow, 2015). Then we all went downstairs where he filmed me working at my computer, with my lovely rescue dog and Head of the Welcome Committee, Cassie, by my side. Then me trying to look natural in front of the hall mirror, and me in the kitchen spooning out some yogurt. Each of these required several different shots, which is why Steve’s cellphone ended up in my fridge (OMG – when was the last time I cleaned my fridge???).
The cellphone showed the inside view of me opening the fridge door and removing the yogurt (an Emmy-winning moment if ever there was one – move over Meryl Streep!)
What ends up as a 2-minute piece will be edited, of course, and Pauline’s subsequent interview with Dr. Taylor from Women’s College Hospital will be included.
It’s a good thing cellphones and tiny camera technology didn’t exist back in the day when I when I lived at home with my parents, and stole food right, left and center. Placing a spy camera in the fridge would have been something my father would have loved, and used. No doubt about it.