The Binge Dietitian 2023: Putting a Stop to Food Thoughts (Interview)

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The Binge Dietitian 2023: Putting a Stop to Food Thoughts

DeliveryRank chats with Jonathan Summer (Find the full interview here) – a dedicated advocate supporting men and women in overcoming binge eating habits, fostering body acceptance, and reclaiming their lives. Having experienced his own journey as a recovered binge eater, over-exerciser, and emotional eater, Jonathan is committed to sharing his insights and solutions to help individuals break free from the cycle of food obsession. His personal narrative of battling weight fluctuations and the ensuing struggles with controlling food intake fuels his passion for guiding others through similar challenges. With a focus on empowering individuals to end their binge eating patterns and restore their connection with food and body, Jonathan aims to impart the tools needed for lasting recovery and a renewed sense of well-being.

Can you tell us more about your personal journey dealing with binge eating and how that experience shaped your path to becoming a Binge Eating Recovery Dietitian?

It all started before studying dietetics in university to be a dietitian! Around 2017, I started watching these fitness and bodybuilding youtubers and being realistic, I wanted to look good to get a girlfriend and, to be honest, who doesn’t start the gym initially without something that massively motivates you? So then I got really into it, got strong, bigger, ate quite well, gained 5kg in my first 2 years of the gym which I was very happy with. I bulked well. 

Now starting my 1st year of university, I saw people my age (around early 20s) who were so lean, yet muscular, so I joined this Youtuber who was doing this summer shredding challenge wherein he releases a video every day for 3 months to join him leaning down to be ‘bodybuilder show ready’. Let’s say that didn’t go well…I followed my strict calorie deficit well…but on some days where I would eat out with family or friends, I knew that buffet and cake would set me back a few days since I went way over my calorie deficit limit. So I would ‘make up’ for the calories eaten by having black coffee for breakfast, just an apple for lunch, then a medium sized dinner. I did this until I got back ‘on track’ but I would always go to bed hungry. One week into constantly making up for my calories, the binges started. I started having intense cravings, ordered and shoved the pizza boxes to the bottom of the bin so my flatmates wouldn’t see it, I’d eat the food and not really enjoy it…I was almost possessed! I Binge ate most nights, and even had to fall asleep sitting up with the pillow behind my back or I’ll get really painful heartburn. 

I had no idea what I was doing or what binge eating was and thought I was just lazy and not committed to the ‘grind’ to getting that 6 pack. They didn’t teach you about binge eating in the first year of uni or any disordered eating/eating disorder habits until 3rd year until it then clicked and I wanted to do more than support people just in hospital. I then started binge dietitian to share my story that they’re not alone and there is a way out!

You emphasize helping individuals improve their relationship with food and body image. What are some key strategies or philosophies you employ to guide clients in achieving food freedom and a positive body image?

It is a combination of self-compassion and education. Self-compassion because you hear about bodybuilders getting their 6 pack or 8 pack but still getting depressed. Even if you’re not reaching for six packs and want to bulk and get stronger, the other side of the coin you can get ‘bigorexia’ which is the idea that you never feel big enough. There’s a saying in the gym-culture ‘once you start working out, you’ll never be big enough’ which is kind of true. As cheesy as it sounds, self-compassion is being mindful, present, and focusing on challenging those thoughts. Education because we hear so much on the internet that if you are ‘fat’ then you are unhealthy which is very untrue. Our bodyweight is not the only indicator of health. There was a study by Matheson et al, showing if you implement most or all of the 4 habits of health: no smoking, no or minimal alcohol, regular physical activity, at least 5 fruit and veg a day, a person who is obese following all these has a much much lower chance of dying than someone who has a 6 pack who smokes, drinks, not much fruit and veg, and doesn’t exercise.

On the other hand, the lower bodyfat you are, the more unhealthy you can be. Men who are natural (do not take performance enhancing drugs such as steroids) and have six packs can has issues with sexual performance, low mood, disrupted hormones and more. Women who have less than 20% bodyfat can have amenorrhoea which is the loss of periods, infertility, low mood, body image issues and more! Social media glorifies these but in reality it’s just smoke and mirrors!

Your approach integrates personalized coaching. Could you highlight a successful case where this tailored approach significantly helped someone struggling with binge eating, illustrating how your method differs from traditional dietary approaches?

I had a client who was binge eating six times a week. He struggled with bad heartburn, had IBS, and really wanted to lose weight. A non-tailored approach would be just diet harder, have higher protein, more fruit and veg. But we need to understand binge eating is a symptom, not a problem. It’s a symptom of deprivation, your body is crying out for food. Even though this client binge eats six times a week, his first response is to skip breakfast, then have plain salad and broccoli covered in vinegar, then binge eat in the evening. 

I explained to him about the binge-restrict cycle. It’s Jump Onto Restrictive Diet-Binge Eat-Feel Guilt-Low Self Esteem-Jump Onto Restrictive Diet. I also worked on self-esteem, coping techniques before, during, and after a binge. It’s also important to recognize that IBS is very common with 1 in 10 people struggling with it. Increasing fruit and veg can lead to more abdominal pain and bloating which can lead to skipping meals. Consistent regular meals calms your body down to reduce the urges to binge eat, a meal plan tailored to IBS was created together with him, and after he stopped binge eating for a month, he then started his sustainable weight loss journey without binge eating.

Many individuals feel isolated or ashamed when dealing with binge eating. How do you create a safe and supportive environment for your clients to open up about their struggles and work towards recovery?

I have a private facebook community group where people can share their struggles and wins! Binge eating is mostly done in secret – it is a hallmark feature of binge eating so support is key. It is important to have a qualified individual that knows how to support people with binge eating in the group as I saw there are subreddits on binge eating recovery where people encourage very restrictive diets, and have the wrong image that binge eating recovery is about how long you can stick to X diet. Be careful of other support groups out there and choose wisely!

What advice would you give to someone who is considering seeking help for binge eating but feels hesitant or unsure about taking the first step towards recovery?

You’re not lazy, you’re not binge eating because you don’t have willpower. Binge eating is a protective mechanism. It’s a symptom of deprivation, you’re body is for you not against you. Every time you diet, you’re feeding the urge for your body to increase those hunger cues because it thinks you are going to starve. Working with a qualified dietitian who has experience overcoming binge eating can equip you with a meal plan, DBT and CBT skills, and self-compassion skills to end binge eating and prevent any relapses!

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