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  1. #1
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    Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    Binge Eating: When Perfection Unravels
    ScienceDaily
    Apr. 18, 2009

    In everyday life, someone who takes a perfectionist?s approach to activities might be admired or even rewarded with a pat on the back.

    These attitudes are tied to a commonly held, but mistaken, belief that perfectionism will ultimately produce achievement and social success. But a psychologist warns that perfectionism is not a healthy, or even effective, approach to life?s challenges.

    ?Perfectionism is a double-edged personality trait,? says Simon Sherry, assistant professor of psychology.

    A newly-published study shows why individuals with a high degree of perfectionism are often setting themselves up for a host of physical, emotional and mental problems? particularly related to binge eating. Although less well recognized than anorexia or bulimia, binge eating is a serious disorder. Binge eating occurs when a person feels out of control and rapidly consumes a large amount of food in a short period of time. Binge eating elevates the risk of developing depression, obesity, diabetes and other problems.

    Dr. Sherry, of Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia, has published ?The Perfectionism Model of Binge Eating? in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, along with co-author Peter Hall of the University of Waterloo. By closely following the daily activities of a large group of undergraduates, the researchers believe that they?re the first to identify why perfectionism results in binge eating.

    They have also honed in on the type of perfectionist who is most at risk--someone who believes that others are evaluating their performance critically (as opposed to someone who is self-critical). This kind of perfectionist concludes that a parent, a friend or a boss is being harshly judgmental of their performance and pressuring them to be perfect.

    ?It seems that as perfectionists go about their day-to-day lives, they generate a lot of friction,? says Dr. Sherry. ?Because of their inflexibility and unrealistic expectations they also create problems in their relationships.?

    Let?s imagine how a perfectionist might begin their day.

    Today?s Goals
    • Run faster than yesterday?s personal best.
    • Drink coffee instead of having breakfast.
    • Earn the highest grade in the class on that mid-term.
    • Meet for group project at 3 p.m. sharp to fix presentation.
    • Find the most original gift for friend?s birthday.

    What happens when the day ends up looking more like this instead?

    Today?s Failures
    • Running time misses personal best altogether.
    • Earned 89 on the midterm, so six others are ahead of me now.
    • Manage to limit lunch to a salad.
    • Group is late for meeting, so presentation is still boring.
    • Friend is disappointed with birthday gift.

    Chances are the next sequence of events will involve self-harm.

    Today?s Secret
    • Late in the day, lose control and binge eat.
    • Feel a horrible ?pit in the stomach.?
    • Hide the evidence to keep the secret.
    • Criticize and loathe myself.
    • Dwell on being alone and isolated.

    Binge eating becomes an effort to escape from being overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, failure and sadness. To temporarily escape from a discouraging reality, it?s necessary to do away with higher order thought. The experience of eating?smelling, chewing, tasting?is immediate and visceral.

    ?Think about it?when was the last time that you were rapidly eating a pizza and pondering a major life decision at exactly the same time?? asks Dr. Sherry.

    While binge eating banishes troubles and difficulties in the short term, it also generates powerful negative emotions of guilt and shame that are longer lasting.

    ?We want to improve the lives of perfectionists with patterns of disordered eating,? he says.

    The intent is that this research will translate directly into better care, through improved assessment and treatment opportunities. Society does demand achievement, but perfectionism is often maladaptive--a conscientious and adaptable person who can modify goals and expectations is better able to excel.

    Perfectionists are often not self aware and are reluctant to seek help, posing a conundrum: They don?t want to admit they?re imperfect.

    ?I?m hopeful that students will read about this and realize that there are effective interventions for binge eating, including some help for perfectionism?change is possible.?

  2. #2
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    Re: Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    Thank you Dr. Baxter. This article is very interesting in that it's sometime difficult to appreciate that our behaviours reveal our psychology.

    One question I do have about this article. If I could extrapolate a little, I'm wondering if perfectionism (as seen through behaviours such as binge eating) could potentially lead to bad coping mechanisms in adulthood. Such as binge drinking.

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    Re: Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    I think perfectionism unchecked may have all sorts of negative and destructive outcomes. How does a real perfectionist ever live up to those unrealistic goals? Inevitably, the consequence will be self-condemnation.

    What the perfectionist fails to understand is that, while we all have a concept of the ideal self, none of us will ever become that ideal self. The value of such goals is in the striving, not in the reaching since that will never occur.

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    Re: Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    What a great article

    What I found personally interesting was to see the layout of the perfectionist's day and how not achieving that perfection ended up derailing so much and into the secrets.....boy can I relate to this.

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    Re: Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    Excellent article! Just a heads up, registration is now open for the first-ever Rocky Mountain Eating Disorders Conference, hosted by the Eating Recovery Center. For more information or to register, please visit https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com...der-summit.php or call 877.218.1344.

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    Re: Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    I am confessing I have had a problem with binge eating for years, most of my life since I was in my late teens but it comes and goes I guess. I have kept it completely hidden and never discussed with a therapist or Doctor, and I don't think at this point I can. I think it is part of my compulsive and obsessive personality traits. I am always on a diet, I am not overweight because I do these intense exercise classes, I get up at 5:00 in the morning to do an hour of intense boot camp for an hour and then I do another hour of exercise in the evening, on the weekends I will walk for at least two hours a day, and try to get more exercise in like lifting weights or doing a video. I susbsribe to no less than probably 20 dieting e-mail newsletters and I have been dieting on and off since I was 18. I write down everything I eat when I am having a good day, but probably three times a week I feel the need to consume thousands of calories and I can't stop and then I feel horribly guilty and miserable afterwards. I try not to bring groceries into my house, I go out to eat as many of my meals as I can so I wont be tempted to eat whats in my house. Then for the rest of the week, I have to diet and exercise so I can burn off the rest of the thousands of calories I have consumed.

    I tried a website called shrinkyourself, dont know if I can mention the name and basically it told me I am stuffing my self to bury my feelings, and probably they are right but I still do it. I guess part of me thinks that this isnt really a problem and maybe its ok you know, like I am not overweight but it is kind of draining to live like this. I guess part of it is just a way to cope with my obsessions, its like medicating them somehow. I don't know. Dont know why I would finally confess this after all these years on the forum, I dont really want help in a way for it, I dont want to stop exercising, I like the way it makes me feel though it never feels like enough anymore. I guess I am kind of ashamed of my behaviour, its embarassing having so many "issues" especially ones I cant really tell anyone about.

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    Re: Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    Dr. Baxter, thank you for posting that. I identified with everything in your article, especially in that my relationships suffer, I binge eat to not think about my "failures," and I'm pretty much not self-aware of my behavior -- until I read about it! In fact, I read the title and said to myself "what could perfectionism have to do with binge-eating??"

    I believe I need to read this daily and keep focusing on it in order to help me keep this in the forefront of my thoughts.

    Thanks, once again!

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    Re: Perfectionism and Binge Eating

    I'm glad you found the article useful. However, I am not the author. Click on the link in the article title to take you to Science Daily.

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