Welcome to the sixth in the series on Client Retention – A Psychological Perspective provided by psychologist, Kate Swann. Kate is a co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Training Overweight and Obese Clients (available free for FITREC professionals). Kate has also developed a ‘Psychology of Exercise Adherence Level 1 Certificate for Exercise Professionals’.
You know the scenario – your client tells you about their healthy diet and regular exercise routine, but they’re not losing weight.
You’re mystified, the client feels defeated. And before long, they’ve given up on their gym membership because it’s not working.
In our counselling practice, we see this all too familiar scenario all the time. And we know what your client isn’t telling you.
They’ve got a secret. A shameful, guilt-ridden secret.
Your client is probably a binge eater.
Binge-eating is more than a lack of willpower or self-control, it’s actually an Eating Disorder, and is one of the main reasons for yo-yo dieting, and dropping out of exercise and diet programs.
Binge-Eating Disorder is a diagnosable mental health disorder. It’s also a dirty little secret—people don’t own up to binge-eating or seek help because they feel so ashamed. It often happens in secret and at night when there are no witnesses.
A person may be diagnosed with Binge-Eating- Disorder by a health professional if they:
- Eat in a small period of time, a larger amount of food than most people would eat in a similar period and under similar circumstances.
- Experience a lack of control over their binge-eating.
Here’s a rough guide to recognise someone who may be struggling with Binge-Eating Disorder.
- Continual obsession with weight to the exclusion of other aspects of life
- All or nothing thinking (I’m good if I exercise four times a week but I’m bad if I miss a session)
- Catastrophic thinking (if I miss my weekend session I’ll put on weight)
- Negative self-talk (I’m fat and ugly, I’m weak)
- Self-loathing (I hate myself and the way I look)
- Overly controlled in every aspect of their life except their eating
- High achievers
- Often depressed
- Always anxious
- History of yo-yo dieting
- Rigid about exercise routines
- History of severely restricting food
- Significantly overexercise to control weight
- Use exercise to punish themselves (I went out to dinner last night so I have to exercise for an extra hour today)
- Weight fluctuates significantly
If you suspect a client or someone you care about is struggling with binge-eating, talk to them about seeking professional help.