Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of obesity in Canada, at 35 per cent. It's estimated that as many as 14,000 people also struggle with binge eating; however, there is no specialized treatment program in the province.
Binge eating is characterized by eating an unusually large amount of food during a short period of time and feeling out of control over what, and how much, is eaten and when to stop. It's seen as a disorder when these episodes occur at least once a week for three or more months.
Dr. Jacqueline Carter-Major, a professor in the Department of Psychology, conducted a study to see if a self-help program could benefit people who binge eat when specialized therapy sessions with health-care professionals are not available.
Since people often engage in binge eating to cope with uncomfortable feelings, one treatment, called dialectical behaviour therapy, or DBT, teaches healthier ways of managing emotions.
Dr. Carter-Major ran a trial with participants randomly assigned one of three treatment conditions. The first group saw people receive a self-help book featuring DBT and six half-hour support sessions with a graduate student in clinical psychology over a 12-week period. The second received the book with no support sessions, and a third used another self-help book that focused on improving self-esteem but had nothing to do with binge eating.
She found individuals in all three reduced their binge eating significantly, but the strongest effect was in the first group. Those participants reduced their binge eating by 75 per cent.
More information about this project is available here.