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New research sheds light on eating disorders


Brigid Veale
27 October 2010
The common belief that dieting can lead to eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and binge eating will be called into question at a Psychology Colloquium hosted by Southern Cross University on Friday (October 29).

Guest speaker Dr Evelyn Smith, from the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, will present new research into the cognitive behavioural theories of eating disorders and the impact these may have on treatment.

Dr Smith said the popular explanation of binge eating was the restraint model, in which dietary restriction (dieting) causes binge eating.

“For 60 years psychologists have argued that dieting causes and maintains binge eating behaviour. Eating disorder organisations also say that dieting is the number one risk factor in the development of an eating disorder,” Dr Smith said.

“This model has been incorporated into cognitive behavioural theories of binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa and has guided treatment — for example patients are told not to diet.

“I have reviewed the evidence that examines whether dieting causes or maintains binge eating. The support for this relationship is limited and many of the studies’ conclusions need to be re-interpreted. In fact, experimental treatment studies suggest that dieting reduces binge eating – having the opposite effect to what has been commonly thought.”

Dr Smith said the findings of her research demonstrated the need to take a different approach to the treatment of these eating disorders. These findings may also have implications for the treatment of obesity.

Dr Smith’s talk is part of a regular series of presentations hosted by psychology staff from Southern Cross University’s School of Health and Human Sciences.

The talk is open to the public and will be given at the Coffs Harbour campus, MLG13 on Friday, October 29, at 3.30pm. It will be shown via video-conference at the Lismore campus P158 and the Gold Coast campus in A220.

Photo: Dr Evelyn Smith will be a guest speaker at the Coffs Harbour campus on Friday.