Irish Independent - Health & Living - - DIET -

OUR re­la­tion­ship to the food we eat is the most in­ti­mate, in­volved and en­dur­ing any of us will ever have. And as with all im­por­tant re­la­tion­ships, it’s com­pli­cated. Food nur­tures, fuels and excites us. It is our very life force. But it can harm us too. Or rather, we can use it to self-harm. It is tied up with the full spec­trum of hu­man emo­tions; plea­sure, sat­is­fac­tion, long­ing, sad­ness, guilt and shame.

All of us overeat at some time or an­other — and for all man­ner of rea­sons. Some­times it’s so­cial, or even cel­e­bra­tory, like stuff­ing your­self at Christ­mas. Some­times it’s con­so­la­tion we are look­ing for, such as when you gorge on ice cream af­ter a bad day at work. The habit of us­ing food to fill a need that goes be­yond the body’s ba­sic need for sus­te­nance is pretty much universal.

But in Ire­land, our propen­sity to eat too much is harm­ing our health. Four out of 10 Ir­ish peo­ple are over­weight, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est fig­ures, and an alarm­ing 23pc are obese. The health im­pli­ca­tions of this is­sue are clear. A sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of us risk overeat­ing our way to an early death. But why?

Karina Melvin is a psy­chol­o­gist and psy­cho­an­a­lyst. She spe­cialises in weight loss and is the au­thor of the book Art­ful Eat­ing. She ar­gues there is no one-size-fits-all an­swer to this ques­tion be­cause de­spite the clear epi­demi­o­log­i­cal trend, the rea­sons be­hind overeat­ing are ex­tremely in­di­vid­ual.

Overeat­ing, says Melvin “is a spec­trum”. It ranges from the oc­ca­sional bout of “emo­tional eat­ing to the more ex­treme end where there is com­pul­sive bing­ing, se­cret eat­ing, eat­ing to the point of feel­ing sick or in some cases get­ting sick, which is bu­limia. When we talk about our re­la­tion­ship to food and when it be­comes prob­lem­atic, then it’s a

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