Roseville therapist helps binge eaters not feel controlled by food

Offers a ‘different answer than dieting'
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Anne Robinson makes a concerted effort on a daily basis to be mindful of her eating habits.

She tries to eat when she’s hungry and not wait until she’s starving. She thinks about her feelings when she wants to eat. She doesn’t deprive herself of certain treats because that makes her want the forbidden food even more.

“I call it practicing,” Robinson said. “And I practice every day.”

Robinson is a client of Kim McLaughlin, a licensed marriage and family therapist who started her private practice in downtown Roseville in March with a focus on compulsive eating, also known as binge eating.

“It’s pretty prevalent,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anybody around here doing this (type of therapy). It filled a niche.”

She also runs a weekly support group and hosts free workshops about once a month.

The holiday season is a time when people feel the urge to eat until they’re stuffed. But this is how people who deal with compulsive eating feel year-round.

“It doesn’t stop,” McLaughlin said.

Binge eating is characterized by a compulsive or obsessive relationship with food, which can lead to uncontrolled eating often followed by guilt. The condition affects people of all sizes.

McLaughlin is quick to point out that she isn’t a nutritionist — she’s not trying to teach people what to eat. Instead, she attempts to decipher the deeper emotional reasons behind the issue and teach tools for managing behavior.

“People are in so much pain,” McLaughlin said. “Their family says just stop doing it. I’ll say to them, if you could’ve you would’ve.”

Signs of compulsive eating include feeling controlled by food, constant weight gain, hating one’s body, fear of keeping certain foods in the house and eating until over full.

McLaughlin encourages clients to view food as nourishment for the body, not as a source of emotional fulfillment. She uses the “intuitive eating” model, based on the book of the same name written by a dietician and nutrition therapist.

Intuitive eating is the philosophy of being attuned to the body’s inner cues and natural hunger signals. For people who follow this model, distinguishing between physical and emotional feelings is critical to overcoming binge eating.

McLaughlin works on emotions surrounding food — feelings of loneliness, depression, happiness — and has clients think about how hungry they are on a scale from starving to satisfied to stuffed.

Robinson has been McLaughlin’s client for the past six months.

“It’s very, very helpful,” Robinson said. “I knew there had to be a different answer than dieting.”

She had been dieting her whole life, she said. She’d lose weight, gain it back and the cycle would begin again.

“I was finding comfort, support and whatever the thing is I’m going through in food,” Robinson said. “I tried every diet you could think of … I knew there were emotional reasons causing me to always turn to food.”

She still has the desire to diet, but is learning to be more mindful, with the support of her husband and friends. The outside world is not always so understanding of people who struggle with binge eating, she said.

“People are judgmental and they make assumptions about you that may not be true,” Robinson said.

McLaughlin said that learning to reconnect with one’s body and overcome an unhealthy relationship with food “is not a quick fix.”

“I’m challenged every day,” Robinson said. “I feel deep in my heart that this is the right step.”

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.