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The Trouble with Binge Eating: Filling the Void

by Gina Pickersgill(more info)

listed in weight loss, originally published in issue 159 - June 2009

The Cause

The nature of my binges as a younger woman was such that I would buy a whole bag of candy and down the lot in one sitting. Greedy pig comes to mind,yes? But this was far from the truth; far from being a greedy pig; I was being starved of the affection I craved from others. For a long time I had the mentality that I was not as good as others, and would assuage my emotional pain by gorging on chocolate like a woman possessed. This interesting use of the word 'possessed' pretty much describes the feeling I had when in the presence of chocolate, and although not addicted in the traditional sense of the word, I needed to eat chocolate most days of the week. The fact that I earned my living at the time as a top glamour model, made it even more reason to know that what I was doing was 'wrong'. The pressure on me to be slim was even greater than that of women in general, and it shocks me now to think that I may have even contributed to the idea of perfection, when inside I was screaming out for affection.

Gina in 2007Gina as a Page 3 model
Gina in 2007 and Gina as a Page 3 model

The Effect

Many woman use food as a way to numb the pain they feel inside, not realizing that all they need is a bit of TLC. When relationships break down and no one is around to give them the love they need, food becomes their only comfort and is aptly named 'comfort food'. On a day to day basis, food becomes the constant companion with whom they share their life. Letting go of their binge eating habits is for them like saying goodbye to an old friend that you may never see again, waiting for their return. Indeed, it took me nigh on thirty years to finally pluck up the courage to change my life and deal with the central issues. When the time came, it was a slow unfolding process of learning and insights that helped me develop the understanding of binge eating disorders I have today. During that process I was led on a journey that would see me working and training with some of the best teachers in their respective fields. I became as addicted to learning about the subject as I had been to chocolate, only this was much healthier.

No More Diets

After a period of weight gain on giving up both dieting and smoking, I learned to accept the size I would come with 'normal' eating and activity patterns. I remember feeling so scared at the thought of giving up dieting, that I would panic and go on it one last time. I would look at my 'skinny' clothes in the wardrobe and just freeze with indecision, fear and uncertainty. But finally, after having made the decision to stop dieting, it was literally like a weight had been lifted from my mind. No longer did I need to squeeze into tight skirts and skimpy bikini, I could wear clothes that allowed me to breathe again, after years of holding in my tummy, afraid to breathe out in case it looked bloated. For years I was unable to look at my body in a full length mirror, afraid of what I might see looking back at me. My clothing was baggy and dark and skilfully chosen to hide any lumps and bumps that might show through the folds. My body had now become a barren land of frumpy comfort that I got used to, and was in stark contrast to what it had once been.

Facing My Fears

Getting used to a new body took some doing, but part of me knew it was here to stay. Buying new clothes felt strange, as I had not adjusted to my new shape, and felt overwhelmed at the prospect of choosing a whole new wardrobe, such that I limited my choices to tracksuit and trainers, the bigger the better. As for the eating habits, well it was a free-for-all now, eating anything and everything I could within reach. I ballooned up to 14 stone and a size 18, but even I would draw the line at buying a size 20, as this to me was obesity domain. Even though I did not feel 'obese', any Doctor's measurement would have me way over the obesity range with my BMI being 38. I still felt mobile and light on my feet, albeit a little sluggish. I saw myself as a healthy 'fat but fit' person and even used to specialize in teaching fitness for the fuller figure at my local adult education centre which I enjoyed immensely. But underneath all this I was loath to admit that I was unhappy with my body, and wanted to find another way I could be slim without dieting. I didn't know of anything on the market and would resign myself to staying this size forever. But all that was about to change.

The Cure

Candy, as she was known in Second Life, turned up at my virtual healing sanctuary looking for inspiration. She loved what I had created and was particularly fond of Angels, a concept around which I had built the Healing Pool. Somehow we got onto the topic of eating, and eventually she became a client of mine at The Healing Pool. We worked together for 3 sessions, each with a specific focus and outcome. She told me about issues she'd been having with her father and found it easy to open up to me in this anonymous world of text and chat and virtual reality. We sat on our virtual sofa side by side, with me in the UK and Candy in the US. A nurse by profession, she was training to become a psychologist and wanted to learn about my methods and make changes to her own life. Her goal was to be happy, healthy and fit and she wanted a little bit of Angel channelling as well as what else I could offer in the form of change management. This time I felt I had a client I could work with and wanted to share with her the best I had. During the session Candy mentioned that something was weighing heavy on her mind. It was at the moment I realized I had struck NLP gold. Here was the leverage I needed to get digging and discover the route of the problem. Having trained and assisted with Paul McKenna on his weight loss seminars for a few years, I had all the knowledge, plus a little bit more that I could use to make a dent in the issue that was being presented. I realized that I was able to help Candy turn things around when she was ready to move on to the next step. With her permission, we walked through the process together, guiding each other 'by the hand' until we had reached a point where the issue no longer was there. Having found a way into the deeper issues in just a few sessions, Candy was able to end our sessions, having been cured of her emotional eating urges for good.

Given that people who binge eat have a general tendency to overeat (Fairburn 1995), Candy reported that she was still not losing weight. Fairburn, author of Overcoming Binge Eating, believes that tackling binge eating should be separate from tackling weight, as dieting often increases the likelihood of triggering a binge episode. When deprived of food, the body goes into starvation mode and slows down its metabolism in order to preserve energy. This mechanism protects the body from losing too much energy too quickly and therefore can maintain its equilibrium. The idea that weight should feature heavily on her mind is one that many women will agree to having experienced in their own life. One turns away from what is inwardly important and focuses on external gratification in the form of a slimmer body. It stands to reason that those wanting to lose weight will want the quick fix solution rather than the slow and painful form of looking at parts of their lives they have not looked at in years.

The Spiritual Bit

So how did I manage to turn things around so quickly and effortlessly for Candy? The answer came in the form of Angels. By focusing on what she wanted to leave behind, we worked out a way to get her unconscious to make changes at a deeper level than had we used any other conventional methods. The idea was to allow the Angels to take the problem and make it into something peaceful; that's what Angels were good at. A good coach will always employ the best resources and I knew that Angels were part of Candy's thinking and that it wouldn't be a problem if I engaged their help on this occasion. To my surprise, the next day I had found that I had cured my own urges to binge. With food being in the kitchen, I just did not want to eat it, very strange, I thought, but very good all the same. I would walk to the cupboard and try to eat something, but found I just couldn't. Amazing I thought. What is this going to mean in terms of my weight, I thought? I felt very weird, and had to tell Candy what had happened, to which she responded she had had the exact same experience. Her binging has never returned after 1 year.

As far as my own success is concerned, I have never wanted to eat in response to emotional stress since that day. That's the weird thing; usually it was just as automatic as frying an egg, but something had changed with me and I no longer had that automatic response. Change always feels weird because it's something we are not used to and in an uncertain world that was a precious thing, it felt safe to have it. But change I did, and even now when I eat if not hungry, it's because I am choosing to and not because I am being controlled by it. Somehow I had gotten rewired. All in all, the journey has been one of emotional torment, illusion and pain. Finally, I have a sense of inner peace most of the time and although not a perfect size 10, I no longer need to run to the food cupboard every time I get upset.


Fairburn G, Christopher Dr. Overcoming Binge Eating.Guilford. ISBN 0-89862-179-8. 1995.


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About Gina Pickersgill

Gina is a transpersonal coach who brings multimedia to her practice.  She created an authoritative eMagazine on NLP and Healing, based on The Healing Pool, a virtual sanctuary she owns in Second Life as her avatar 'Nina Lancaster'.

An NLP Master Practitioner and Certified Society of NLP Trainer, Gina assisted co-creator of NLP Richard Bandler on their London NLP, seminars from 2001-5.  Originally training as a fitness instructor specializing in fitness for the fuller figure, she gained a degree in Sports and Exercise Studies in 1999 and introduced the concept of Lifestyle Coaching to Virgin Active Health Clubs. She is a published holistic article writer and regular contributor to NLPLife Training Newsletter. Gina is now focused on working towards a new paradigm of delivering NLP training to a virtual world audience via various forms of multimedia platforms in partnership with sponsors and organizations.

Gina is passionate about raising awareness of virtual worlds, their potential for training change and personal development, where they will have the best benefit to a global audience, as well as to those who need more traditional methods of learning such as books, CDs, audio and one to one coaching.

Gina may be contacted via Tel: 07932 958 262;  Havening Techniques

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