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Wellspring Camps Provides Insights on Links between Mental Health, Obesity and Binge Eating Disorder

 Children are at risk as childhood obesity rates rise at alarming rates, according to CDC

May is recognized as Mental Health month, a time when we focus on mental health disorders and their effects on individuals and families. Wellspring Camps, an affiliate of RiverMend Health, believes that the connection between obesity and mental health is strong and cannot be ignored, especially as childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the CDC.

“Being overweight as a child can be more than just ‘baby fat,’ as many doctors used to believe, and the child will not likely ‘grow out of it’ in many cases,” said Eliza Kingsford, licensed psychotherapist and executive director, Wellspring Camps. “There are both medical and mental health consequences to being overweight, from heart disease and Type 2 diabetes to anxiety and depression. We must recognize the signs of potential problems early to ensure a better, healthier future.”

The clinical program at Wellspring Camps approaches healthy lifestyle change in a well-rounded way, which includes behavior change, diet management, nutrition and culinary instruction, and explores ways for kids to manage their activity levels so they equate staying active as something fun and enriching. Wellspring Camps takes a scientifically-driven approach to problematic eating and integrates therapeutic interventions that address coping skills into the Wellspring’s Behavioral Change program.

Wellspring offers services that address mental health disorders associated with obesity, including:

 Binge Eating Disorder (BED) Program –Treatment programs, developed and overseen by a compassionate team of highly experienced eating disorders experts, include the full continuum of treatment services including, Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient and Outpatient levels of care. Medical, psychiatric, psychological and nutritional programming gives patients and families the necessary skill and tools to achieve life-lasting emotional and behavioral change. Comprehensive assessment is provided by a multidisciplinary team. This includes psychological assessment and if needed, neuropsychological assessment administered by a licensed psychologist.  This assessment battery assesses food addiction, psychological and psychiatric issues, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 Recognizing the Signs of a Bigger Issue – Current research is pointing towards food having a larger impact on our brain and our behavior than we had originally thought. The concept of “food addiction” is gaining traction in mainstream society as more and more research emerges about its validity. Some signs that your child might be struggling with a food addiction are:

  • Shameful, anxious or depressive feelings after eating
  • Reporting an “inability” to stop eating certain foods
  • Eating beyond the point of feeling full
  • Avoiding social or normal situations (school, work, friends) because of feelings towards food
  • Feelings of “withdrawal” when trying to cut back on certain foods (agitation, depression, anxiety)

Your child may not be suffering from food addiction, but may still have emotional disruption around food. Food can be a source of comfort for someone who is struggling to deal with other issues. It can act as a numbing agent, allowing the individual a reprieve from what they are dealing with. This can be a conscious or a subconscious act, depending on the emotional awareness of the child. Here are some signs that your child might be struggling with a deeper emotional issue.

  • Sneaking or hiding food
  • Eating purposefully while no one is around (at night or when no one is home so they can consume without being watched or judged)
  • Consuming large amounts of food that would be considerably more than someone would normally eat in one sitting
  • Reporting an inability to stop eating certain foods.