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Eating Disorders Explained with Kat Yiannakis: Part 1 - Diagnosis, characteristics, short and long term implications

by Shaun Kober
May 13th 2021

In this episode, Kat and I discuss the ever growing prevalence of Eating Disorders and the impact it can have on people. 

Kat explains and defines the differences between Disordered eating ha... More

what does it mean to live life to the fullest train to your potential and perform at your best. Leave nothing on the table. That's a non negotiable is that I strive to be better every day because if I'm not on top of my game, how is anybody else gonna follow me down the road? Keep demanding more of yourself to to live up to that potential and to stay hungry. Training is progress. You know, when I look at the word training, I think of steps, baby steps to get somewhere that you want to be and that is basically your life journey. That's a mindset in itself, man, it's like, it's not just about I know that for you, a lot of that's about the physical, but we're constantly in training, whether it's growing our skill sets, whether it's growing up physical bodies, whether it's growing our relationships whatever and all of that is a training ground and that kind of goes back to the mindset that we just talked about. You underestimate yourself and you don't even start, but then once you start, you often surpass what you thought you could do perform at your best mate. That's that's sort of what life is all about. You don't have the knowledge and have the fitness, the healthy ambition and drive that no matter what comes along.

When that next phone call comes, I can just say yes, I don't have to worry, just go and do it. You know what is up guys, Welcome to this episode of the live transform podcast? I'm your host, Sean Cobra and joining me in today's episode is my friend Cat, your knickers, who has been featured on the podcast a couple of times. I interviewed her probably about six months ago where we spoke about some of uh her eating disorders that she's dealt with body dysmorphia and her journey to um dealing with a number of these issues that we're gonna be talking about today. We've also done a coach's corner episode in today's episode. We're going to be discussing the demographic of people that she works with um and how she helps her clients deal with a lot of the things that she's gone through. So Cat, welcome to the episode, awesome. Thank you so much for having me back. Always good chatting to um just for the listeners if they're interested in hearing cats story to get some context into why we're having this conversation, go back and listen to that.

I'll have that link in the show notes. But Cat, just for new audience members, can you give them a quick can't even talk, give them a quick background into who you are, um what you do and why you do what you do. Awesome. Okay, so I am an occupational therapist. Um I have recently been trained and certified under the International Association of eating disorder professionals. Um so I've been able to move my business into behavioral therapy and working with members of the community and athletes. We've binge eating disorder. I've been coaching fitness for 13 years. I've skipped around countries a couple of times, but I've been in based out of New York for the past five years. All right. So, um can you just quickly give an overview of today's session, going to keep it fairly short? Okay, 20-30 minutes. But give people a quick overview of what we're going to be covering in today's session because this is definitely not my field. Um and this is something that you're far more qualified in.

So I'm kind of going to let you take the lead, not ask the questions on this one. Okay, so today's focus is about eating disorders and the fact that is an incredibly prevalent mental health illness. Um and our focus is going to be more about how it's still stigmatized. It's not really spoken about and how that is affecting people's lives, basically. There are a lot of people out there suffering that aren't reaching out for help because of all these external barriers. And for us, particularly today, it's going to be more about defining and understanding eating disorders specifically binge eating disorder, um characteristics of it. And understanding the stats and facts that are out there today because they're pretty scary mm hmm. Before we dive into that though. Just cat is very well versed in this stuff because she suffered from her own forms of um these ailments and she's gone through the process herself to um Basically get herself back to a really good position.

So, um you message me the other day saying that you have dealt with six of the seven um issues that you had, and you're you're you're managing the last one. So, first of all, I'm really proud of you for how far you've come and what you're, what you're doing. So that's really amazing. Can you quickly give the listeners and understanding of what you're dealing with? And again, if they want to have more information, have more contacts, they can go back and listen to that full episode. But just briefly, um I have suffered from six eating disorders. I count body dysmorphic disorder as 1/7 because it is a or was a co morbidity of some of the other ones. Um so I've kind of group them all together. But over the space of 15 years I have suffered from binge eating disorder, exercise bulimia, orthorexia, drunk anorexia, food induced depression, anorexia, and the body dysmorphic disorder. And in the past for many years, I have controlled the binge eating disorder in the body dysmorphia really well by being incredibly disciplined, which has created a lot of my freedoms and eventually these things have subsided and it's really exciting to be kind of free of binge eating one because of all of them.

And I'll talk about this later on. It is by far the west of experience. Yeah, that's amazing. That's amazing. And we're going to be sharing some of the tools that you've used to get you back to a good place to be able to manage those, how to deal with those. Um And like I said, we'll do a brief overview, will introduce um and define some of these things, and then in follow up episodes will go through treatment protocols and tools that you've used and things like that. So, first of all, um can you define the differences between eating disorders, disordered eating habits and binge eating disorder? So we're looking at eating disorders? Uh they're a group of mental health conditions associated with psychological distress and significant health complications. So they involve a combination of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors and the medical, psychological, social and financial consequences are serious and long term, when we look at disordered eating habits. These refer to eating habits that include dieting, restrictive dieting, yo yo dieting, compulsive eating and skipping meals.

Now, the symptoms of these can include or even reflect those of specific eating disorders, but it's not all the symptoms. So, what we're finding is that disordered eating habits are becoming more and more prevalent in society, um, linking to, you know, things being posted out on social media and what not, but these are precursors to leading into eating disorders. And on that note, I don't want to make it really clear right now, because this is something that I know stigmatizing itself is eating disorders on a choice, It's not about vanity, it can affect anyone, and it can affect them at any time, it is the same issue as it's a mental health illness. It's like schizophrenia, it's like depression, these are things that we can't handle, like as they come along, like they're an illness. What do you think brings that on? Is it as it says, like, is it habits that you've picked up and you've built over the years, potentially, you know, people using food or something as a coping mechanism or, um, you know, this does body dysmorphia lead into this, like, how does it come about?

So depending on the eating disorder, it's, it's hard to say where it begins and where it stems from because when you're looking at someone's history, they're going to have different environmental changes throughout their life. Like life is always in the flux. So, you know, when I look at my own journey, I can take myself back to the age of nine and realized I had disordered eating habits at nine years old. Um, yeah, what are the signs that you look back at and you can, you can see now, but you didn't know, potentially didn't know then, So probably didn't know then. I didn't know then. I absolutely didn't know then. Um, but for example, I would not eat lunch and then I would go home in the afternoon where all the snacks were and I would eat all the snacks at home and while that's minuscule. And I was, you know, sounds like every nine year old kid, Yeah, it sounds like every nine year old kid, but for me, you know, that became a problem and I was also a state jim nist as I, you know, progressing from my preteen. So my energy levels were always, I was always needing food because I was just running around non stop, but I didn't realize at the time that what I was doing was throwing out my lunch to then go crazy when I got home.

Mm And that's why I asked, yeah, as we were saying, yeah, that's why I asked like, you know, what's the research on um the root? Cause I'm sure it's all over the place and its complex subject, but as you said, as a nine year old, you're starting to develop those habits early on and I'm sure that carried through, you know, as you said, you're doing gymnastics, you're high performing, you're always, you're always bouncing around full of energy, which requires energy and most of the energy that we get is typically going to come from junk food primarily, right? So it is complex and that's why working through eating disorders requires an additional level of help because it would be very, very hard to do without it. Um and yeah, it does, it differs from person to person and it's hard when you hear someone say there is a precursor to your eating disorder because you're a gymnast and while I understand that I was never pressured as a gymnast to be a certain weight or to eat certain foods.

So for me, when I look at it in that respect, I might, you know what my experiences, gymnastics set me up in life in so many ways that I will never ever say that gymnastics was the cause of my eating disorders ever. So for me, Where I look at it is more like when I entered, um, you know that 17, 18 year old age and my total environment changed. I moved out of school, I was going to university, I had a new group of friends, Social media started, which was a killer for me in many, many respects, I started looking at boys, all those things, but my life was also suddenly on Facebook, this was 2008, I was like, cool, what's this new thing? Uh, and for me that's where it started to become an issue and I realized, okay, I am wanting to lose weight and I'm wanting to look different. And that's where that kind of journey began. So that is in the previous podcast that we've spoken about. So if anyone wants to know that story, that's where it kicks off, Just, just quickly. Um, for for the new listeners you went from, I think you said like 65 kg down to 37 or something like that over the course of how long.

So I don't really want to focus on this too much, but I will just kind of touch on it. So, I had an experience with anorexia. That was a very, very short period. It was less than three months and I did go from 65 kg to 37. And when I talk about my eating disorders, most people assume that I'm talking about that short period and it kind of bothers me a little bit because this is why I understand why people feel stigmatized. Because when you're anorexic, everyone can see it. Everyone can see everyone knows it. You know, it you a lot of people luckily like myself have insight into it. You know what you're going through. Whereas some of the other ones that I'm talking about specifically binge eating disorder, no one has. No, I had no idea what you're going through. I spent my early twenties skipping work because I couldn't I couldn't physically move because I had eaten so much food. I couldn't coach. I was losing money because I couldn't coach because I was in bed crying because I was so full, I had gastric dilation. My stomach was literally on the road of exploding. Like these are the things that no one knew what was going on and when we're looking at Stax now, it's like 47% of eating disorders globally binge eating disorder.

So in my head I'm like, there are millions of people out there skipping work frying and hating on themselves because they've got an issue, they don't know how to handle or who unsupported around. Mm. And there's not much, There's not many resources out there that can help identify and treat these problems, are there? No, that's not. And that's what's really upsetting. There's some really amazing, amazing nonprofit, um foundations in Australia in particular. But they're not obvious to reach out to, you know, you need to know someone to tell you about it. It's like even with this conversation, you asked me like, what should I refer to? And I was like, you know what? I've got really little to give you because there is not much out there. And that's why we're having this conversation so that we can start adding some resources. Yeah. Um now you spoke about the psychological, emotional, social, financial um effects. Do you have any more stats on, like, you know how these things affects people behind the scenes? Behind the scenes. So most of the stats, just so people know are going to be us and Australian based just because my clientele are between those two countries.

So when we're looking at eating disorders as a whole, in the United States, 30 million. So it's 9% um 9% of Americans have eating disorders. A third of them male. And Of that 9%, they think it's around 60% being binge eating. So it's a very prevalent scenario in the United States and when we look at Australia, The statistics are pretty similar. So 5% of the country with eating disorders and 63% of them being female. So again a third being male and in both scenarios, one in 10 people seek help, wow. So it's a very small number. So here in the US they predict that the actually predict that it's about 14% of the population with eating disorders. But it's just the fact that so many people don't reach out for help, don't even know that they are in the scenario or have the mental illness because they're unsure of the characteristics and diagnosis. Um So they don't seek they don't seem or look for that assistance.

And it's really scary. It's going to the point where in the past eight years, Hospital admissions in the United States for kids under 12 Rose 119% for eating disorders, wow. That's that's crazy. That's what I mean. It's prevalent like it's out there and it's getting unfortunately to a younger younger age group. When were those stats from? So all these stats were released about two months ago from the 2020 um surveys that are done for both of the countries, The Butterfly Foundation is one of the best sources to find this kind of information and get a good luck background understanding of, you know what is what and where things are happening. Um But you know, they say or they predict that if there's early intervention, it can lead up, to you know, 70% of a full recovery, which is amazing because when we look at eating disorders as a typical recovery time, no matter what one it is, it's usually around six years. Holy shit. Yeah, So when I can say that I got over anorexia within the space of six months, like that's unreal.

But you know, when I look at the binge eating and it's like, well, that was a 15 year lifespan is half my life. I'm 30 You know, I fall into that category of long term, and you know 25% of people don't overcome their eating disorders. Do you know what the stats were, 2018, 2019, was there a change in 2020? Obviously, 2020 was a difficult year for a lot of people. People isolated, stuck at home. I'm assuming that there was an increase in, you know, potentially these binge eating disorders or disordered eating habits that, you know, people were looking for comfort, people were looking for something to do and a lot of people I know I'm like this sometimes when I'm sitting down watching a movie, I'm just sitting there just snacking on junk food and I'll eat a fuck load of junk food, right? But I've got it under control. I don't do it very often, so I allow myself to do that, but, you know, there's definitely things that I do in my life that I associate with eating.

I'm not sure what this statistic change has been. I'm gonna assume it's it's a, you know, increased by a lot, particularly just being at home. This was something as a therapist that I had to handle with my own clients, finding different tools and techniques that I've never even thought about before. Um you know, to help manage the scenario where your kitchen, particularly if you're in new york or something like Hong kong your kitchen is literally right on your dining table, like you're right, you're right there. Um So yeah, and we've been reading, I'll give the diagnosis and the characteristics so people can understand what I really mean by it because it's really important. So with binge eating disorder is characterized by regular episodes of binging without compensating behaviors. So it means that you are not trying to exercise the calories off, you are not purging your food, but it is always accompanied with feelings of loss of control and guilt. So the two key factors, uh it happens in a short period of time. So usually within two hours.

And the second characteristic of the main feature is that you can't control it, like it feels like you've lost control. So it's different to overeating, where it's like you've been out to a restaurant, you like, I I too much ha ha ha long, go to bed, food coma. This comes with eating beyond the point of full feelings of shame, guilt, irritability, anger, sadness, low self esteem, um often and most of the time doing it in secret when, when you're alone and then socially isolating yourself, being very picky around your food in social settings because you're also conscious of it not happening again, things like weight gain. Um And the key to diagnosis is that it has to happen once a week for an average of three months. So with binging and I'll give an example myself here. Like I said, if you've gone to a restaurant, you've over eaten, it's kind of been like, okay, whatever just tomorrow is tomorrow with binging, you have all these physical things happen to you relatively quickly, You can feel yourself breathing harder and heavier, your blood pressure goes up, your pulse goes up, you become unable to concentrate.

Um You have to lie down and your stomach distension causes so much pain that generally you can't move. So, as I said previously, I would have an episode at say three PM in the afternoon. And then when I had a client of five, I wouldn't be able to go, I'll be lying in bed fine at the fact that I always losing income, which I needed because I was building a business as well. Um B I just felt guilty about myself, I hated myself. I was covering myself up. So this led to the body dysmorphia because my body was changing so rapidly. Um And I've avoided things like I talk about Sydney quite negatively, which isn't really fair because my experience in Sydney wasn't fun. I didn't really have many friends, but I also couldn't make friends. I was in a position where I was like, I didn't like myself, I didn't want to go out and about and half the time, half those years, I was just like uh eating myself to the point where I couldn't go out and about, like, I couldn't walk around. Um It was a running joke.

Cat wears movies at the gym, I did wear movies at the gym. I wore really big t shirts to hide the fact that I had gained 20 kg from coming out of, you know, a normal body composition to just gaining all this weight. So there's all these things that, you know, the acute and then you kind of look at longer term where it's like, you can become pretty diabetic, you can get diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney failure, um, Osteoporosis, osteopenia. Um you know, there's all these all these repercussions, So many places that I want to go from here, um when you put on 20 kg, what would you call that? What disorder was that? So with 20, so I, the severity of Binge eating disorder. So I'll just come back to that quite quickly. So, as I said because the reason the reason I ask, the reason I ask is because then you became anorexic? No. Right, So what was the other way around? Yeah. So, uh, so the pendulum swung really hard in either direction.

Crazy. Right. So what happened to me twice before? So some people going to live understanding in 2008. So I was 18, I suffered from anorexia, didn't know how to get out of it. All I did was so that was another precursor to binge eating disorder. My binge eating disorder actually began, Uh, a 14 um, scenario happened on the cruise ship and it just led to me feeling complacent, which is my greatest fear being complacent. Um, and also in this position where I didn't know how to adapt my next circulation, which was getting off the cruise ship and not wanting to go back to west Australia. So my coping mechanism was food. I ended up leading on to various situations while I was in Sydney where I kind of flipped back and resort to that food scenario. Now, what happened was I started a company of food company and the changes that were happening in my life was so rapid. This business was building so fast. I didn't have much support around me and it was like the habit and the brain loop that was going on a couple of years prior in the cruise ship just came back forward and it went to an extreme.

So when you look at the severity of binge eating disorder you have with a classified as mild, which is 1 to 3 inches per week, moderate, 4 to 7, severe 8 to 13 and extreme when it's 14 binges or more per week when you're looking at a bit per week. So when you're looking at a binge episode, You're talking about a bench in a two hour space. So when you look at 14 or more, that on average is two or more days. So there would be days where I was well aware that I was eating more than 15,000 calories, like I wouldn't I? Yeah. And when I look back at Something in the book of acts, in the next episode, my consistency calendar. I can go back to February 2015 and there is 22 out of the 28 days with a mark through it that I've pinched wow. So That period of time in that, that 20 kg, that again was probably within the space of about four months. Did you notice that these habits were starting to creep in?

Or was it like was it a gradual process or did it happen like fairly quickly? It was gradual. Um I was also in a position mentally. So I was about 24, 23, 24. I knew I was going through change. I was in a different city. I've never lived in Sydney before. Um I was building a business that was doing really well, I was still coaching. So it was an exciting time, but it was also a time when I was quite lonely um and I knew what was happening, I've always had insight into eating disorders, I just always have you learned part of it when you do your psych units? Um and I had been through very basic therapy and I'll touch on this a little bit later, but the therapy that I had gone through was cognitive behavioral therapy, which for me I didn't connect with, I didn't understand why they kept trying to link to my childhood and my gymnastics. I was like, this just isn't working for me.

So it wasn't until A couple of years later, so was 2015, I I went to a neuro linguistic practitioner who basically it was a $500 session, it was a $500 session that changed my life, she explained to me the brain and purchase work and I was just like, yeah, this is it, I was like, this all makes sense. Yeah, it all made sense. And that's where my own personal journey became like really ramped up and I was excited about recovery and I was like, I can do this, I get it now, I don't have to think about the past, I'm thinking about, now, I'm learning about my brain, I'm learning about habits, how the hell am I gonna help everyone else do this? That's where I was like when I moved to new york, I'm changing my focus and you know, since I've been here, this is part of why I love new york so much? I feel like I became a different person because I knew what I was going to enter a new phase of life I was going to transition to.

So yeah, that's that's incredible because I always speak about the effect of your environment, like, you know, you can catch up with old friends that you haven't seen for 10 years, you knew from school or sports teams or whatever and you fall back into those old patterns and, you know, you talk the same and you you interact the same. Um you know, you go into different environments and you act differently and each environment is really powerful in shaping our shaping us, how our emotions, our physiological responses, how we act, how we respond. Um so I think that's really powerful to um discuss the environment and this is something that will probably dive into a little bit more detail in the next episode. Um if people have been listening to this episode and, you know, they resonate with some of the things that we spoke about, is there any resources that you can point them towards in the meantime, in the next episode, we're going to go through um some treatment protocols and things that you've used, some things that you've taught will go into NLP will go into some behavioral therapy?

Um we'll look at identifying the issues and then treating them and putting some steps together to allow people to take control of their own lives again. But before the episode drops, is there any resources that you can recommend people go to if they resonate and they potentially identify some things that need some work? Absolutely. So my go to sources butterfly dot org dot au. So that's the Butterfly Foundation um whether or not you're in Mexico or Australia, they're going to be able to help you out. There is just great resources on their uh that's definitely the first point of call. You can also look at the any D. A. So the national eating disorders association um for Australia, that's another great resource. Um In terms of podcasts, I can recommend Brain over binge by Catherine Henson. She gives a very um it's like it's a dumbed down version of neuroscience really, honestly, and how the brain works in terms of understanding cravings and habit loops, which we will talk about in our next podcast and they're probably the best three, they're probably the best sort of resources um to go through.

And the other thing is like if you know someone or you have a family member and you don't know how to approach the situation, which has been me a lot, you know, my own family didn't really know how to approach it, both that any D. A. And the Butterfly Foundation have really good, you know counseling, how two's on, you know what to say to people how to talk to people because that's part of the reason people don't reach out because I'm gonna give it really raised an example here. Um People still don't know how to interact with the situation. So I had a family member about four months ago ask me hey how do I approach this girl in the gym who clearly is ill, she's on the treadmill all the time. She looks anorexic, What do I go and say? So you know I said I said what I said in terms of like you know ask her if she's okay. Um And then this family member said but why can't you just snap out of it? Like like it's just vanity, right? She she literally said this to my face was like did you not listen to my podcast?

But also she was just like but didn't you just want to lose weight? And I was just like this is this is the issue, this is the stigma behind it that people that go through eating disorders. It's all about vanity and that that's just how you want to be and it's not. No one wants to have an eating disorder. No one wants to have bipolar, no one wants to have cancer, it's an illness that's crazy. Um Let's start winding up the episode. We'll dive into again we'll dive into all of these different protocols take these steps provide tools to help people deal with any potential issues that uh they're going through or uh they may start noticing the first signs of. Um But is there anything else that you want to finish with to wind up the episode cap? I just think that behaviour someone out there that you know, he's resonated with this or has listened to the characteristics and feel like hey maybe I'm moving away from disordered eating habits and it's moving more progressing into um an eating disorder. Going to those resources will be a great help.

And also if you're working with a coach and I do want to just kind of say this if you're working with a coach and you feel like they're not helping in terms of you know potential tools or techniques for your you know your current situation then I'd recommend researching a I I. E. D. P. Therapist or coach. So someone who has professional training in these scenarios because I've had people come to me recently and say I had a coach that told me they were a psych But really all they did was put them on no carbs for 10 days and then allow them to binge on the 11th and she has developed she's developed other disorders. So I've had to on my end because there's other things that I can't professionally deal with. I've had to refer her on. So just be really mindful of who you're working with and making sure that they're an educated coach and you know, if it's specific like this. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So Cat will be one of my resources and if she can't it's not within her scope of practice to help you deal with that, then she'll fold you on to someone else.

But Cat, I'm going to ask that you send me those links so that I can add them into the show notes. I'll also have your links as well. Your website, my website, it's currently getting updated so it's all good to go in about a week. Macros muscles mindset dot com dot au The instagram handle is macros muscles mindset. Excellent. I'll have those in the show notes and we're gonna be talking about macros muscles mindset in the next episode where we go through these tools, these steps, these progressions. Thank you very much for joining me today. Cat sharing your experiences and breaking that down for us. Much appreciated, awesome. Thank you as always. Great conversation with my friend cat of Macron's muscles mindset. We're going to be following this episode up with a couple of other episodes where we give some actionable takeaways and some steps and processes to one identify but also to start treating some of these issues. If you notice that some of these habits have crept into your life or you see some potential clues in friends and family, please make sure you seek the help um that's required.

I'll have all of those links in the show notes. Um, any five star ratings and reviews are much appreciated. Much Love Guys piece.

Eating Disorders Explained with Kat Yiannakis: Part 1 - Diagnosis, characteristics, short and long term implications
Eating Disorders Explained with Kat Yiannakis: Part 1 - Diagnosis, characteristics, short and long term implications
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