How to stop binge eating

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How to stop binge eating

Every single one of us will from time to time, eat too much.  We overindulge at a party stuffing ourselves with too much food or find ourselves entranced watching a movie as we empty an entire bag of chips. 

To eat too much on occasion can happen but if the pattern is to overeat consistently with feelings of being unable to stop, this may be a sign of binge eating disorder.

Binge eating can show its’ face in many ways – a person trying to lose weight who has been very restrictive in their food selection but ends up losing their willpower.   They succumb to going on a feeding “binge” indulging their cravings by eating all the foods they had barred from their diet.  Or, some people react to emotions soothing themselves gorging on high-calorie, high-fat/high-sugar foods in a brief period of time. In the short run, this feeding frenzy makes them feel better but long-term, not only can it cause excess weight gain but a study shows binge eating disorder linked with a broad range of other illnesses.

What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is defined as an eating disorder whose criteria are similar to those of bulimia nervosa, but without the purging – in other words, BED involves eating a large amount of food in a short period of time but without getting rid of it by self-induced vomiting, laxative use or excessive exercise.  Due to consuming an extreme amount of calories this form of disordered eating almost always results in significant weight gain in an individual and usually leads to obesity. 

Symptoms of BED

·      Eating unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time

·      Eating even if you’re full or not hungry

·      Eating fast during binge episodes

·      Eating until you’re uncomfortably full

·      Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment

·      Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss

Causes of BED

It is not known of the exact causes of binge eating disorder but several factors are thought to pay a part in it.  The combination of causes and risk factors varies from person to person but possible factors include:

·      Genetics

·      Dieting/restrictive or irregular eating patterns

·      History of significant weight changes

·      Depression, anxiety, other mood disorders, including bipolar disorder

·      Experiences of weight stigma, weight-related discrimination or bullying

·      Problems with family or other significant relationships

·      Significant trauma/loss experiences

·      Emotional/physical abuse or neglect

·      Addictions to drugs/alcohol

·      Sexual trauma

It was already known that BED very likely leads to weight gain but how did this affect comorbidity of other health conditions?  The study from Sweden set out to evaluate if there was any association between binge-eating disorder and the likelihood of the development of chronic diseases. 

The study included 9,350 individuals (95% female) with the average age of 29.  It was found that BED was significantly associated with all classes of disease with the strongest associations being diabetes and other endocrine disorders, and circulatory system disorders.  Other conditions uniquely associated with binge-eating were health issues of skin and respiratory conditions. 

The findings from this study demonstrate that binge-eating is associated with a broad range of illnesses.  This information can be used by general medical care providers encouraging them to routinely screen for binge eating or excessive overeating in patients who present for medical care or weight loss.  With more accurate screening and detection of binge eating, it can get started the conversation about this condition and to provide and refer them for help for treatment of people suffering from it. 

Treatment for BED

According to the American Psychological Association, the current treatment for BED involves treating the condition and the psychological component of the disease.  This can include one or more of the following:

·      Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy

·      Medical care and monitoring

·      Nutritional counseling

·      Medications such as Vyvanse – currently approved by the FDA to treat moderate to severe binge eating disorder. 

·      Relaxation techniques

·      Increasing physical activity reducing stress

·      Avoid dieting – develop a healthier eating plan

·      Learning to recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger

·      If eating out of boredom, make a list of activities and hobbies to do instead of eating

·      Join a support group of others with BED

It also helps if those with BED recognize triggers causing them to overeat which could include the following:

·      Chemical imbalances in the brain

·      Emotions of feeling bored, anxious, stress, tension, or sadness

·      Irregular eating – not having a regular eating schedule or following an overly strict diet can trigger BED

·      Body image issues – frustration or low self-esteem

Seeking help

If you or a loved one has signs of binge eating disorder or any other eating disorder, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.  It has been shown that the earlier treatment is obtained, the shorter the duration of the disorder and a greater likelihood of a full recovery.

To obtain more information on where and how to begin the process of seeking help, contact The National Eating Disorders Collaboration.