Has this every happened to you? You find yourself home alone after what has been a very draining and taxing day. You enjoy dinner and then a sweet treat. And then a salty treat, followed by binge eating through your pantry and refrigerator. You are uncomfortable and begin to feel disgusted, guilty, or depressed that you’ve eaten so much in the privacy of isolation. Has this happened to you at least once a week over the span of 3 months? If so, you may be surprised to know that these behaviors are characteristic of an eating disorder.
The eating disorder explained above is known as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM V).
BED is defined as recurrent episodes of binge eating without behaviors aimed at compensating (ie: induced vomiting, laxative use, or excessive exercise).
This definition clinically separates it from other eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa or Anorexia Nervosa.
Characteristics Of BED Include1:
- Eating in a discrete period of time (ie: within 2 hours) an amount of food that is significantly larger than what most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episodes (ie: a feeling that you cannot stop eating or control what or how much you are eating)
The binge eating episodes are associated with 3 (or more) of the following1:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when you are not feeling physically hungry
- Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much you are eating
- Feeling disgusted with yourself, depressed, or very guilty afterward
- Marked distress regarding binge eating
- The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months
What Is The Prevalence Of Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?
The lifetime prevalence of BED is highest in women compared to men (3.5%). This is more common than Anorexia Nervosa (0.6%) and Bulimia Nervosa (1%).
Surprisingly, it is overall more common in adult women than amongst adolescents.
Individuals of all races, ethnicities, and cultures are affected by BED.
How Does Your Mind And Body Play A Role In BED?
In those with eating disorders such as BED, early research is showing an over-responsiveness to the emotional signals in your brain that respond to “threatening cues” such as food and body weight/shape.
In addition, the brain sends large volumes of signals saying; “look, a reward!” when food is presented.
Who Is Most At Risk?
Consider your family.
Based on twin studies, there is a 50% vulnerability for eating disorders if it runs in your immediate family.
Risk Factors For Eating Disorders Include:
- Being female
- Being overweight as a child
- Heightened concerns over shape and weight
- Sexual abuse
- Mood disorders
- Adolescents exposed to parents overly concerned about eating, shape, and weight
- Weight-related teasing by family members
- Being teased/ bullied, and developing significant stress related to this maltreatment
- Personality traits such as impulsivity and perfectionism
What Are Some Of The Signs Or Symptoms Of Having Binge Eating Disorder?
Those with BED are frequently overweight or obese.
Their weight is also associated with other diagnoses such as “Metabolic Syndrome” which includes cholesterol / lipid irregularities, high blood pressure, and type 2 Diabetes.
For those who have undergone weight loss surgery, it may result in less weight loss (or potentially weight regain).
In general, BED patients report a poorer quality of life that impairs their everyday life at home and their social lives.
There tends to be higher incidences of disability, health problems, and impairment in work productivity.
Individuals with BED often have major depressive disorder, anxiety, substance use, and disruptive behavioral disorders.
How Can Binge Eating Disorder Be Treated?
BED is most successfully treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy.
If you have been diagnosed with BED, it is important that you seek specialized care.
However, if you struggle with mindless munching and emotional eating, I can help you!
As a Weight Loss (Bariatric) Surgical Physician Assistant and Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management, I have created a 12 Week Weight Management Program (WMP) that spends a significant amount of time diving deep into emotional eating.
Stress, social pressures, strong cravings, and other emotions can drive us to eat mindlessly. Unfortunately, when we eat excessively in response to these emotions, we are not solving the underlying emotion that needs to be addressed.
Instead, we are left feeling full, dissatisfied, upset, and guilty for over-indulging in food.
Let me help you through this very common struggle many women experience!
Is There A Way To Prevent Binge Eating?
The best way to prevent BED is to develop a healthy relationship with food in order to help resolve any internal struggles with body image, negative self-talk, and emotional eating tendencies.
Easier said than done, right?
With intensive 1:1 coaching, accountability assignments, and support from a small intimate group of women struggling with the exact same things, the 12 Week Weight Management Program is an effective program to get your long term health goals on track!
1 Tanofsky-Kraff M. Eating Disorders. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. Vol 219. 2nd ed. Elsevier Inc; :1455-1457.