I am sure there have been a number of occasions when I have eaten more than my share. There certainly have been a number of occasions when I have eaten more than is good for me: extra helpings at Thanksgiving… multiple desserts that look too good to be true and taste about the same… Christmas and Girl Scout cookies… Summer picnics and birthdays. Overeating is a burden in its own right, but beyond overeating is the more serious compulsive eating behavior that is binge eating.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating is a disorder in which people compulsively overeat and ingest large quantities of food. They are unable to stop eating despite feeling out of control. Read, “Help for Binge Eating Disorder” to learn more.
Binge eating disorder (BED) usually begins in late adolescent or early adulthood. An episode normally lasts about two hours, but some people intermittently binge all day long. Binging is eating without feeling hungry and continuing eating beyond the point of feeling full. Binge eaters are often unaware of what foods they are eating or the taste of the food they are eating.
I don’t talk much about my very painful journey with eating disorders. I have a vague memory of standing in front of the open refrigerator when I was a teenager and eating without being fully aware of what I was doing, mindlessly stuffing whatever food that was within reach into my mouth. I also recall regularly skipping school so that I could secretly binge eat all day while my family was away. This was just the tip of the iceberg. It was hell.
Binge Eater Statistics
About 2% of adults in the United States have BED as well as 10-15% of people who are mildly obese and attempt to lose weight on their own. Those who are severely obese have binge eating disorder more often than those who are not severely obese.
Binge Eating Symptoms
There are a number of symptoms of binge eating disorder. A person does not need to have all the symptoms to have the disorder.
Binge eaters feel unable to control themselves during a binge and feel unhappy about their bingeing. They also eat at an accelerated speed while binging and eat to a point of discomfort.
Binge eaters often eat to reduce stress or too self-soothe and often eat alone because of embarrassment about how much they eat. Personality traits that often accompany binge are exaggerated concern about body shape and size, low self-esteem, and depression.
Complications of Binge Eating
Binge eating can lead to psychological and physical problems. Among the complications are being overweight or obese and the erratic eating habits of binging that are followed by a restrictive diet. In addition, foods consumed by binge eaters are often high in fat and carbohydrates and low in protein and other nutrients, thereby enhancing the possibility for health problems.
Eating disorders are a serious matter that can have life-threatening consequences. Potential threats to health that stem from binge eating are high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, secondary diabetes, and gallbladder disease. Binge eating can lead as well to certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, joint and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, and sleep apnea.
How to Stop Binge Eating
If you or a family member or friend struggle with eating binges, resources to begin the treatment journey can be found on the following association websites:
National Eating Disorders Association or call their toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (EST).
If you are struggling emotionally or have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life