Binge eating disorder demystified

We’ve all heard of “binging” or an eating disorder called “binge eating disorder”, but so many people don’t understand exactly what it is or how to identify it. This is especially true of the very people who suffer from it. Too often the sufferer will blame themselves and and their “lack of self control”.
Take Joan, for example. She was a client of mine who had followed many diets in her lifetime and as a consequence, her weight had fluctuated by about 15 pounds up and down for the last few years. She did not understand why she just could not just keep off the weight after following low carb diets, and why she could not stop eating food even when she was full. She believed she was “addicted to food” and always wanted to lose just 5 more pounds to feel better about her body. She was convinced that she needed to have more firm rules about what to eat and that if she didn’t have rules, she would go crazy eating “bad foods”. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is very common despite the fact that strict food rules lead to binge eating. “Lack of self control” is in quotation marks because binging has nothing to do with self control, and has everything to do with strict diets, food rules and vilifying certain foods.

Understand the complexities of this disorder and identifying what you are struggling with is key to finding the right help. Here are the criteria for identifying binge eating episodes (binge eating disorder is when a person suffers from recurrent episodes of binge eating) : 

1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances and 
2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for example, a feeling that you cannot stop eating or control what or how much you are eating). 

Binge-eating episodes are also associated with 3 (or more) of the following:

1. Eating much more rapidly than normal.

2. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.

3. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.

4. Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating. 

5. Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating.

6. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present (meaning, you or your friend is unhappy and stressed about binge eating).

7. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least 2 days a week for 6 months.

If you or someone you know is suffering from binge eating disorder, you are NOT alone. There ARE things you can do to help overcome binge eating (and beating yourself up for not having enough “self control” is certainly NOT part of the treatment). Firstly, it is invaluable to seek help from a knowledgeable dietitian or psychologist who specializes in eating disorders. Understanding why you binge eat and what is influencing you to do so is key to stopping the binge eating cycle. If you live in the Montreal area, contact me to discuss finding an expert who can help you today. 

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3 Comments

  1. This is a succinct and easily understandable post about BED, which will be listed in the upcoming, revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Its inclusion should help sufferers get professional help more easily and with less shame.

    There are many components of why an individual eats compulsively but two significant ones involve addiction. Americans are addicted to stress. The more we work, the less we sleep, the less time we spend shopping and preparing food, the less time we spend in silence, the better.

    Stress is a clinically proven cause of both weight gain and overeating. And the foods binge eaters choose, as well as the majority of people in a hurry, are highly processed and full of sugar/fat/salt. Science now shows through new tools like PET and MRI brain scans the addiction-related organic changes that take place in the reward system and the prefrontal cortex. This occurs across all additions, from drugs and alcohol to the newly discovered food addiction. This new pioneering research is also helping us to appreciate a holistic and integrative approach to addiction. I was first senior research fellow in the NIH Office of Complementary Medicine. Using food addiction as template, THE HUNGER FIX addiction plan integrates personal empowerment, spirituality, along with whole food nutrition and restorative physical activity. Shame, blame and guilt must be neutralized with compassion, empathy and then the tools of self-empowerment.

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