Friday, July 1, 2016

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

A year ago, I would have never thought that my struggle with food would be labeled as Binge Eating Disorder. I imagined bingeing as eating an entire pizza, or a whole cake by yourself-- something I have never done. However, while this is one example of Binge Eating Disorder, it is certainly not the only type of eating that is considered binge eating.

Binge Eating Disorder is not simply overeating either. It was recognized as a medical condition in 2013 and is more common than Bulimia and Anorexia combined. The only difference between Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia is those with B.E.D. do not purge afterwards or exercise excessively to burn the calories. It can affect both men and women and research suggests that it may run in families.

To be classified as binge eating, an episode generally takes place once per week for a period of three months. A binge eater would eat more than a typical adult during a period of about two hours-- as mentioned before, this doesn't always mean consuming huge amounts like an entire pizza or cake, but simply eating large amounts of food--even if it's several normal amounts of different foods. The binge eater would feel out of control and would feel extremely upset by it.

If you struggle with binge eating, you may be so upset with yourself that you vow to stop but feel a compulsion to binge eat and can't resist it. This leads to more self-hatred. The cycle is shown in the image below. (source)

Binge eating episodes include three or more of the following criteria:

  • Eating extremely fast
  • Eating beyond feeling full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
  • Eating alone to hide how much one is eating
  • Feeling terrible after a binge
  • Feeling abnormal

Research shows that there is a correlation between perfectionism and eating disorders, including Binge Eating Disorder. Social perfectionism is the feeling that one never meets the expectations of others. This indicates the emotional complexity of Binge Eating Disorder, showing that it is caused by far more than a lack of self control.

Those with B.E.D. are often desperate for a sense of control which also correlates with perfectionism. Food is something that can be controlled and provides an escape from whatever feels "out of control" at the time of the binge. It is an escape from confronting uncomfortable emotions.

Triggers for bingeing can include stress, poor body-image, food, and boredom. Those with B.E.D. have often been lifelong dieters. Dieting or restricting calories during the day may lead to bingeing in the evening. 

Those with B.E.D. may isolate themselves, feel extreme shamefulness and guilt, be self-loathing,  experience anxiety and depression, and be obese. However, not all people with B.E.D. are obese.

How to help someone with Binge Eating Disorder? I think this quote sums it up better than I could myself: 

"Binge eaters feel bad enough about themselves and their behavior already. Lecturing, getting upset, or issuing ultimatums to a binge eater will only increase stress and make the situation worse. Instead, make it clear that you care about the person’s health and happiness and you’ll continue to be there." (source)
A binge episode is often followed with restriction or dieting in an effort to gain control. However, these behaviors are more damaging than helpful for someone with B.E.D.

Hopefully this helps you understand what Binge Eating Disorder is.

Do you have experience with B.E.D., either with yourself or someone you know? 

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