Discover How To Prevent Binge Eating
Most of us have overeaten at some point in our lives. We end up feeling overly full and physically uncomfortable, if not outright miserable as our bodies try to process more food than they are accustomed to. This is most common at all-you-can-eat buffets, during the holidays and on special occasions when you just have to have one more bite.
What is Binge Eating?
An obsessive/compulsive relationship with food is the primary definition of an eating disorder. Overeating becomes binge eating – also known as food addiction – if you regularly consume unusually large amounts of food – especially if you hide it from everyone around you out of shame or embarrassment. Binge eating is more common than anorexia or bulimia. Harvard calls binge eating “a major public health burden” but most people don’t even know what it is.
Binge eating is an eating disorder that affects 8 million people in the United States.
Being a binge-eater does not mean you will outwardly appear overweight or obese – though obesity is most common for binge eaters – and not all overweight or obese people are binge eaters. Unlike the eating disorder bulimia, binge eaters do not counteract their food intake with purging through vomiting, fasting or laxative use.
The Mayo Clinic has outlined symptoms to look for – in yourself or loved ones – to determine if you may have this disorder.
- Eating abnormally large amounts of food until you are uncomfortably full.
- Continuing to eat when you are full or eating when you aren’t hungry.
- Consuming food rapidly or in secret.
- Feeling emotionally disturbed by your eating habits or feeling out of control – many binge eaters experience depression, anxiety, shame and guilt.
- Constantly dieting to “make up” for binges – many binge eaters yo-yo diet.
What Causes Binge Eating & How To Prevent Binge Eating?
Exact causes of this eating disorder are unknown but certain risk factors are becoming more prevalent with continued research. Approximately 60% of binge eaters are women, 40% are men. Most binge eaters develop the disorder in their late teens or early twenties and binge eaters can come from all cultural, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Constant dieting – especially if it is coupled with low self esteem or feelings of sadness – increases your risk for developing many eating disorders. Children who are placed on diets often relate weight to self-worth and develop mentally unhealthy perceptions about their weight.
- Environment – if you have close friends and family who had or have eating disorders, your risk of developing one rises. Being around people who constantly obsess over their weight – or yours – is also linked to a higher risk of eating disorders. Some eating disorders have been linked to chemical reactions within the brain but further research is needed.
- Mental health – if you have a history of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, substance abuse problems, or poor self esteem related to your weight, you have a higher risk for developing an eating disorder. Using food to cope with stress, boredom or anger can lead to binge eating.
A New Symptom of Binge Eating
Food concocting – combining “odd” foods together for consumption – has been associated with pregnant women for decades – pickles and ice cream is one well-known example – but researchers with the University of Alabama have now identified the same trait in 25% of binge eaters.
- Mashed potatoes and Oreos™
- Frozen vegetables and mayonnaise
- Chips with lemon
- Pork rinds, Italian dressing and salt
UAB Department of Psychology professor, Dr. Mary Boggiano, PhD said the number is likely much higher. “We found significant numbers in a non-clinical population,” said Boggiano. “If the same survey was given to people in a hospital, clinical or psychiatric setting, they would certainly report higher levels.”
In their study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers determine that people who food concoct are more likely to binge eat. Participants identified their primary emotional state during binges as excitement while afterward they relate most to feelings of shame, disgust and regret.
These emotional markers parallel results found in studies of drug abusers.
The chemicals in the body fluctuate as well. Researchers have found that binge eaters have higher levels of serotonin [the neurotransmitter associated with happiness and well-being] in their bodies after bingeing – a reward system from the brain for feeding the addiction.
Because of the patterns established in stomach/brain communication, it can be more difficult for food addicts to kick the habit than it can be for drug users.
This research is important to the study of eating disorders since food concocting appears to cause much higher levels of negative emotions than binge eating does alone.
Boggiano explained, “Secrets can kill us. The more secretive a patient is with aspects of an addiction or eating disorder, the worse off he or she will be because they will continue to engage in their secret, maladaptive behavior.”
Get Treatment Now
Binge eating should not be ignored. Physical and mental complications can result if binge eating is allowed to go untreated. Unhealthy eating habits, nutritional imbalances, obesity and other health problems can result.
- Depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease
- Type 3 diabetes
- Sleep apnea and frequent headaches
- Digestive problems including irritable bowel and gallbladder disease
- Muscle and joint pain
- Difficulty with menstruation
The only reliable treatment and how to prevent binge eating is therapy, which offers complete recovery or a lessening of the symptoms for 80% of those who seek help. Once you get binge eating under control – much like alcoholism and drug addiction – it gets easier as time goes on not to regress.