The advertising tag line “ I bet you can’t eat just one” foreshadowed the growing obesity epidemic that is being fueled by binge eating. Binge eaters will numbly go through an entire bag of potato chips or a box of cookies without stopping to think about what they are doing and with no sense of hunger or fulfillment. Eating comforts them, distracts them from the stresses in their lives, and fills an emotional hole that might otherwise leave them feeling depressed, angry, or anxious about negative events in their lives.
The Dynamics of Binge Eating
If binge eating is not controlled, it can lead to severe health problems that are associated with obesity, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stomach and renal disorders. A person might be biologically predisposed to binge eating as, for example, if he has a disorder that blocks messages from his brain telling him to stop eating because he is full. In modern society, social, cultural and psychological factors are more likely to lead to binge eating disorders. A young person who is bullied at school or abused at home will turn to binge eating to ease the pain of those events. People use food as a reward for surviving on-the-job stress or difficult conditions in their home lives or relationships. Binge eaters will consume salty or sugary snacks to alleviate symptoms of depression. Any situation that leads a person to consume large quantities of food with no consideration of any accompanying hunger can signal the start of a binge eating disorder.
Treating a Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating is characterized by a complete lack of control over food consumption. Binge eaters will obsess about food. They will eat in secret and try to hide their proclivities from friends and family members. They might feel guilty or disgusted with themselves at the end of an eating binge, or even eat until they are sick, but no amount of guilt, disgust, or illness will convince them to take control, of their food consumption.
The first step in ending a binge eating problem is for a binge eater to gain a sense of awareness of how much food he or she is consuming. This can be accomplished with the maintenance of a food journal. That journal will become a record of the stresses and events that lead to eating binges, which will allow the binge eater to develop different strategies to handle those stresses and events. Binge eaters can also remove temptations to overeat by keeping foods out of their houses that they have used to satisfy food cravings, and instead to focus on eating no more than three regular meals or five smaller meals every day.
Binge eaters should also focus on starting an exercise program and incorporating activities into their lives that they can turn to as alternatives to binge eating. Getting a sufficient amount of sleep will also be critical to manage a binge eating problem, as a lack of sleep has been shown to increase cravings for carbohydrate-laden foods. Binge eaters should also strive to focus on feelings other than the urge to eat, and to develop alternative responses to negative feelings. If a binge eater cannot manage these tasks alone, he or she should seek professional help to counteract the urge to binge eat.
Modern society may have created the conditions that gave rise to binge eating problems, as well as the ready and available products that can satisfy the binge eater’s cravings. Fortunately, binge eaters have countless resources to fall back on that can help them break a binge eating problem.
If you are concerned over your own binge eating, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We can assess your relationship with food and give you suggestions on how to make that relationship healthier and more fulfilling.