By Michelle May, M.D.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) affects an estimated 3.5% of women and 2% of men in the U.S. The incidence is considerably higher among individuals seeking weight loss. However, restrictive dieting and weight stigma tend to propel the Binge Eating Cycle* and compound the problem.
What is a binge?
Binge eating episodes are characterized by three or more of the following symptoms:
• Eating until you feel uncomfortably full
• Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
• Eating much more rapidly than normal
• Eating alone because you are embarrassed by how much you’re eating
• Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
While the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), does not yet have a specific category for binge eating disorder, it does list diagnostic criteria:
• Recurrent episodes of binge eating occurring at least twice a week for six months
• Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a short time frame (any two-hour period)
• Lack of control over eating during the binge episode (for example, feeling that you can’t stop eating or control what or how much you are eating)
In addition, there is marked distress about binge eating. Those with BED do not use compensatory measures to counter the binge eating, such as vomiting or excessive exercise
What does BED feel like?
Kari Anderson, a Phoenix-based eating disorder specialist and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshop Facilitator, explains that a person with BED may eat “normally” with others, stop on the way home to buy “binge” foods, then binge and hide evidence of the episode. The aftermath of a binge episode involves extreme feelings of shame and disgust.
Kari adds, “Individuals with BED are typically competent and accomplished in other areas of their life, yet feel unable to stop this secret behavior. Bingeing is a way to escape or disconnect from feelings that seem intolerable. There may be difficulty managing states of emotional and physical distress without using food. On the other hand, the thought of giving up the behavior evokes anxiety.”
While most people can relate to overeating or even bingeing from time to time, the lives of those with binge eating disorder are significantly disrupted by the binges and the aftermath. They may suffer in silence for years – trying and failing numerous diets, feeling alone, ashamed, and depressed. But they are not alone; there are millions of people with BED.
How is BED treated?
A great resource about BED for individuals and health care professionals is the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA). If you think you may have binge eating disorder, seek treatment from an experienced treatment specialist. For a specialist in your area, visit edreferral.com.
Mindfulness based strategies aimed at self-regulating emotional and physical states have shown promise in the treatment of Binge Eating Disorder. Mindful eating strategies such as those described in Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat are an important complement to therapy. A new treatment based on Am I Hungry? is being tested in a research trial in Phoenix, Arizona.
With effective treatment, there is hope for recovery and the freedom to live the vibrant life you crave.
*The Binge Eating Cycle is based on the Mindful Eating Cycle described in Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.
Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. Download a copy of 101 Things to Do Besides Eat at www.AmIHungry.com