What is binge eating disorder?

eatingBinge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by repeated periods of eating large quantities of food, combined with a sense of loss of control without regular compensatory behaviors (purging, laxatives, exercising excessively). Symptoms include: a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control how much one is eating, eating much more rapidly than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry, eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating, feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or very guilty afterward.

Lifetime prevalence for BED in the United States is 2.8 percent of the adult population. Average age of onset is 25 years old. Binge eating affects women slightly more often than men. Sixty percent of people struggling with binge eating disorder are female, 40 percent male. People who struggle with BED can be of normal or heavier than average weight. BED is often associated with symptoms of depression.

Health consequences associated with BED include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, gallbladder disease and musculoskeletal concerns.

Here are some things to do when having an urge to binge: call a supportive friend; take part in a physical activity (walk, job, swim, bike ride, throw a ball, tennis, gardening, hit golf balls); write in a journal; postpone the binge for 15 minutes (set a timer, this will hopefully give you enough time to figure out what to do next); brush your teeth; take a shower/bath; or remove yourself from the environment that is tempting you to binge (go to a park, library, take a drive).

If you struggle with stopping at a drive thru and bingeing (try not to take money along), distract yourself (relaxation, meditation), list the foods you are fantasizing about, seal the paper in an envelope, tear it and throw it away. Develop panic cards: step by step instructions of your plan when you have an urge binge. For example, A) go to the nursery and buy seeds; B) Return home and do planting; C) Show the garden to a friend or neighbor.

When you notice that you are thinking about bingeing or having an urge, ask yourself: WHAT’S THE PAYOFF TO THIS BINGE? IS IT WORTH IT? Also, being mindful and aware of what you are doing to help prevent a binge (focus on your five senses to help stay in control), live in the here and now/moment.

About Colleen Hanson

Colleen graduated from Mount Mary College with a Masters of Science in Community Counseling. She enjoys working with adolescents and adults utilizing a cognitive behavioral approach to therapy. She enjoys helping her patients develop achievable treatment goals and strategies to cope with their life struggles. Her areas of interest include: Eating Disorders, Depression, Self-Harm, Anxiety, and Stress Management. Colleen also enjoys facilitating an Eating Disorders Support Group.

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