Preventing Binge Eating
In the two decades of my dietetic career, one eating disorder seems to be the most shame filled -- binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States and affects three times as many people diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia combined. However, it also appears to be the most misunderstood.
People with BED consume excessive amounts of food in a single sitting. During periods of bingeing, they experience a sense of loss of control over their eating. People often experience feelings of guilt or shame following these episodes. Most people struggling with binge eating disorder are overweight, however some are normal weight.
The cause of BED is multifaceted as it has biological, environmental and psychological roots.
Restricting food or food groups- We always want what we can’t have, and when we make extreme dietary restrictions, our bodies become food-focused and we develop food cravings. Some binge eaters will restrict for a few days and then binge eat their cravings for a few days. Others will restrict during the day and binge at night. Inevitably, most binge eaters feel guilty and remorseful after bingeing and then compensate by restricting the next day. This leads to a vicious tormented cycle.
Inadequate protein - When our bodies don’t have enough protein, we will feel hungrier than usual. Eating foods such as eggs, poultry, seafood and lean red meat will aid in fullness and help to keep blood sugar stable.
Dehydration - When our bodies are thirsty, we sometimes respond by eating food instead of drinking.
Grocery shopping on an empty stomach - Grocery shopping while hungry often causes people to buy more food than they actually need - and often these foods are used to binge later. If you must shop and are starving, buy an apple or protein bar when you get to the store. Eat it while you shop!
Buying binge foods - Some of the most common binge foods are cereal, peanut butter, chips and ice cream. Purchase these in portion controlled packages or enjoy them at restaurants in controlled amounts.
Having excessive cash or credit/debit cards with you - This is not always practical; however it is difficult to be impulsive with food when you don’t have money to pay for it.
Cooking too much food - Prepare your plate and store leftovers in the refrigerator before eating. Enjoy your meal with mindfulness.
According to Cynthia Hutchins MS LPC-S , binge eating can be one way to comfort and soothe emotions in response to stress. Food can temporarily distract painful or unfamiliar feelings. Feelings that are labeled, perhaps unconsciously as ‘bad,’ can be stuffed, and binge eating becomes a way to keep the ‘bad’ feelings at bay.
Ways to Stop Binge Eating
People with binge eating disorder can develop a positive and normal relationship with food. Treatment involves a multidisciplinary team including a physician, therapist and dietitian.
Pam Chin-Lai, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD specializes in the nutritional rehabilitation of eating disorders in children, adolescents and adults.