ABOUT BINGE EATING
Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It is a characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, often very quickly and to the point of discomfort. At the same time, you are feeling powerless to stop and a loss of control during the binge. Individuals who binge eat experience shame, distress or guilt afterward. Unhealthy compensatory measures, such as purging, are not normally used to counter the binge eating. During a binge, you may eat even when you’re not hungry and continue eating long after you’re full. You may also binge so fast you barely register what you’re eating or tasting. Unlike bulimia, there are no regular attempts to “make up” for the binges through vomiting, fasting, or over-exercising.
You may find that binge eating is comforting for a brief moment. This is because you think it is helping to ease unpleasant emotions or feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. Then reality sets back in. You are flooded with feelings of regret and self-loathing. Binge eating often leads to weight gain and obesity, which only reinforces compulsive eating. The worse you feel about yourself and your appearance, the more you use food to cope. It becomes a vicious cycle. This cycle is eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food for relief. As much as you may feel powerless to break this cycle, there are plenty of things you can do to better manage your emotions and regain control over your eating and your health.
The formal diagnostic criteria for binge eating are:
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
- Eating in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period) and eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
- The binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following. Eating:
- Much more rapidly than normal.
- Until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
- Alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
- And feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward.
- Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
- The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
- Binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging) as in bulimia nervosa. Also, it does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.