Many of us can relate to emotional eating or the occasional bout of stress-induced bingeing. But binge eating is an all too common and serious symptom of disordered eating.
If you suffer from this condition, you may feel an uncontrollable urge to eat excessive amounts of food in a short amount of time. Often you may feel like you have no control over your eating habits and experience feelings of guilt or shame afterwards.
Recognising signs and symptoms of binge eating
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. We spoke to a board-certified nutritionist, Karen Reyes, about how to know if you may have a binge eating disorder. She told us that the following signs and symptoms might indicate you or someone you care about is struggling with binge eating:
- Frequently consuming large amounts of food, even when not hungry or continuing to eat when you feel full
- Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment or shame
- Feeling a lack of control over eating habits, unable to stop or slow down
- Experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, or disgust after binge eating
- Hoarding or hiding food, regularly stocking up on binge foods
To combat bingeing behaviours, it’s important to identify triggers and create new healthy daily habits. Overcoming eating disorders is challenging and you should not feel ashamed to seek professional medical advice.
Understanding binge eating
Binge eating can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or body type. It is commonly associated with obesity, but not everyone who binges is overweight. It is important to understand that binge eating disorder involves both physical and psychological factors, such as genetics, brain chemistry, and emotional well-being.
You may binge eat daily, a few times a week, or a few times a month. Some common triggers for binge eating include negative emotions, such as depression, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness, as well as certain foods or situations associated with past traumas or memories.
Plus, you may binge eat as a response to harsh judgments about your weight and body shape – making it a difficult issue to tackle alone.
How to Stop Binge Eating
It’s important to note that binge eating disorder is a mental health condition and not a lack of willpower or self-control. Every person’s experience with this condition differs, but seeking professional help in the form of therapy sessions, medications, or support groups is often key to recovering from a binge eating disorder.
Five ways to manage the urge to binge eat that don’t involve extreme diets or denial include:
- Stocking up on nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds can improve your overall health by providing your body with essential nutrients. Choosing these foods over processed or sugary options can also help curb cravings and reduce the risk of binge eating, leading to a healthier lifestyle.
- Developing healthy coping mechanisms, such as meditation or journaling, can help manage negative emotions without resorting to unhealthy behaviours like binge eating. By practising these activities regularly, you can learn to deal with stress in a more productive way and avoid using food as a coping mechanism.
- Incorporating physical activities like walking, biking, dancing, and swimming into your daily routine can improve your overall physical and mental health. Regular exercise can also help regulate appetite and reduce the likelihood of binge eating by releasing endorphins and reducing stress levels.
- Eating regular, balanced meals throughout the day can prevent extreme hunger and the urge to binge eat. By including a variety of foods from different food groups, you can keep your body fueled with the necessary nutrients while avoiding overeating or undereating.
- Practising self-compassion and avoiding self-criticism for slip-ups or setbacks is important in maintaining a healthy relationship with food. Instead of berating yourself for overeating or indulging in a craving, try to approach it with a non-judgmental attitude and focus on making healthier choices in the future.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, reach out to a trusted healthcare provider for support and guidance. Attending self-help programmes or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions can be especially helpful if you are battling this disorder; don’t try doing things alone.
Why is binge eating bad for you?
Binge eating can have various negative effects on your physical and mental health. For example, the excessive consumption of food can lead to weight gain and obesity. Additionally, binge eating can have several serious long-term consequences, including an increased risk of developing:
- Respiratory problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Type two diabetes
- Depression and other mental health issues.
Remember that everyone’s journey is different, and it may take time to find the right approach that works for you. Support from friends and family can be invaluable, but seeking professional help from a therapist or registered dietitian who specializes in binge eating disorders can also be beneficial. They can provide you with the tools and resources to manage your symptoms and develop a healthy relationship with food. Additionally, joining a support group or online community can offer a sense of community and validation, as well as a safe space to share experiences and receive encouragement. With patience, perseverance, and the right support, recovery from a binge eating disorder is possible, and you can achieve a healthier and happier life.
Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.