Whether it is Christmas, a birthday, Easter or some other festive occasion most of us are prone to over indulge in the spirit of the celebration and consume far more of those enticing (read fattening) foods than are good for our waistline. In other words, we have a bit of a binge and then that’s it until the next big event on the calendar.
But what I’m talking about here is not just the odd day where we eat to excess and then return to our normal diet, I’m discussing the big problem of binge eating, which for some unfortunate people is actually a serious medical disorder.
Binge eating is not just a habit. There is an actual disease called “binge eating disorder” in which you eat abnormally large amounts of food with an inability to stop eating when your body is technically full.
This is a dangerous, life threatening condition, but help is readily available and the potential for recovery is very promising (see the last paragraph for someone who can help).
While you can over eat every now and again binge eaters consistently eat far too much food resulting in weight problems.
The signs of having binge eating disorder symptoms include the following:
• Having out of control eating behaviors
• Eating huge amounts of food over a short period of time.
• Eating even when you aren’t hungry.
• Eating rapidly when you binge eat.
• Eating in secret or when you are alone.
• Feeling ashamed, guilty, or depressed about your eating behaviour.
• Always going on a diet, usually without success.
Some Risk Factors for Binge Eating
There are some factors in your life that can increase your chances of having a binge-eating problem. These may include the following:
• Psychological problems. Most people who have this problem have a negative self-image and don’t feel positive about their accomplishments and skills. You may overeat because you are bored, stressed out, or have a poor body image.
• Family history. If you have a first-degree relative such as a sibling or a parent who suffer from binge eating difficulties, you might be at an increased risk yourself. It may mean that there are some hereditary factors that relate to developing this type of eating disorder.
• Over dieting. If you have a long history of dieting as far back as childhood, this may have been a way of compensating for times in which you were otherwise overeating.
• Age. You can have binge eating disorder at any age but most people have an onset of the disorder in their teens or in their early twenties.
The Dangers of Binge Eating
Binge eating can cause you both physical and psychological problems. Some of the major dangers of binge eating include the following:
• Feeling terrible about yourself
• Feeling bad about how your life is going
• Having problems functioning in your personal life, in social situations, or in the work environment
• Having a poor quality of life
• Being socially isolated from others
• Suffering from obesity or being overweight
• Having medical problems as a result of being obese, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis of the joints, gastroesophageal reflux disease (also called GERD), and breathing problems such as sleep apnea.
The psychiatric disorders most commonly linked to binge eating problems includes things like bipolar disorder, depressive symptoms, anxiety disorders, and illicit drug use.
Diagnosing Binge Eating Disorder
To make the diagnosis of binge eating disorder, you may need to see a psychological professional for a full evaluation of your eating behaviors. Tests to evaluate the possibility that the binge eating has already affected your health include testing for things like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, high cholesterol, gastroesophageal disorder, and sleep apnea disorder.
The doctor may do a complete physical examination, take blood or urine tests, and perhaps refer you to a center for sleep disorders for a consultation.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the following items need to be in place to make the diagnosis of binge eating disorder:
• Having a lack of control about eating, including how much you eat and whether or not you can actually stop eating.
• Having recurrent attacks of overeating a large amount of food over a short period of time.
• Having these factors related to eating: eating to the point where you feel extremely full, eating very quickly, eating alone because you are embarrassed about your eating, or feeling depressed, guilty or disgusted about your eating behaviors.
• Having concern about your eating habits.
• Engaging in binge eating at least once weekly for a period of three months or more.
• Eating not associated with purging, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise.
Binge eating can be quite dangerous. It affects your overall health and can lead to mental problems that only perpetuate the eating problem.
This is just another area of the health and fitness industry where many people need help. If any of the points above relate to your eating habits or you know someone suffering in this way then please seek professional help and get back on the path to a happy and fulfilling life. Don’t suffer in silence…….you are worth more than that.
Here is one place in Australia I know has excellent results in the treatment of eating disorders – ask to speak to Kate Swann. I believe PS Counselling is thinking of introducing an online service which makes help available to everyone no matter where you live in the world. Kate has also written an excellent book called “Do You Really Want to Lose Weight” which I recommend if you are in the market for some highly credible help with your weight loss journey. You will find the book plus some very helpful DVD’s in the shop section of Kate’s website.
Kate Swann says
Great blog, John, on this difficult and distressing topic. Thanks for the mention.
John Falkinder says
Thank you Kate……I hope between us we can do some good for those who need it most.