Binge Eating Disorder: When too Much Isn’t Enough

Like anorexia and bulimia, binge eating is also a disorder. But don’t confuse binge eating disorder with overeating. While overeating is a challenge for many, recurrent binge eating is much less common—and much more serious.

This disorder is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, feeling out of control while bingeing, and feeling guilt and shame afterward, according to the Binge Eating Disorder Association. The episodes occur at least once a week for three months or more. Unlike bulimia, binge eating does not incorporate inappropriate ways to “break even” for the extra calories.

Individuals with the disorder usually binge alone to hide the behavior. A binge usually follows severe distress. Triggers can include interpersonal stress; dietary restriction (extreme calorie-cutting, crash dieting); negative feelings about food and body weight/shape; and boredom.

In the short term, binge eating may seem to lessen or alleviate the distress that caused the episode. But ultimately, its consequences are feelings of intense sadness and displeasure, a negative self-image and, often, an unhealthy weight.

Binge eating disorder affects people of every age—children, adolescents and adults—and of every race and level of education and income, according to the Binge Eating Disorder Association. The association adds that although those with binge eating disorder are likely to weigh more than average, anyone at any weight may struggle with the disorder. Extra weight, coupled with cultural stigma and/or bullying, can lead to more engagement in the disorder, as well as co-occurring mood disorders and addictions.

Ways to Address Binge Eating

Cognitive behavior therapy helps people with binge eating disorder regain their confidence and wellness, according to extensive research. It teaches participants to think about food in new ways; foster a healthy body image; set new boundaries; and reduce or eliminate binges by changing behavior.

A healthy lifestyle means making the right choices in food options, positive behavior and exercise. The multidisciplinary team of health care professionals at the Center for Weight Management fosters skills that help you learn to eat and live differently.

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