During the holiday season, some people become particularly vulnerable to binge eating. Overeating a little once a year isn’t a big issue, but it’s not just a holiday issue for others – they can be tempted by binge eating at any time of year.
Who Binges On Food?
Binge eating isn’t only found in overweight or obese people. Even those of normal weight sometimes binge eat. If you feel you’re often eating compulsively and feel powerless to stop, you may be dealing with binge eating disorder.
Causes of Binge Eating
Binge eating doesn’t have very much to do with hunger, when it comes to causes. It is strongly associated with depression, however. Those who binge on food can be trying to “fill” a gap in their lives. Perhaps they’re lonely, or have low self-esteem. Dissatisfaction with their body or other emotional factors can be involved.
It’s common for binge eaters to have poor impulse control, which seems a bit obvious, but the root of the issue is often difficulty with managing and expressing their feelings. Adults who were strongly criticized or abused as children can develop binge eating problems.
There are also physical and genetic issues that can contribute to binge eating.
Results of Binge Eating
Although the impact on one’s physical health isn’t trivial, the most significant immediate results for binge eaters can be emotional. Feelings of self-disgust, shame, guilt and depression are common. In fact, beating yourself up for binge eating can lead to another episode, a vicious circle that can be hard to extract yourself from without help.
Signs of Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
- Eating in secret
- Eating unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time
- Eating until you feel sick
- Eating even when you’re full
- Eating constantly and compulsively throughout the day
- Feeling out of control when eating
- Frequent comfort eating, or eating to relieve stress
- Feeling guilt or shame after eating
- Feeling unable to stop eating when you want to
- Thinking about food all of the time
- Never being satiated (satisfied by food), regardless of the amount consumed.
One or two of these symptoms, experienced occasionally, can be normal. However, when you experience several of these symptoms frequently, it can be a sign that you may have binge eating disorder. It would be wise to consider speaking to a professional without delay, as any eating disorder can be dangerous.
How To Address Binge Eating
Like most health challenges, the severity of the issue is a guide to what type of treatment to seek. If this is severe, constant, and health-threatening issue, speaking with a specialist is a very good idea. There are several effective therapies for binge eating disorder.
If you binge eat a couple of times a year at holidays, it’s probably not such a serious problem, but don’t kid yourself if the frequency increases. Early intervention is a good plan.
There are things you can do to reduce the likelihood and frequency of overeating.
- Shop clean, and keep temptation out of the house.
- Develop healthy habits – for example, eating many small meals regularly.
- Eat fat – a moderate amount of fat in your diet helps avoid cravings.
- Avoid fad diets – they’ll just stimulate your self-esteem issues and create more unhealthy habits to deal with.
- Eat mindfully. Practicing mindfulness in eating will make food both more enjoyable and more manageable.
- Keep a food diary, and particularly notice and record your emotions before you eat.
- Exercise – or simply go for a walk around the block after every meal.
- Meditate daily. It helps reduce stress, promote mindfulness, and give you a tool to use when emotions become overwhelming. You can take a class or learn how online.
Losing Weight After Binge Eating
If you’ve gone from diet to (fad) diet because of binging, it may be time to discuss some healthy lifestyle changes related to getting your weight under control. Once you get professional help for binge eating, I’m available here in Hawaii for a free in-person consultation to discuss healthy and safe medical weight loss.