It’s pretty common for individuals to overeat on occasion, but when it becomes excessive it is known as binge eating. Binge eating disorder or BED is a serious type of eating disorder in which a person eats large amounts of food to the point of discomfort. These episodes of consuming large amounts of food typically happen pretty quickly and often. The out of control feelings that cause individuals to consume all of this food leads to feelings of shame or guilt. Some people will counter the binge eating with other unhealthy acts, such as purging. Binge eating disorder is the most common type of eating disorder in the United States. There are times when individuals binge eat that isn’t related to the disease. Examples include consuming large amounts of calories to prepare for an athletic event, overeating at a holiday event or celebration. It becomes a concern when individuals binge on a regular basis or it impacts a person’s physical or mental health.
What Causes People to Binge Eat?
While the actual causes of binge eating disorder are unknown, a person’s biology, genetics, long periods of dieting and mental or psychological issues will increase a person’s risk of BED. Women also have a higher risk of developing this eating disorder than men. While individuals of all ages can be affected by BED, this disorder tends to develop in late teen years or early 20s. There are several risk factors that increase a person’s chance of having BED. These include:
- Family history of BED: a person’s likelihood of developing binge eating disorder increases if they have a parent or sibling who has had or currently has BED. While not completely known, genes may be inherited that increase an individual’s risk of developing this eating disorder.
- Dieting: the majority of individuals experiencing BED have had a history of dieting. Restricting calories in a person’s diet can trigger them to feel out of control and binge eat.
- Self-image or psychological issues: many individuals who develop this disorder have negative feelings about themselves, including skills, body image, and accomplishments. BED can be triggered by stress, negative body image, and ability to access their typical foods for binging. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and individuals who have developed substance abuse have a higher chance of developing BED.
Managing the Disorder
Since BED is a disorder caused by more than just food, individuals experiencing BED may need a treatment plan created by a medical professional. Here are some options and lifestyle switches to manage BED without the help of a medical professional or treatment plan.
- No more diets. Restricting calories can be detrimental to a binge eater because this act can trigger an episode of binge eating. Diets that include fasting can also trigger eating large amounts of food later in the day. People with BED should not completely restrict themselves from all foods they love because this will trigger an episode later. Instead of cutting out entire groups of food, people should focus on healthy changes.
- Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals or fasting is counterproductive to BED as it will cause a trigger to overeat later in the day. Sticking to 3 meals a day is a safe way to balance blood sugar levels and will prevent binge eating later in the day.
- Increase fluids. Drinking water throughout the day can reduce cravings and prevent overeating by making the body feel full, reducing caloric intake.
- Practice yoga. Yoga incorporates mind and body with breathing exercises, meditation, exercises, and poses. Practicing yoga can help with the emotional behaviors linked to BED.
- Increasing fiber intake makes the body feel full longer. Increasing fiber can cut cravings and reduce food intake.
- Eliminating trigger foods from the kitchen can help with emotional eating. Filling the kitchen with wholesome foods can give less unhealthy options.
- Developing a consistent exercise routine can help with emotional well-being, body image and decrease stress levels that contribute to BED.
- A food and mood journal can help point out triggers and make individuals more self-aware to the causes of their BED.
- Seek help. Individuals suffering from BED should look for professional help to overcome their disorder.