Overeating on certain occasions like on birthday parties or thanksgiving is normal. There’s no problem with occasional overeating since you’re eating not out of compulsion but out of the abundance of food at hand. Overeating can only become a problem when you crave for food even when you’re not hungry, eat in secret and feel guilty afterward. The compulsion is so strong you find yourself helpless to control it. This is what binge eating disorder is all about. Though no one knows it except you, it’s still a serious condition that may result in more dangerous diseases and put your health and life at risk.
If you or someone you know has this unpleasant relationship with food, tell them to take the matter seriously and seek help. This condition is treatable and is not something to get embarrassed about. Studies show that at least 2.6% of the population binge eat. Treating this condition is crucial since binge eating goes beyond your relationship with food. Other factors are at play, which you may not be even aware of.
Signs and Symptoms
People who have binge eating disorder show the following symptoms:
Failing to control your desire to eat
Seeing food can arouse in us the temptation to consume that food despite not being hungry. But the urge can be controllable. When it’s uncontrollable, it’s already a disorder.
Consuming food in a rapid manner
You’re eating food as if it would get out of sight in a matter of a second.
Eating with a full stomach
Though you know you have enough, you can’t control the urge to eat more.
Hiding food for later consumption
You stock food to eat later without anyone’s knowledge.
Gorging on food when you’re alone
You have this unusual attitude of eating normally in front of others but gorging on food when no one is watching.
Eating 5 times a day is normal. It’s around 3 big meals and 2 light meals or snacks. Something is wrong with you if you eat without end throughout the day disregarding regular mealtimes.
Eating when you’re stressed or anxious
You eat whenever you’re emotionally unstable to comfort yourself.
Feeling embarrassed about eating too much
Even when you’re the only one who knows it, you feel embarrassed about yourself for overeating.
Eating on autopilot
You’re not actually tasting the food. You’re just there eating and nothing more.
Feelings of dissatisfaction
You never feel satisfied despite eating large amounts of food.
Feelings of guilt
After binge eating, you feel guilty or depressed for doing so.
Up until now, science hasn’t found the exact cause for binge eating. What it has, however, are the factors that prompt people to resort to binge eating, which include the following:
Social or cultural
Unluckily, binge eating disorder affects not only the adult population but also the children. It’s because parents tend to comfort or reward their children through food. This is what shapes the children’s relationship with food. Whenever they want comfort or want to be relieved of something, they grab for food. People who have traumatic childhood experiences or go through social pressures are also likely to binge eat.
There’s a strong link between binge eating and depression. People with depressive episodes resort to binge eating while binge eaters tend to get depressed. It’s a two-way street. Failing to express oneself in a healthy manner, having low self-esteem and poor self-image can also lead people to binge eat.
How your brain works can also contribute to binge eating. A failure of the hypothalamus to send a correct signal about hunger and fullness may cause an eating disorder. A genetic mutation has also been found to cause food addiction while low levels of the brain chemical serotonin have been linked to uncontrollable eating.
Since binge eating doesn’t support your body’s nutritional needs, you may tend to eat unhealthy foods and eat them in excess. This can result in certain health problems like diabetes, obesity, insomnia or sleep apnea, hypertension, heart diseases, gastrointestinal problems, and depression.
Prevention and Treatment
The good news about binge eating is that it’s reversible. And it starts with establishing a good relationship with food. Food’s main role is to fuel your body for it to function properly. But it’s a tool that can either help you or break you, depending on how you use it. As such, you need to understand that you’re eating food for its nutritional value and not to soothe your emotional needs, though it helps at times. You may find it hard to do but you must take certain steps to correct your bad eating habits. Here’s how:
Remove the temptation
Take away foods from your line of vision. You’re more likely to eat when food is available. Don’t stock comfort foods on your cupboards or cabinets.
Don’t eat when you’re not hungry
Learn to distinguish hunger from emotional needs. Don’t deal with your emotions through eating.
Eat regular meals
Respect mealtimes. Don’t eat when it’s not yet time to eat. Treat yourself with healthy snacks like slices of fruits or healthy nuts.
Add healthy fats and fiber
Foods rich in healthy fats and fiber makes you feel full longer. For best results, add them to your breakfast.
Fight boredom wisely
Try not to eat when you’re bored. Instead, take a walk, call your mom, or do your favorite hobby.
Face your emotions head on
If you’re feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious don’t go straight for the fridge. Acknowledge your emotions, accept them, and let them be.
If facing your unpleasant emotions alone is difficult, talk to a friend or ask for professional help. Unpleasant memories might be haunting you and they won’t stop seeking your attention unless you process them. Unrecognized emotions hide through feelings of depression or anxiety.
Ask support from certified health professionals
There are health professionals who are experts on the treatment of binge eating disorder. Psychiatrists, nutritionists, and therapists are more than willing to help you out of that predicament. Certain programs have also been established for the treatment of binge eating disorder.