You might enjoy a casual binge-eating episode thanks to the upcoming holidays, but did you know that there are a considerable number of people who are actually suffering from the disease?
Yes, binge-eating disorder or BED exists as an actual health problem that is more psychological as it is physical. It is characterized by the recurring desire to eat large amounts of food in one sitting, usually more than once or twice a week for three months or more.
BED is the most prevalent eating disorder among Americans and is common among women AND men of different race, culture, and social class.
But because of the stigma attached to it, most of us are not aware if we have an eating disorder, let alone BED. Binge-eating disorder has different signs and symptoms as that of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Below are four tell-tale signs that you have BED:
You gorge on food－fast!－more than once a week.
A person who has BED eats tons of food in one meal, and boy does he or she gulps them! Their mealtimes are observed as a time of scarfing down burgers or cake without as much as chewing them or even enjoying the smell or sight it brings. Unlike other animals, humans associate food not just as a way to survive but as an experience in itself. With people who have the BED, the pleasure of eating is the only thing that keeps them going towards the buffet table or nearby drive-thru.
BED sufferers are also not particular about what time they gorge on a meal, although most do it at night when nobody is looking or awake. Others try to limit their food intake in the morning as a way to compensate for the vast amounts of food they ate the night before, only to go home and do the same thing all over again.
And because foods don’t come in cheap, BED sufferers silently succumb to this disorder not only physically and emotionally but also financially. Most, if not all, spend a tremendous amount of money to sustain their habit, much to the dismay of their loved ones who rely on them for financial support.
As mentioned earlier, occasional binge-eating is normal－after all, who can resist that roasted turkey during Thanksgiving?－but if frequently done, then it could be a sign of an underlying eating disorder. The diagnosis intensifies once you experience the next symptom.
You feel guilty and shameful after each episode－but you just can’t seem to stop.
If you are following a weight loss regimen for a while now, an occasional indulgence here and there wouldn’t hurt your workouts. In fact, it can even be healthy, so you don’t feel sorry for it. You shrug it off and promise to work hard to maintain your routine the next day.
But for BED sufferers, indulging is a big deal, especially if what they ate is ideally suitable for three people. Binge-eating for them is both a pleasure and punishment, an urge they can’t control no matter how strict their measures are.
Unfortunately, even though they know that they would regret it after, they can’t find it in them to stop overeating every night.
You binge even though you are not hungry.
As previously mentioned, we eat to survive, so being hungry is a natural mechanism of the body to remind us that our body needs food to carry out its functions.
For people who have the BED, however, their eating patterns are primarily associated with their emotions. They eat when happy, stressed, sad, or for no reason at all except when their appetite calls for it. In other words, binge-eating is their way of coping with whatever life throws at them.
You prefer eating alone.
There are times that most of us would prefer the peace of eating by ourselves rather than seek the company of our friends. But for BED sufferers, they are very much aware that their eating patterns are different than usual. So to avoid the judging eyes of people, they would rather eat by themselves than share a meal with their friends and co-workers. Because of this, they are perceived mainly as antisocial or just plain quiet.
This symptom, while seemingly small, can be the most detrimental of all four mentioned. This is because the first step of treatment is to have moral and emotional support from friends and loved ones to whom they can share their woes rather than turning to food for comfort.
Once you sense that you suffer from one or more of these symptoms, consult a doctor, preferably a psychiatrist so that you can immediately get the help that you need. One study showed that psychiatric treatments, specifically those that apply cognitive behavioral therapy, is more helpful in relieving BED than traditional weight loss efforts since it deals with the cause of the problem rather than offering band-aid, outward solutions.
If you know someone who suffers from the condition, the last thing you should do is tell him or her to just exercise it out or stop thinking about food. Instead, offer help by tagging along with them in their doctor’s appointments or providing your company as an alternative to eating for emotional support.