Are you a Binge Eater? You’re not overweight, nor obese, so you couldn’t possibly suffer from Binge Eating Disorder. THINK AGAIN! For a long time, it has been thought that it is simply overweight and obese people who are the ones affected by Binge Eating Disorder.
However, The Weight Loss Show recently caught up with Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D., who is a psychoanalyst specialising in disordered eating, and she discussed with us how we need to differentiate Binge Eating Disorder from Obesity, and raise awareness on how this issue can affect everyone, no matter what their size. Here’s what Dr. Nina had to say.
Binge Eating Disorder (or BED) has made headlines ever since theDSM-V, the latest version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (published May 2013), recognized it as a clinical eating disorder. But as strange as it may sound, bingeing isn’t really about weight.
My patient Mary is 100 pounds overweight and has tried to lose weight for years. In an effort to cut calories, she skips breakfast and lunch. She’s so hungry by the time she leaves work that she goes straight to the drive-through and eats fast food every night. Mary is obese (more than 20 percent above her ideal body weight) but she doesn’t have binge eating disorder.
Dani secretly eats 30 stalks of celery or a hug bag of carrots, a few times a week, sometimes followed by ice cream. She’s very ashamed of her behavior. Dani is a normal weight and she does suffer from binge eating disorder. How is this possible?
1. If I’m overweight or obese, does that mean I have binge eating disorder?
The answer is… maybe, but not necessarily. Obesity is a physical condition that may result from many factors, including poor eating habits, heredity and culture.
Mary makes poor food choices, which why she is obese. Some people don’t have the time to cook nutritious food. They may not know what’s healthy and eat meals high in calories and fat. Others may be genetically prone to being at a heavier weight or may not get enough exercise. All these factors can cause obesity, but they aren’t indications of disordered eating.
Binge eating disorder, on the other hand, is a complex psychological condition. Men and women who struggle with bingeing use food to distract from painful or upsetting thoughts, emotions and conflicts. They may be obese, overweight, or even be within a normal weight range.
2. What’s the difference between overeating and bingeing?
Overeating simply means, “eating to excess”. There are varied causes of overeating (many Americans overeat on Thanksgiving, for example) that generally have to do with food itself, not feelings. Binge eating disorder is a way of coping with difficult feelings by turning to food.
According to the DSM-V, binge eating disorder is characterized by the following:
Recurrent episodes of binge eating occurring at least once a week for three months
Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a short time frame (any two-hour period)
Lack of control over eating during the binge episode (feeling as if you can’t stop eating or can’t control what or how much you are eating)
Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
Eating much more rapidly than normal
Eating alone out of embarrassment over quantity eaten
Feeling disgusted, depressed, ashamed, or guilty after overeating
For someone struggling with binge eating, the behavior with food expresses an underlying issue, conflict or problem. For Dani, bingeing on celery, carrots or ice cream was her way of managing difficult emotions. Bingeing feels like “the” problem, but it is actually a “symptom” of a deeper problem or conflict, such as these examples:
Loneliness – Food symbolically fills an internal emptiness
Needs & Wants – If you’re starving for love or hungry for affection, it can be easier to turn to food
Comfort – If you’re sad, anxious or upset and nobody is there to soothe you, food often does the trick
Distraction – Focusing on food or weight often distracts from other troubling emotions that you might feel towards people or about situations you can’t control
3. What can I do to overcome binge eating?
Recovering from binge eating disorder isn’t about your weight, nor is the number on the weighing scales the main indication of successful treatment. You can achieve a normal weight without changing the underlying conflicts that make you turn to food in the first place.
That is why diets don’t work. Diets deal with what and how much you are eating, rather than why you’re eating.
When you identify and work through the underlying conflicts and emotions that lead to bingeing, you’re less likely to turn to food.
For example, many people have a hard time expressing anger towards others, but find it easy to be mad at themselves for their weight. When they learn to identify and express those upset feelings towards others, they stop using food as way of turning that anger towards themselves.
4. What resources are available to help with binge eating?
Bingeing can be a shameful and secretive behavior but there is help available. You can learn to change your unhealthy, unhappy relationship to food and feel better.
Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D. is a psychoanalyst who specializes in disordered eating. Her podcast Win The Diet War is available on iTunes (named New & Notable the first week of release). Her award-winning blog, Make Peace With Food was named A Best Eating Disorder Blog of 2012 by Healthline and nominated as a Best Health Blog this year.
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