Most people are familiar with the concept of “comfort foods”. We reach for chicken soup when we are sick, or we crave chocolate or other sugary and fatty foods in times of stress. Some recent research suggests that comfort foods can actually decrease a person’s ability to handle stress. Even more problematically, seeking and eating comfort foods can be a precursor to binge eating, which will rapidly degrade a person’s health. When you eat food compulsively and are unable to stop or control your eating even after you are no longer hungry, you may well have developed a binge eating disorder.
Dangers of Binge Eating
Binge eating is distinguished from occasional episodes of overeating that can occur, for example, at Thanksgiving and during other celebratory occasions. Binge eaters will overeat on any occasion, and frequently over short periods of time. Stress, anger and other extreme emotions can lead to binge eating episodes, which are often followed by feelings of failure or disgust over the binge eater’s inability to control his food intake. Unlike individuals who suffer from bulimia, binge eaters make no effort to purge large quantities of food from their systems. Over time, binge eaters will inevitably suffer from obesity and all of the health problems that accompany obesity, including heart, respiratory and circulatory problems, diabetes, and gastrointestinal distress.
Causes of Binge Eating
Binge eating can be a symptom of or an adjunct condition to other psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety. Physicians and therapists will diagnose a binge eating disorder on the basis of an individual’s frequent consumption of large amounts of food over a short period of time, his sense that he is unable to stop eating even when he is no longer hungry, and his feelings of depression or disgust after binge consumption episodes. Binge eaters might try to cover their actions with frequent diets, but as with substance addictions, a behavioral compulsion like binge eating is more successfully addressed in therapy and with the assistance of third parties.
Treating Binge Eating Disorders
Counselors will help an individual to overcome a binge eating disorder with different therapeutic strategies. If binge eating is triggered by stress, a counselor will work with that person to develop alternative stress management mechanisms. A counselor might work with a nutritionist to prepare a healthy meal and eating schedule, and recommend that the binge eater remove all tempting foods from his environment. If binge eating is used in response to boredom, a counselor will help the binge eater to exercise and to involve himself in other activities that keep him busy and distract him from urges to eat large amounts of food. Binge eaters will also be encouraged to maintain a food diary to record everything they are consuming. These diaries provide immediate feedback and allow a binge eater to better understand and process how and when his urges to eat are affecting his life.
Some sleep disorders can also lead to binge eating. When a person is unable to sleep, his metabolism will begin to crave greater amounts of carbohydrates in order to maintain a certain energy level. Counselors and therapists will examine a binge eater’s sleep schedule to better understand if lack of sleep is a cause of the binge eating problem.
If left untreated, a binge eating disorder will lead to serious health complications. It can also significantly shorten a binge eater’s life span.
Please call the Last Resort Recovery Center near Austin, Texas, at 512-360-3600 for more information on binge eating disorders and for a confidential consultation on how we can assist you to diagnose and treat a binge eating problem.