Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
"BED" (Binge Eating Disorder) is an interesting acronym--some people who have it, do eat in bed or sometimes get out of the bed in the middle of the night to eat!
According to some community surveys, BED is by far the most common eating disorder in America, found in 2 to 5 percent of the general population.
A subgroup of obese people has BED; research shows a significant association between binge eating and overweight. Thirty percent of the people who enroll in commercial weight loss programs have BED. This percentage goes higher in the cases of individuals in medical weight loss programs!
Thirty to fifty percent of the people seeking commercial or medical services for weight loss with binge eating problem is a pretty substantive figure, but you don't hear much about it. It is not a popular subject for discussion by patients and doctors, but the complications posed by BED in obesity must be addressed to serve the afflicted individual better.
If you binge eat at least twice a week for six months, you meet the criteria for BED. Binge eating consists of eating an inordinate amount of food in a discrete time period, which is often accompanied with a sense of loss of control.
A binge eater is different from a bulimic, as the latter also uses a compensatory behavior such as vomiting, over exercising or abusing laxatives. Some binge eaters say they would never engage in such disgusting compensatory behaviors; or they insist that they simply love the food too much to rid off it.
Unlike bulimics and anorexics, a binge eater does not have a distorted body image or overvalued belief about weight or shape.
Anorexic and bulimic women far outnumber male counterparts, but BED does not show a similar gender bias. There are 4 men to every 6 binge eating women. Binge eating is also more culturally diverse. Fro example, fewer Afro-Americans are bulimics or anorexics when compared to Caucasians. These differences are somewhat leveled when it comes to binge eating. All told, people with BED are in a class of their own and should be viewed as such.
Compared to bulimics, binge eaters may consume more calories through binge eating and regular meals. Obese patients with BED may be different from obese patients without BED.
Higher caloric consumption combined with excess weight may pose a higher risk for binge eaters for such medical disorders as diabetes type II and coronary heart disease.
In spite of the best intentions, attempts for restrained eating may provoke binge- eating episodes. Some binge eaters go on a bingeing episode before starting a diet and when they go off a diet.
This presents an additional risk for medical complications. They would be better off treating the BED simultaneously or before attempting a weight loss program.
Obese patients with BED may have more emotional impairment than obese patients without BED. The former have a higher incidence of depression, anxiety or substance abuse. Childhood trauma, significant family background issues, abuse, loss and similar other circumstances may have been known to precede the onset of BED.
Treatment for BED may also involve correcting distorted thinking regarding eating, weight and shape. Some have dysregulated eating patterns. Examples: skipping breakfast or other meals, starvation or feast (too little or too much food intake at a time); drinking an excessive amount of sugared beverages during or before meals, eating any time and anywhere or overloading with carbohydrates at the expense of nutritious food items.
One of the problems in behavioral change is poor motivation. Obese binge eaters may find that patients can spend a lot of effort in resisting the urge to binge without it leading to significant weight loss. It is better to eat right whether that results in weight loss or not.
Motivate yourself to eat properly, because that is the right thing to do. Restoration of a normal eating pattern with moderation and regularity is essential for long-term recovery.
On the surface, some binge eaters may appear to have a jolly and cheerful disposition but they may have achieved such a disposition by "medicating" or "anesthetizing" themselves with food. Food becomes their drug of choice by design or sheer coincidence.
Some people perhaps feel that they can somehow manage their feelings, anxiety, stress, or physical or emotional pain with food. This may provide a sense of control during times when things are out of control, and thus food becomes a drug of choice. Someone once told me, "I cannot eat enough to stuff all my feelings. Instead of trying to stuff them in, I have to confront them."
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Copyright 2004, Mind Publications
Posted March 2004