Penny is a sweet-faced young woman who is in the grip of what she believes is a compulsion – overeating. She has long suffered the guilt of eating more than she needs, or is even comfortable consuming. She feels people think less of her and that it has affected her ability to get the things she wants from life.
“I don’t know how to describe it other than to say I must eat. It doesn’t matter what I eat, or how much or how often. I just feel this overwhelming, frenzied craving that I can’t set aside. I can’t think of anything else. I might open a package of cookies and before I know it, they’re all gone. My head seems to go somewhere else; I’m not even conscious of having eaten them. Then, when I realize what I’ve done, the horror is so acute and the guilt so great that I throw caution to the wind and head back to the kitchen for maybe a bag of chips or a half gallon of ice cream and polish that off as well. I can’t leave anything on the plate or in the contain uneaten. It cries out to me to be eaten. In some weird sense, I feel as though it’s my responsibility to eat it,” she confides in tears.
Penny is suffering from a very real medical condition. Recognized in 2013 as Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.), sufferers must turn to doctors for accurate diagnosis. Penny is certainly not alone as B.E.D. is the most common eating disorder among adults in the U.S. Statistics indicate that while it affects both women and men, it twice as common among females.
Visually, you can’t just point at overweight people and guess they might be a sufferer. B.E. D. can affect normal weight people as readily as those who are overweight or obese.
Nor is there a predominant ethnic basis as it occurs at a similar rate across the groups.
There are no definable clues as to where the condition originates. Some believe it may have a basis in brain chemistry. It is also believed to be hereditary and some people could be genetically inclined. What is clear, however, is that it can be triggered by stress. Serious stressors such as life-threatening accidents, natural disasters, marital or financial problems and even inequities felt within the household between siblings can trigger the metabolic response.
To the outside, B.E.D. displays several recognizable characteristics.
- Binge eaters tend to eat more food in a limited time period. Eating a half gallon of ice cream out of the carton as opposed to two scoops in a bowl would be a visual example of that. They also tend to do this regularly – which under the definition includes at least once a week for three successive months.
- Binge eaters feel out of control. They don’t believe they have the capacity to resist before they begin, or after it has begun.
- Binge eaters eat quickly, continue even when they’re full, when they have no appetite and their guilt motivates them to do it in solitude.
- Binge eaters don’t “reverse” their spree by excessive exercise or forcing themselves to regurgitate their binge.
If any of this sounds familiar, don’t despair. It’s not the sufferer’s fault, but the good news is that there are ways to handle it. If you learn to have the proper mindset and know what you’re dealing with, you can greatly modify, if not avoid the repeating cycle of binge eating!
What follows are tips and tricks you can use to help yourself cope. We recommend that you read through all of them. Some may fit easily into your living pattern, while others may not sound like they’ll work for you. Try not to rule any of them out permanently – you’re human and therefore adaptable!
Another thing to remember is that you need to be patient with yourself. You’re breaking a cycle of behavior and that takes time. While many of these tricks have a basis in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), they are implemented by you, personally, in your day to day life.
We are what we believe we are.