Binge Eating Disorder

by Christine on April 27th, 2010

filed under Eating Disorders, Gastric Banding Surgery, General Information

I didn’t realize it when I was growing up, but I had binge-eating disorder.  For the most part, I ate fairly healthfully and fairly normal portion sizes.  Then, suddenly, I would feel compelled to devour an enormously large portion of food. I think I realized that I ate more than a normal person the first time I devoured a large pizza…then scrounged the kitchen for something else to eat.  Clearly I wasn’t hungry at this point – in fact, it would be safe to say that I was quite full, but I kept eating nonetheless.

As time went on, I would binge eat more and more often.  It was usually an emotionally-charged situation that propelled me to dive into food for solace. However, the binge-eating became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts: I became more aware of my overeating, and I was ashamed of it. As my feelings of shame (and anger and depression) of my actions took over, I would binge eat to try to numb those feelings.  And so the cycle would perpetuate.

The further into the cycle I got, the more depressed about it I became. And the fatter I got. In three years I went from about 150 pounds to about 210 pounds.  I hated food and wanted nothing to do with it, but I couldn’t seem to pull myself from the binges that took over my life.

From there, I started to develop all kinds of disordered eating patterns. I tried every diet in the book to try to stop the weight gain, but nothing helped. Starving myself didn’t help. (At one point I went three months without eating, for a total weight loss of about four pounds. That weight came right back on when I began eating again, of course.)  I tried to learn to puke up my binges, but I was never successful at purging, so I resorted to laxative abuse instead. As you can guess, that method didn’t help me lose weight either.

I was pretty much a poster child for binge-eating disorder.

Binge-eating disorder is actually the most common of all eating disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic. The disorder affects 3.5% of females and 2% of males in the United States.  The exact causes of binge eating is unknown, but sources say that the causes can be biological (you’re pre-disposed to the disorder), psychological (e.g., low self-worth), or environmental (social pressure to be thin).

Most resources claim that sufferers of binge-eating should avoid dieting because it can make binge eating worse.  Cutting calories and not eating enough can cause a binge-eater to spiral out of control.  Also, binge-eaters may find it more difficult than an average person to follow diet regimens, such as Weight Watchers, because of this trigger.

So what can you do if you’re suffering from binge-eating disorder?  Most sources would claim to seek psychiatric help to try to face the issues causing you to binge. However, this can be difficult; the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMIV) does not currently recognize binge-eating disorder as a formal eating disorder; therefore many insurance programs may not pay for psychiatric treatment for this.

Anti-depressants have been known to help those suffering.  Anti-depressant medication certainly helped me begin to overcome the disordered eating patterns at time.  Appetite suppressants may also help curb the desire to eat. Appetite suppressants need to be prescribed by your doctor and include Meridia and Adipex. I took Adipex for a while and found it to be helpful at first, but eventually the effects of the pill became less significant. Topamax has also been shown to help curb the desire to binge-eat. (Topamax is actually seizure drug).

I personally would argue that gastric banding surgery would greatly help binge-eaters. The band has been a highly effective way of limiting the amount of food I can consume.  On the rare occasion that I slip into binge-eating patterns, the band has completely prevented me from overeating.  Of course, the band doesn’t do anything to deal with the emotional and psychological issues underlying the condition, but the band certainly helps to control the quantity of food.

My friend, Katie, has also been trying to grapple with her binge-eating disorder. She has found that keeping track of a meal diary each day has been beneficial in tracking eating patterns and trying to identify what emotions trigger a binge episode.  Her meal diary looks like this:

Meal Diary

Breakfast
Hunger Level (0-5)
Emotions
Food Eaten
Fullness Level (0-5)

Lunch
Hunger Level (0-5)
Emotions
Food Eaten
Fullness Level (0-5)

Dinner
Hunger Level (0-5)
Emotions
Food Eaten
Fullness Level (0-5)

Snack 1
Hunger Level (0-5)
Emotions
Food Eaten
Fullness Level (0-5)

Snack 2
Hunger Level (0-5)
Emotions
Food Eaten
Fullness Level (0-5)

Also, it may help to join an online forum to talk to others that have dealt with this same issue in their life. Sharing strategies for overcoming binges is a great way to learn new coping mechanisms and forge relationships with people going through the same issues as you.
Resources:

Mayo Clinic

Help Guide

Something Fishy

CNN Report on Treatment Program

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