Dec
19
2010

Effective Steps to Overcoming Binge Eating

Binge eating affects about one in every 50 people in the United States. But even though it is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., it does not receive as much publicity as similar maladies, like bulimia, anorexia, and depression. As a result, there is still quite a social stigma attached to binge eating, leaving many of its sufferers feeling isolated and hopeless. However, it is important to realize that there are steps you can take to stop the cycle of binge eating.

The first thing you must do is to determine if your problem constitutes binge eating. It’s common for people to head for the pantry or the refrigerator on occasion to reduce stress or unwind. But if you find yourself repeating this process constantly, or if you tend to do so to fill a void or escape your problems, then you are likely turning to food as your main solution for dealing with tension.

These “emotional eating” tendencies are a major component of binge eating. Also, binge eaters often feel that they cannot control the amount of food they eat during these emotional eating episodes. They also feel powerless to stop eating, even when it makes them feel sick. Because binge eating is usually accompanied by feelings of shame, sufferers often eat in secret, and even hide food from others because they feel embarrassed about their level of food intake. But the most common indicator of binge eating is the inability to think about anything other than food.

Even though the disorder is called binge eating, its underlying issues have less to do with food and more to do with how you feel when you eat. A person who suffers from binge eating might act normally during a social situation where food is involved; but when he or she is alone, the pace of eating may increase dramatically. While it is common to be concerned about your weight, binge eaters tend to be more obsessive and desperate when it comes to weight loss and dieting. Binge eaters often do not stop eating when they are “full,” but will continue until they feel uncomfortably “stuffed” or “bloated.” Similarly, these individuals may consume food even when they do not feel hungry. And the concept of “meal time” is frequently unimportant to binge eaters because they eat continuously throughout the day.

However, the most powerful effects associated with binge eating can be found on an emotional level. During and after binge eating episodes, sufferers may feel depression, guilt, embarrassment, or even disgust. Many people even report feeling numb or being on “autopilot” while binging on food. And no matter how much food is consumed, binge eaters may not ever feel satisfied — even when they eat themselves to the point of sickness.

Unlike more high-profile addicts, such as alcoholics or drug abusers, binge eaters cannot practice complete avoidance of their vice. So they must adopt a strategy of learning to change their relationship with food. The first step in that process is to learn about and practice smart eating habits that focus on meeting your nutritional needs instead of your emotional ones. There are a host of sources that can inform you about calorie counts, portion sizes, and nutritional details to help you plan a diet that is healthy and appropriate.

This strategy applies not only to meals, but also to snacks and desserts. However, you should try to avoid fad diets and shortcut weight-loss techniques, because they have the potential to make you hungry or tense and push you back into binge eating.

Once you formulate an eating plan, eliminate the temptation to overeat by throwing out or giving away the unhealthy foods you tend to seek out during binge eating episodes. Then try to find a simple and fun type of exercise that you can perform on a regular basis. Not only will this help you lose weight, but the natural mood-boosting chemicals released during exercise will improve your outlook and reduce stress. In addition to exercise, look for other techniques or activities to lower your stress level, such as reading, meditation, or massage. The less stress you are saddled with, the less likely you are to turn to food to relieve it.

Though medical experts have not yet isolated the root cause of binge eating, physicians have developed strategies and regimens to treat it. So if you are unable to defeat binge eating with lifestyle changes alone, ask your doctor about alternatives. He or she may recommend different types of therapy to help you change your behaviors, identify the triggers associated with binge eating, and learn the skills to defeat them.

There are also support groups and medications that can help with binge eating. Most importantly, you should know that binge eating is not a permanent condition that you have to suffer through. On the contrary, you have the power to take steps to eliminate binge eating and improve your physical and emotional health.

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