Dec
06
2010

The Challenges of Overcoming Binge Eating

Binge eating is a disorder that affects about four million Americans. Because there is much more to overcoming binge eating than curtailing food intake, physicians and psychologists have developed treatments and strategies to help sufferers control their addiction to food. However, as with any treatment program, there are quite a few pitfalls to watch out for that may slow the process of overcoming binge eating. Here are some of the major challenges:

Hunger

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s arguably the most dangerous obstacle. Though binge eating is an addiction, it must be treated differently from more common addictions like alcoholism and drug abuse, where the main focus is on avoiding the addictive behavior. Since the process of eating cannot be eliminated from one’s life, it presents an ongoing challenge for the binge eater. The best way to avoid hunger is to embrace habits to achieve that goal, such as eating a healthy breakfast daily and consuming several smaller meals more frequently rather than two or three large meals in a day.

Temptation

Whenever a person’s favorite “binge eating foods” are around, there is a chance that the binge eater will backslide. So the simplest solution is to avoid buying these specific items. If these foods are already in the home, throw them out or give them away. In addition, it is a good idea to keep less food on hand in general. Not only does this lower the chances that the binge eater will overeat, but also requires more trips to the grocery store – which helps overcome the following two obstacles on this list.

Isolation

Whenever binge eaters are alone and/or bored, it presents the opportunity for them to turn to food to try to fill the void. So it’s a good idea to for binge eating sufferers to augment their social schedules. Planning even simple activities like visiting a neighbor, calling a friend, or sitting in a park can help people feel connected to others and stem feelings of loneliness and depression.

Inertia

An exercise regimen is a healthy lifestyle choice for everyone, whether or not they suffer from binge eating disorder. Exercise not only helps keep the body fit, but also releases mood-improving chemicals that help relieve stress. Even if it is not possible to engage in a traditional exercise activity, simple behaviors like yard work, cleaning, shopping, or strolling down the block can help quash the temptation to eat while remaining sedentary.

Stress

Like hunger, stress cannot be avoided entirely in one’s life. Since a binge eater is likely to hide from stress by turning to food, it is important to develop a few different stress-management methods. Techniques such as reading, venting to friends, meditation, and breathing exercises have been shown to lower stress levels, thus eliminating another trigger for binge eaters.

Jokes or Disparaging Comments

This obstacle is often overlooked when treating binge eating. Because sufferers usually have self-esteem or self-image issues, a single scornful remark from an acquaintance, a joke from a friend, or even a well-meaning statement from a loved one has the potential to trigger a binge eating episode and the shame and self-loathing that come with it. If possible, binge eaters should try to avoid situations, social circles, or people who may make these types of comments. If this is not possible, binge eaters must learn various strategies to deal with critical input. Therapists can usually help in developing these strategies.

Media Overexposure

It’s hard to open a magazine or turn on a television without seeing overly-skinny celebrities and models. Paying too much attention to these atypically thin body types can elicit feelings of decreased self-worth and depression, which can result in binge eating. To prevent this, it may be necessary to stop or curtail activities such as reading fashion magazines, watching “infotainment” TV shows, or viewing music videos in order to keep these negative feelings from bubbling to the surface.

Skipping Medications

If a binge eater is taking a prescription to help combat the symptoms associated with the disorder, it stands to reason that failing to follow a consistent drug regimen may lead to regression in the battle to overcome binge eating.

Depression Triggers

Since about half of all binge eaters experience some form of depression, it’s easy to see how situations that cause even mild depression, such as cloudy days, arguments, and sad movies, may also initiate an episode of binge eating.

Alcohol or Drugs

The act of overindulging in these two vices is usually a simple case of a binge eater transferring his or her feelings of guilt and low self-esteem from one unhealthy behavior to another. Plus, both alcohol and drugs can increase appetite, which may prod a binge eater to consume more food.

Weight Loss Plans

This may seem counterintuitive, but these types of programs are usually not a good idea for a binge eater. The restrictive nature of a diet program can lead to stress and hunger, which can boil over into episodes of binge eating and the accompanying feelings of shame and guilt. The best approach is to address the problems associated with binge eating specifically, and the weight loss should follow naturally.

Binge eaters should also consult with their doctors to determine methods that pertain to their individual situations. And it’s always a good idea to have a support system of family and friends to lean on in the quest to overcome this difficult disorder. But always remember: identifying the pitfalls on the road to overcoming binge eating is at least half the battle in achieving that goal.

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