Nutritionist Marcelle Rose debunks misconceptions around binge eating disorder and shares some steps to help overcome it
Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious illness thought to affect one in 50 people. As with any eating disorder, it must be medically diagnosed and there are likely to be many who are overlooked and slip through the net.
People who battle with binge eating tend to be misunderstood – often labelled as greedy, lazy or just lacking willpower. However, this condition is deeply distressing. It is often isolating due to a profound sense of fear and shame. Commonly sufferers experience round the clock preoccupation with food, their eating behaviour and appearance.
The people who I work with describe a binge eating episode as ‘trance like’, feeling out of control, not being able to stop until they are uncomfortably full. The food does not bring them joy, in fact, an episode is followed by intense feelings of guilt, remorse and self-disgust. Then there are the relentless obsessional thoughts that follow – it is exhausting, all-consuming and there’s often no headspace left for anything else.
A set of strict criteria must be met in order to diagnose BED, however, it’s important to note that all binge eaters experience a great deal of distress and feelings of shame whether they meet the diagnostic criteria for BED, or not.
These are some of the signs and symptoms that may lead to a BED diagnosis:
- Regular episodes of eating significantly more food than most people would eat in a short period of time.
- Feeling out of control of how much or what is being eaten.
- Eating much faster than normal.
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
- Eating alone because of the shame surrounding the amount eaten.
- Feeling distressed, disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating.
If binge eating is something you battle with, you are not alone and there is support available.
Diving into the next diet is not the answer. It is about so much more than what you are eating and there are a number of contributing factors – physiological, emotional, psychological and behavioural – that will need addressing. Here are some critical considerations to help you move forward:
1. Food restriction often leads to bingeing
Instead of cutting calories or food groups, focus on including an abundance of varied whole foods in your diet. Think about balance – including protein, slow-releasing carbs, natural fats and plenty of veg to help regulate your blood sugar and prevent the physiological impact of cravings.
2. Self-compassion is key
Despising yourself and your body will only work against your desire to change it. Have you noticed how you talk to yourself? Many of the thoughts you have are unconscious, so it’s important to begin by noticing when unhelpful thoughts arise and write them down. Ordinarily automatic ‘bad body’ thoughts and ‘all or nothing’ thinking about what you have eaten, leads to bingeing behaviour. When you have a harmful thought, what could you say to yourself instead that would be more helpful?
3. Be aware of your triggers
Notice what triggers these unhelpful thoughts. Perhaps it’s a specific situation, place, conversation, or person. Frequently, comments about dieting and weight from those nearest and dearest are the unintentional source. When we are able to observe these patterns without judgement, we can begin the process of breaking behaviour chains and creating different outcomes.
If you are struggling with your eating, don’t face it alone. It is possible to find food freedom and establish balance in your mind and your life. Working with a specialist practitioner who has training in eating disorders and body image can undoubtedly help you make long-lasting transformational change.
Marcelle is on a mission to help women make peace with their body and heal their relationship with food so they can reclaim their life. She created this free resource to support you on your journey to dismantle your diet mindset and begin the process of breaking free from dieting emotional eating and bingeing.
Please also join Marcelle in The FOOD FREEDOM COLLECTIVE free Facebook community, a safe place where you can feel supported without judgement. Marcelle shares live coaching videos in the group each week, in addition to daily food ideas, strategies and motivation.
Find a nutrition professional to support your recovery on Nutritionist Resource.