Binge Eating: The Underated Eating Disorder
We often think of those with eating disorders are skeletal, emaciated young girls obsessed with starvation and thinness. In reality, eating disorders cover a wide range of demographics, including all genders, sizes and weights.
Arguably the most underestimated, but widely occurring eating disorder is Binge Eating Disorder (BED), which effects and estimated 4 percent of women and 2 percent of men, much more than ‘typical’ eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Even Monica Seles, famed tennis star and top athlete, reveals her struggle with binge eating disorder in her new book, “Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self” shattering the notion binge eaters are all overweight.
Binge eating disorder is classified as consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time, and not feeling in control during the episode. Many people eat to the point of being uncomfortably full, but while unhealthy, this is not enough to constitute binge eating disorder. Those suffering from binge eating disorder will often consume thousands and thousands of calories in one sitting, often not even remembering or tasting what they are eating. Many describe it as “zoning out” or “feeling numb” while eating, and the next thing they know they have cleaned out the kitchen.
Many people say the over weight ‘eat their feelings’ or that ‘food is their best friend’ and in an essence, this is true. To those with binge eating disorder, food is their comfort. The only time a patient can truly feel relaxed is when they are eating, and when they are full, because this is the feeling they equate to calm and satisfied. Then, after that short high is over, the guilt sets in, and those negative feelings start the cycle all over again.
The over weight have a social stigma of being lazy and unmotivated in our society, even though according to the National Center for Health Statistics 66.7 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. They are judged, looked down on and often discriminated against when many of them are suffering from a legitimate disorder. Bulimics, who also suffer from binge eating, but purge afterward either through vomiting or exercise for fear of gaining weight, are seen as legitimate health risks. Often, insurance companies will even pay for treatment of their disorder, while binge eaters, those who do not purge, are written off as just not willing to try to lose weight.
Those who are overweight are not automatically binge eaters, just as all people who are thin do not suffer from bulimia or anorexia. However, the uncontrollable urge to eat to numb and hide one’s self is a very real issue, and deserves as much attention as deprivation eating disorders.
Eating disorders are not about food. Abusing food is a coping mechanism for feelings people can’t or won’t deal with, just like abusing drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder of any kind, please contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).