Binge eating is defined simply as frequently consuming unusually large amounts of food in one sitting. Binge eating disorder (BED) is considered to be one of the most common feeding and eating disorders. It is a recognized psychological condition. This means that people with the disorder will likely need a treatment plan designed by a medical professional to overcome it.
People who are diagnosed with BED experience episodes of eating unusually large amounts, even when they’re not hungry. After an episode, they may feel a strong sense of guilt or shame.
Regular binge episodes can lead to weight gain, which can contribute to health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Recovery from binge eating disorder (BED) doesn’t happen all at once. You’ll feel like you have to binge while you recover. You may even relapse. As time goes by, urges will come less often and they may be less demanding.
Through treatment, you can learn to manage those strong feelings. When they do happen, you’ll learn how to handle them.
Tips to avoid binge eating
- Avoid diets: Fad diets can often be very unhealthy, and studies show that overly restrictive eating methods may trigger episodes of binge eating. For example, one study in 496 adolescent girls found that fasting was associated with a higher risk of binge eating. Similarly, another study in 103 women noticed that abstaining from certain foods resulted in increased cravings and a higher risk of overeating. Instead of following diets that focus on cutting out entire food groups or significantly slashing calorie intake to lose weight quickly, focus on making healthy changes. Eat more whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and moderate your intake of treats rather than excluding them from your diet altogether. This can help reduce binge eating and promote better health.
- Avoid skipping meals: Skipping meals can cause blood sugar to drop, which prompts the body to crave a quick boost of sugar in the form of white bread, candy, or other simple carbohydrates. Eating these foods can raise blood sugar levels, but they tend to crash again quickly, causing the cycle to continue. To avoid this situation, people can plan a regular schedule of meals and snacks and focus on nutritious foods. One study links eating three meals and two or three planned snacks daily with a lower frequency of binge eating episodes.
- Drink plenty of water: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a simple yet effective way to curb cravings and stop overeating. In fact, studies show that increasing water intake could be linked to decreased hunger and calorie intake. For example, one study in 24 older adults found that drinking 500 ml of water before eating a meal decreased the number of calories consumed by 13%, compared with a control group. Similarly, another study in older adults showed that drinking 375–500 ml of water 30 minutes before a meal significantly decreased hunger and calorie intake while increasing feelings of fullness during the day. Other studies indicate that drinking more water can boost metabolism and weight loss. The amount of water each person should drink daily depends on various factors. Thus, it’s best to listen to your body and drink when you feel thirsty to ensure you’re staying well hydrated.
- Identify triggers of binge eating: People often binge eat in response to loneliness, boredom, sadness, or other triggers. Identifying these triggers can help people avoid or manage them, reducing the likelihood of binge eating. Keeping a food diary allows people to track what they eat and how they feel at the time. Once someone has identified their triggers, they can take steps to address them. For example, if boredom is the cause, people can try distracting themselves with an activity, such as exercising, reading, or meeting friends. There is a strong link between binge eating and low self-esteem. If a low sense of self-worth is a trigger for people, they may wish to consider seeing a therapist.
- Exercising: Regularly working out may help prevent binge eating because exercise causes the body to release endorphins that boost the mood. A better mood may reduce the risk of emotional eating, which is when people consume unhealthful foods or large amounts of food in response to stress, sadness, or anger. Research suggests that exercise can decrease stress levels and enhance mood to prevent emotional eating. Walking, running, swimming, biking, and playing sports are just a few different forms of physical activity that can help relieve stress and reduce binge eating. Yoga is a practice that incorporates both the body and mind by using specific breathing exercises, poses, and meditation to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.vStudies indicate that yoga can help encourage healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of emotional eating.
Treatments for binge eating disorder
Treatment for binge eating disorder aims to reduce binge eating episodes and replace them with positive eating behaviors and a more balanced attitude to food.
Treatments may include:
- lifestyle changes
Typically, psychotherapy helps people address the emotions and issues that underlie binge eating, including shame, guilt, depression, and low self-esteem.
Therapy can also help people identify and address other triggers, deal with problematic relationships, and regulate their emotions.
A doctor may prescribe various medications for binge eating disorder, including anticonvulsant medications and antidepressants.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication for the treatment of moderate-to-severe binge eating disorder in adults. The drug is called lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse).
If a person with binge eating disorder is overweight, weight loss programs may help them achieve a healthy weight.
NOTE: The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.