Binge eating is one of the hardest things a woman can deal with, and certain facts about binge eating are some I think every woman should be aware of, in case she ever finds herself caught in the trenches of its grasp. Like something that takes over you like nothing else, binge eating can steal more than just a healthy weight from you. It can rip apart your self esteem, create a vicious cycle inside of you and be embarrassing to get help with. Aside from those side effects, as if they aren’t enough, please be aware of these other 11 facts about binge eating that you might not know. I hope by sharing these you’ll see that bingeing is more than about just craving junk. It’s about craving something in life that food seems to quell momentarily.
1. It Affects 5% or More
Up to 5% of Americans are diagnosed with binge eating disorder (BED). One of the most unknown facts about binge eating disorder is that it actually affects many more people who are never diagnosed or don't even know they have a problem.
2. Women Are a Target
Most BED cases affect women, though some men do suffer. Women struggle with so many financial, career oriented and family driven stresses that we start to take it out in the comfort of food. Food soothes us when nothing else will. Food quells a desire in us we might be missing elsewhere, and yet it’s one of the most shameful things for any of us to admit.
3. It’s Addicting
Bingeing is one of the most addictive eating disorders to ever exist, even more than anorexia. Why? Bingeing creates a chemical response in the brain that makes us feel high, exactly like drugs do in a drug addict. Our brain gets a rush of the neurotransmitter dopamine, and over time we develop a dopamine addiction, where we need more and more to get the same heightened response. Sugar and fat are the quickest sources of dopamine we can eat, along with low fiber and high starchy carbs like bread, pasta, etc. Most people with a binge eating problem eat mostly sources of sugar, fat and starchy foods, even if they’re healthy, to get that dopamine rush. In order to feel happy, a binge eater has to eat more and more to get that high, or they suffer from a low mood.
4. It Isn’t the Same as Bulimia
Most bulimics do binge, but they also purge. There is a difference between binge eating and bulimia that most people don’t know, which is purging. Binge eaters simply eat, they don’t purge, but it's just as dangerous as purging is, simply in different ways. Bingeing and bulimia can both cause heart issues, weight problems, self esteem issues and even early death if it’s serious enough.
5. It is Possible to Beat
The good news is, binge eating is possible to beat. No, there’s no magic cure, just hard work, dedication to heal, therapy and finding what it is in life that’s the real issue at hand. Food is just the bandaid. To heal you’ve got to decide what the wound is and how to properly help it heal, not cover it up with the food bandaid.
6. It Can Occur after Anorexia
A large number of women recovering from anorexia actually suffer from binge eating, and they become not only ashamed, but often try to revert back to anorexia to feel safe again. This is an issue that hasn’t been spoken about much, but that has affected almost every girl I know on a personal, or virtual level, who’s recovering from anorexia. It isn’t quite understood why yet through medical research, but there is evidence of this occurring more now. I hope to hear more about this issue, since I’m pretty vocal that I used to suffer from this same issue.
7. It’s Not about Junk Food
As I mentioned, a person doesn’t necessarily binge on junk food, but also healthy foods in some cases. Many people recovering from anorexia or bulimia that turn to bingeing might overdo it on healthy sources of fat and sugar like nuts, cereals, granola, oatmeal, fruit and nut bars, nut butters, frozen or fresh yogurt, dried fruit, fresh fruit, etc. It sounds crazy, but some people even binge on veggies, myself included. Eating more than a few servings of any of these foods isn’t normal, and is a sign there is not only a nutritional deficiency, but also a problem with bingeing. The problem with bingeing isn’t the calorie content of the food, but the mindset behind why someone isn’t satisfied with one or two servings.
8. It’s Done in Private
Most all bingeing is done in private, never in front of others. Often, a person’s binge time is their only time to soothe stress or get relief. They’re also ashamed and seek to do this in private to keep others from knowing what they’re doing.
9. It’s Very Fast
Binge eating is done very fast, and not taken in normal, slow bites, savoring and appreciating food, and then allowing yourself time to stop to feel full. Bingeing involves going back quickly, serving after serving, never giving the body time to signify that it is full and satisfied.
10. It Feels out of Control
When you’re in the middle of a binge, you not only don’t want to be in control, but you lack almost all sense that you still have control. Most people binge to relieve stress, releasing the need for control. This can actually be caused by trying to be too controlling over your diet, life or calorie intake. It can also come from losing control in another area of your life. Your life might feel out of control, so you binge out of control. Bingeing feels like you’re under a spell and unable to stop, but I promise you that you are. The first step is telling yourself no and really taking some hard time to be with yourself, alone, without food, to think and make healthier choices.
11. It’s Due to a Lack of Nutrition and from Stress
If you diet all day, bingeing is one thing that will most likely occur as a result. Your body is begging you to eat more, and you ignore it and ignore it, whether through a low calorie diet or one without the right nutrients. At the end of the day, you’re tired, and your body is literally throwing out red flags everywhere, begging you to eat. Then, the binge happens. Or, perhaps stress has caused your hormones to think you’re hungry, so you go and reach for food after food after food to soothe stress and get those hormones back to an even keel. This used to happen to me when I worked at a job I literally hated. I’d come home such a wreck that I’d shove 4 or 5 “health bars” down my face, and then realize what I had done. Don’t eat out of stress when you’re really just needing to relax. Go for a walk, have a cup of tea and talk to someone. I even started a meditation and yoga practice after my old job, and it was one of the best things I did, along with eating all throughout the day, full of healthy, nutritional foods. Don’t go without food and don’t give into stress through food. You deserve better!
I know binge eating can be so difficult to overcome, but I promise it’s possible. Take it from a girl who’s binged on everything from fat-free Cool Whip, Chips Ahoy cookies, Pop-Tarts, broccoli, almond butter and Larabars. Bingeing doesn’t make you worthless, and no matter how long it's affected you, it is possible to overcome it. I’m proud to say it no longer rules my life, and instead fuels my passion for advocacy and recovery for all eating disorders. Have you ever struggled with bingeing, or do you have any advice for others?