Medical professionals are still not well-enhanced in treating binge eating disorders. However, about 5% of Americans suffer from it. Episodes of uncontrollable overeating characterize binge eating disorder. People suffering from this condition often feel guilty after bingeing and may also suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It is thought that binge eating disorders are caused by genetics, stress, and poor body image.
This condition is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating. This type of eating occurs when a person consumes significantly more calories than usual, eats until they are uncomfortably full, consumes high-fat, high-sugar, or high-salt foods, or eats during stressful or emotional circumstances. People generally feel out of control during binge episodes. The binge episodes may occur daily, weekly, or monthly.
A person with a binge eating disorder often purges, exercises excessively or restricts food intake to compensate. Weight gain and health complications can result from these behaviors.
What can be behind binge eating?
Risk factors for binge eating include genetics, family history, body image, stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. But let’s see them one by one.
1. Eating disorders that already exist
People who suffer from bulimia or another type of eating disorder may be prone to binge eating because they’re already dealing with emotional issues stemming from their eating disorder.
Those with eating disorders often feel ashamed and guilty after binging, making them more likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. Binge eating is common among people with bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and orthorexia Nervosa (a condition where people obsess over healthy foods).
Orthorexia Nervosa is characterized by extreme concern about diet, nutrition, and excessive exercise. People with this disorder avoid certain types of food, such as gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods. They may also restrict themselves to specific diets, such as veganism, paleo, ketogenic, or raw food diets.
An individual with bulimia frequently binges and then purges through vomiting or laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Bulimics usually experience feelings of shame and guilt after purging, which leads them to continue engaging in these behaviors.
Anorexia nervosa is marked by extreme fear of gaining weight, body dissatisfaction, and restriction of calories consumed. Anorexic women typically starve themselves and purge by taking laxatives, exercising excessively, or using other methods to lose weight.
Anorexia or bulimia treatment focuses on helping patients gain control over their emotions and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Some treatments include individual therapy, group counseling, family counseling, medication, and nutritional counseling.
2. The Age
The prevalence of binge eating in older adults is higher. Many factors contribute to binge eating in the elderly. Many older adults find that eating provides a sense of control in a chaotic world. They may use food to self-soothe or comfort themselves during times of loneliness or sadness. Additionally, certain medications may trigger binge eating episodes.
This does not mean that younger people are unaffected by the condition, as it may progress and lead to its diagnosis later in life, even though symptoms may have begun much sooner.
3. Psychological problems
Several psychological factors can cause binge eating. Some people binge eat to cope with stress. Others binge eat to self-soothe or console themselves. It is also possible for individuals to binge eat due to feelings of being unworthy or low self-esteem. They may also be perfectionists.
There may be many psychological factors involved in binge eating, but some researchers believe serotonin plays a role. The neurotransmitter serotonin regulates moods, sleep cycles, appetite, and sexual behavior.
Despite its natural production, serotonin can deplete due to stress, diet, lack of exercise, anxiety, depression, and some medicines. When this happens, we feel depressed, anxious, or tired.
The depletion of serotonin leads to cravings for sweets and carbohydrates. As a result, we consume many of these foods, resulting in weight gain and guilt.
4. The expectations and norms of society
A growing number of eating disorders are a consequence of societal expectations. Women are especially at risk because of societal pressures to be thin. Men will also experience eating disorders but to a lesser extent.
Eating disorders are not just about weight loss but also body image and self-esteem. People with eating disorders may feel they are not good enough due to their size or shape. If they gain weight, they may feel guilty. As a result, they may overeat or starve themselves.
Some people with eating disorders cleanse or fast to lose weight. Others may engage in other behaviors, such as excessive exercise. And these steps lead to binge eating since the body doesn’t get any pleasure.
5. Following a too strict diet regime
In the long run, strict dieting does not solve any problems. In fact, it can create new problems due to its restrictive nature.
When you’re trying to lose weight, you’re not only depriving yourself of food, but you’re also depriving yourself of pleasure. And, because of that, your body craves comfort foods and treats. So when you rob yourself of eating, you end up feeling deprived and unsatisfied.
This cycle leads to feelings of guilt and shame, which in turn cause you to binge. This vicious cycle is called emotional eating.
Emotional eating happens because we’re programmed to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. We crave sweet, salty, and fatty meals and snacks because they give us instant gratification. Just think about what a great feeling is when we get a big juicy burger after starving for days. It’s never enough to have one. However, these foods are unhealthy. They are high in calories and low in nutrients.
Instead of starving yourself to death, change your lifestyle and the foods you eat. For example, eat small portions of nutritious foods throughout the day, and include more healthy fats and carbs in your diet. And remember that there’s nothing wrong with having occasional treats.
6. An excessive amount of stress
Stress is inevitable. The problem is that when we are stressed out, our bodies release cortisol, causing us to feel uncomfortable and anxious, which leads us to overeat.
Whenever we eat foods that give us immediate pleasure, we tend to eat more than we need. Eventually, we develop the habit of overeating when we consume these foods repeatedly.
Here are some simple techniques you can use instead of eating emotionally:
- Breathe deeply. It is beneficial for your mind and body to take deep breaths to relax.
- Keep your focus on your breath. Through your nose, breathe slowly and deeply.
- Start counting backward from 10. Slower counting makes you breathe deeper.
- Embrace a positive mindset. Having a positive attitude reduces stress and increases happiness.
- Make a smile. When you smile, endorphins are released, which boost your energy and relieve pain.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Keep yourself energized with healthy snacks.
7. Lack of sleep
Sleep deprivation leads to a craving for food because our bodies need the energy to function properly. Adults should sleep 8 hours per night, but most do not get the necessary amount.
During times of fatigue, our bodies release hormones called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin makes us feel hungry, while leptin tells us when we’ve had enough to eat. When we don’t sleep well, these hormones become unbalanced. Those hormones make us crave sugary snacks and caffeine that boosts energy quickly.
Sleep deprivation affects mood as well. Without sleep, we become irritable, anxious, and depressed. These emotions cause us to crave foods that give us energy, such as sugary snacks.
For optimal health, most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Nevertheless, sleep requirements vary from person to person depending on age, health, and lifestyle.
Sleep regulates hormones and the immune system. It also improves our mood, helps us lose weight, and reduces stress.
People often turn to food to fill the void created by boredom.
There are several reasons why people may binge eat when they’re bored. Some may view food as a comfort item and turn to it to alleviate their boredom. Others may eat because they’re looking for something to do or because they’re not sure what else to do with themselves.
A person’s love of food may lead them to turn to eat when they are bored. Binge eating can also be addictive, making it difficult to stop once it has begun.
If you binge eat when you’re bored, you can take steps to address the issue. For example, get a hobby, start exercising or just get a walk.
How to stop binge eating
Those who suffer from binge eating may experience extreme weight gain, emotional distress, and physical discomfort. As a result of this disorder, people may feel ashamed and embarrassed and may also suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social isolation.
If you’re struggling with BE, there are many ways to help yourself overcome this problem. Managing binge eating can be made easier with the following tips.
Be aware of your eating habits
Each individual has a different eating pattern. Many people eat slowly and deliberately, while others eat quickly. Binge triggers can be identified by understanding your eating habits.
Analyze emotional triggers
Emotions play a role in triggering bingeing. For instance, stress, boredom, loneliness, anger, sadness, and frustration are common triggers for binge eating. Keep these emotions at bay whenever possible.
In mindful eating, you pay close attention to your body’s sensations during meals. This practice helps you notice any urges to eat and allows you to respond appropriately instead of automatically reaching for food.
Control your food cravings
Food cravings are strong feelings of hunger that occur suddenly and unexpectedly. These intense desires for specific foods can trigger binge eating. To prevent them, try not to consume certain types of foods, such as sweets, salty snacks, fatty foods, and sugary drinks.
Eat small meals frequently.
The main benefit of frequent small meals is that they keep your metabolism going. Large meals can cause your metabolism to slow down, which can lead to weight gain. They put a lot of strain on your body. You can digest your meals more efficiently when you eat small meals, which also increases your metabolism.
Consuming small meals frequently also prevents you from getting too hungry. Too much time between meals may lead to overeating. By eating smaller meals more often, you will not get as hungry and will be less likely to overeat. Eating small meals frequently also helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
To sum up
If you’re eating junk food or sweets that make you feel guilty, it might be time to step back and figure out why you are doing it. Binge eating has many causes, as you can see. You can use it to cope with stress and fill a void. The problem is that when you overindulge, you take self-control and willpower away from yourself. Binge eating doesn’t solve any problems, but it causes new ones. Instead of giving into cravings, try using healthy coping strategies instead. For example, exercise regularly, talk to someone about your feelings, and work through any issues.