Binge eating is very common. About one in 35 adults in the U.S. deal with binge eating disorder, making it more common than anorexia or bulimia nervosa (Bulik, 2009). Both stress and deprivation lead to binge eating, but it is important to identify your specific, personal triggers that lead to that urge to eat that feels out of control and difficult to satisfy. Many people fall into cycles of depriving themselves of food through a diet or other weight-loss attempt only to set themselves up to binge eat later. When your body becomes over-hungry, it is more difficult for it to transmit the message to your brain that you are full.
So, if binge eating is a problem for you or someone you know, what can you do about it?
- Identify the details of your personal patterns- write down your eating patterns and notice when and where binge eating behaviors commonly take place.
- Ask yourself what purpose(s) your bingeing behavior fulfills. For example, does it provide comfort, relieve boredom, and/or help you avoid painful emotions?
- Understand that there are more effective ways to address the needs that bingeing seems to fulfill. For example, if you want comfort, call a supportive friend or family member. If you want relaxation/escape, try taking a bath, getting a massage, or listening to your favorite music. This part may take a lot of trial and error to find out specifically what works for you. Perseverance is needed!
- Establish positive health habits, such as eating breakfast regularly, incorporating enjoyable movement into your life, and eating mindfully (slowly, perceptively, at a table, and while fully experiencing texture, smells and tastes).
Accept that binge eating is a behavior, and there is mounting evidence to support that full recovery from eating disordered behaviors is an achievable goal.