Binge eating is a disorder that can lead to poor health and emotional issues. Some of the symptoms include gorging on large amounts of food in a short period of time, continuing to eat when full, and the inability to control eating habits. Psychological issues can arise from guilt related to weight gain, hiding food, and embarrassment over gorging. www.helpguide.org lists some specific behavioral and emotional symptoms of compulsive overeating that include:
Behavioral symptoms of binge eating and compulsive overeating
- Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating
- Rapidly eating large amounts of food
- Eating even when you’re full
- Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
- Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
- Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes
- Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating
- Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
- Feeling numb while bingeing—like you’re not really there or you’re on auto-pilot.
- Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
- Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
- Desperation to control weight and eating habits
Binge eating can lead to social isolation, anxiety related to meals, and many health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Prevention Magazine reports,
“Binge eating is a psychological disorder that usually has much deeper roots than a simple food craving,” says Mary Ellen Sweeney, MD, obesity researcher at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
“Binge eating is literally stuffing feelings down,” says Mary Froning, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC. As long as we’re eating, we don’t have to deal with feelings such as anger, anxiety, or depression, say doctors.”
Try these 10 steps to help you overcome binge eating:
- Consider listening to positive affirmations daily related to overeating and self-control.
- Make a point to eat something healthy at the beginning of each meal. Try a smoothie, juice, or glass of water before meals and a binge. If you have additional cravings for something processed or junk food afterwards, allow yourself to eat it without guilt. However, make an effort to eat it slowly, focusing on mindful eating by enjoying each bite and savoring the taste of the food.
- Set a timer to extend your meal time to 20 minutes. Practice drinking fluids in between bites and counting how many times you chew each bite.
- Don’t stock unhealthy items in your home. Therefore, it will require more effort to leave your home to go purchase the binge food. If you give into a craving, buy small portions. For example, if you have a strong desire for ice cream, buy a pint rather than a half-gallon.
- Stop dieting and avoid starving yourself throughout the day. Get in the habit of eating regular meals and try to balance each meal with protein and healthy fat. Healthy fats such as walnuts, coconut oil, and avocado help fill you up and stabilize your blood sugar.
- Lose the all or nothing attitude. If you binge, learn to accept it and consider starting a journal to jot down your feelings. Did something happen at work? Are you anxious or stressed for some reason? Learn to detect behavioral patterns and determine ways to alleviate stress before it builds and becomes overwhelming. Perhaps take a walk outside or call a friend or loved one.
- Make a list of what you can do to improve your health and consider adding one item on the list each month. Make sure each item on the list is doable and something you feel strongly you can achieve. Examples can include: I will eat breakfast every morning for the next 30 days, I will eat a green food item with one meal each day, I will try to get at least 6 hours of sleep each night.
- Treat yourself once a month by doing something non food related that you enjoy. It can be as simple as going to a movie with a friend or buying yourself something nice such as a massage or new clothes.
- Consider getting a physical and a comprehensive blood workup to look at any deficiencies or medical issues. It may be helpful to start a multi-vitamin to help ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis. Always check with your doctor before starting any vitamins or supplements.
- Therapy can help disclose and work through hidden issues that may be causing emotional turmoil and overeating. Many therapists are covered by insurance and now offer online therapy in the privacy of your own home. Other options include self-help books and group therapy.