Are You a Binge Eater?

How do you know if you have “normal” eating habits? Doesn’t everyone overeat on occasion? A few unusual habits do not make an eating disorder, so here are a few ways to tell if your behaviors cross the line into binge eating disorder.

How Much You Eat

No one can dictate precisely how much you should eat to fall within the �normal� category. What matters is if you eat a larger amount of food than most people would in a short period of time. Has this become a regular pattern for you where it occurs at least a couple days a week? Other indicators of binge eating include eating rapidly, eating when you�re not hungry or until uncomfortably full, hiding food, eating all day long or frequently eating alone.

Your Feelings About Food

Even more important than how much or how often you eat is how you feel when you eat. People with binge eating disorder often report feeling out of control when overeating or eating to relieve painful emotions. During a binge, eating may be quite pleasurable or numbing. After a binge, people often feel intense disgust, embarrassment or shame, which may drive them to binge again.

Note that there is no mention of weight in the symptoms of binge eating disorder. While many binge eaters are overweight, some maintain a normal weight. It is common to go on diets to compensate for binges, sometimes resulting in dramatic fluctuations in weight.

Combating Binge Eating

In addition to counseling and other forms of treatment, there are steps you can take to combat binge eating:

Don�t Diet. Have you tried every diet in the book? Instead of depriving yourself or labeling certain foods as �bad,� follow sensible guidelines such as eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while minimizing your intake of processed foods (foods that come in bags or boxes). Don�t try to lose weight without first addressing your binge eating patterns.

Practice Mindful Eating. To protect against emotional eating, take a few quiet moments before each meal and pay attention to what you are eating; how the food looks, tastes, smells and how you feel as you eat it. If you�re not really hungry, try to manage your emotions through music, taking a walk, talking with a friend or other activities.

Manage Stress. Stress perpetuates the cycle of binge eating. Next time you’re feeling frazzled, try yoga, exercise, acupuncture, massage, meditation or other natural approaches to feel better.

Think Health. Like much of the rest of our society, binge eaters often believe that to be desirable and worthy, they must be thin. As a result, binge eaters may have difficulty feeling good about themselves even after reaching a healthy weight. Instead of meeting someone else’s ideal of beauty, work on treating your body well and appreciating it for all it does for you.

Exercise Regularly. You may feel that exercise just isn’t for you, but there’s some form of physical activity that is right for everyone. Our bodies were built to move in order to stay healthy as well as boost your mood and energy. Experiment with different types of exercise until you find one you enjoy.

Binge eating is not a problem to be taken lightly. Left untreated, it can lead to serious health issues such as diabetes, heart disease along with certain types of cancer and often occurs alongside depression, anxiety as well as substance abuse. If your eating is out of control, talk to your doctor or therapist and take back your life.

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Dr. Carolyn Ross is an internationally known physician, author and speaker on addictions, obesity and eating disorders. She serves as a consultant to The Ranchâ��s eating disorder treatment program in Tennessee, maintains a private practice in Denver, is the author of The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook: An Integrated Approach to Overcoming Disordered Eating as well as The Joy of Eating Well and also hosts a weekly radio show, The Vital Life. 

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