Binge Eating and Its Effects on Your Health

binge-eatingBinge eating, formally known as binge eating disorder, is the most common eating disorder in the United States according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

BED should not be confused with bulimia, a separate eating disorder that involves binging followed by purging, inducing vomiting or taking laxatives to counter the binge.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by frequent episodes of quickly eating large amounts of food. During the actual binge, the person with BED feels out of control, then experiences intense feelings of distress, guilt and shame. Those who suffer from BED often keep the disorder secret from their family and friends because they’re embarrassed. Binge eating disorder can be a severe and life-threatening disease that requires professional help.

Binging may be triggered by certain foods, most often trigger foods are high in sugar, fat or both. Common binge foods include ice cream, cookies, chocolate, milkshakes, chips, pasta or peanut butter and jelly. It would be difficult to find someone who binges on broccoli or kale.

The specific causes of binge eating disorder remain unknown. Several factors have been shown to increase the likelihood of developing BED including:

Family history:  People are more likely to develop an eating disorder if someone in their family has one or has had one in the past.

Mental health disorders. BED is closely linked with depression and personality disorders. 

Emotional problems. People with binge eating disorder have difficulty coping with stress, anger, boredom and worry leading to binging episodes.

History of dieting. People with BED often diet regularly and have been doing so since childhood. Calorie restriction or restricting foods often precede binging episodes.

Food issues. A history of painful childhood experiences with food and dieting may also cause BED. Being mocked about their weight when they were children increases the risk of BED later in life.

Physical or emotional trauma. Physical or emotional abuse, comments about their weight, and fear for their safety are more likely to develop BED. Those who experience stress at work, at home and in personal relationships are also at risk.

Effects of Binge Eating

Short-term effects of BED are primarily emotional and psychological include shame, guilt, anxiety, fatigue, depression and weight gain.

Many of the long-term effects of BED are associated with obesity including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, chronic joint pain and sleep apnea.

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