Most people are aware of the dangers of obesity – how it affects the health and the self-image of many children, teens, and adults. Something, however, that not everyone is familiar with is the threat of binge eating disorder (BED), an eating problem that is quietly disrupting the lives of many people today.
Three Hypothetical Examples
Oftentimes BED begins in adolescence or as a young adult, as many young people’s coping mechanisms may not be so strong. This is why parents and guardians should be keen to observe their loved ones.
Gladys is a 17-year-old student who is popular in school. Her grades are usually high, which her parents are very proud of, and she is the captain of the debate team and a budding artist. She is also quite physically active outside of school, often found hiking in the woods or riding her bike on the weekends.
However, something her close friends and other loved ones are not aware of is the pressure that she feels as graduation approaches. Her teachers, parents, and friends all believe that she will change the world someday, so they repeatedly encourage her to aim for law school, medicine, or engineering.
But she just wants a simple life as a preschool teacher, teaching art on the side. All of this pressure has caused her to seek comfort in cake and candies, which she consumes regularly at home. Though it is not that noticeable, as she is seemingly fit due to her many activities; she knows that the calories will eventually catch up. She eats as an escape, believing it is the safest way to handle the pressure.
Billy is a 24-year-old computer programmer who has difficulty socializing. Though he is well-regarded in the workplace as a colleague you can count on to get the job done, he chooses not to join the after-office activities, preferring to go home to rest or just surf online. Part of this reluctance to be with others is his weight, which he has been struggling with for years.
Though he can converse with the ladies, when needed, he doesn’t believe any of them are interested in him so he chooses just to be by himself. In his mind, trying to become romantically closer will just shatter his already delicate view of himself – especially if his attempts are rejected outright or if his crush chooses one of his friends instead, so it is better to accept reality and keep to himself.
Something that has given him comfort is food, particularly ice cream and pizza. When the monthly deadlines approach or when he feels lonelier than usual, he purchases enough for a party of four and finishes them in one sitting. Though he regrets his actions in the morning, it is the only thing he can think of to get him through the difficult times.
Ana is a 45-year-old accountant who has been having difficulty recovering from her breakup with her long-time boyfriend. Though it has been a year, her disappointment, age, and pressure from others have been weighing down on her. Because she thinks love for her is now out of reach, she no longer cares about dieting or exercising.
While others may resort to alcohol, Ana is wiser than that and has opted to seek out burgers, fries, and sundaes to comfort her during her down times – which are quite often. Her friends have been badgering her about this, stating that there is still hope for romance or that she should stay healthy for her own sake.
Because of such unsolicited advice, she has withdrawn from former activities, preferring to be alone, particularly when she wants to eat. Besides, eating at home allows her to order different burgers from all her favorite fast food joints to satisfy her cravings. Sadly, this still does not bring her joy as she regrets eating so much afterwards. But as this is her new lot in life, she finds herself looking forward to her next binge.
Knowing More about Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
Although many people do seek out comfort food in times of stress, and many more overeat, not all of them are classified as binge eaters. According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), certain criteria should be met for a person to be diagnosed with BED.
A food binge is more than just eating lots of food. To be classified as a binge, there should be three or more of the following criteria:
- Eating a lot even though one is not hungry;
- Eating much faster than usual;
- Eating until one is uncomfortably full;
- Eating alone due to embarrassment of the amount of food consumed; or
- Feeling depressed or guilty after the binge.
Diagnosis for BED
For a person to be diagnosed with BED, the person must:
- Regularly eat more food than a normal person would eat at a single sitting;
- Have recurring episodes of bingeing (at least once a week for three months or more); and
- Feel distressed about their binge eating situation.
Additionally, those with BED usually try not to prevent weight gain. So they usually do not over-exercise, fast, or try to vomit their food. Hence, those with BED are often overweight.
BED Symptoms to Watch for
Determining whether someone is dealing with Binge Eating Disorder can be challenging as not everyone who has BED is overweight, and not all who are overweight have BED. The following are some signs to watch out for in oneself or in loved ones:
- Continuous eating even if already full;
- The disappearance of food at home, hoarding of food, or the presence of many empty wrappers;
- Eats faster than normal, with feelings of not being in control of oneself;
- Obsession with food and other odd mealtime behavior (e.g. irregular eating times);
- Physical changes and problems (e.g. fluctuation of weight, gastrointestinal problems);
- Preference to eat alone or not in full view of others;
- Regular feelings of being bloated or constipated; and
- Withdrawal from other people (isolation) and lack of interest in former fun, social activities.
Related Dangers of BED
Since BED is usually triggered because of emotional issues in life, those with BED may also be suffering from other disorders, which is why it is important for a trained counselor to assess them. Some possible mental or emotional issues include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, and trauma. Substance abuse is another possibility.
Medically, binge eating disorder can lead to many health problems. These include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, muscle, and joint pains, gastrointestinal issues, and obesity.
Similar to other mental health disorders, BED is very treatable once a person has been referred to trained professionals. Since there may be health complications, both a therapist and a physician ought to evaluate the person – the former to diagnose if there is BED and other mental complications, the latter for any effects on their physical health. The person may also be referred to a dietician so that they may learn more about the nutritional needs of their body.
If BED is present, there are a number of treatments possible to help the person. One of these is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), where the BED sufferer is taught to understand how their negative thinking and feelings are affecting their eating behavior. Once understood, strategies will then be taught to counteract such negativity with positive thoughts and actions.
Another option is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Here, the sufferer of BED learns how to deal with their intense feelings so that their emotions normalize. Aside from individual activities, DBT employs group activities as well.
One other treatment is Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IP). In this treatment form, the person is asked to delve deep into their relationships to see how conflict, disappointment, or loss has affected their view of themselves. These, as well as any other possible underlying components, are dealt with so that the person may overcome their unhealthy infatuation with food.
Christian Counseling for Binge Eating Disorder
Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe one with rags. – Proverbs 23:20-21
While secular treatment can be helpful for BED, whenever possible, it is recommended to seek Christian Counseling for one’s binge eating disorder. Similar to secular therapy, the Christian counselor will also use the latest psychotherapy techniques for the sufferer to understand how their negative thinking is affecting their eating habits. They will then be given activities to address their negativity and deal with their emotions but most importantly, the faith-based counselor will introduce the sufferer to our Great Healer, God.
Anger or disappointment in oneself runs deep, often affecting a person’s view on life and their relationship with God. If this scar on their soul is not addressed, then it is possible that future setbacks will cause them to regress, causing them to binge eat once more.
In Christian counseling, the sufferer’s understanding of God and relationship with Him will be strengthened through intense prayer, meditation on Scripture, and other spiritually-related activities. If there are questions or doubts about faith, these too will be addressed. Once the sufferer’s relationship with God has been reconciled, then true healing can occur.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is dealing with binge eating disorder, seek assistance soon. This cycle of eating to compensate for negative thoughts can be beaten once God is involved.
“Lunch,” courtesy of Jakob Owens, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Contemplation”, Courtesy of Strecosa, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Fast Food Lunch”, Courtesy of Christopher Flowers, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Quote”, Courtesy of Hello I’m Nik, Unsplash.com, CC0 License