Marie was the perfect graduate student. She was finishing her final year with a 4.0 and a resume chocked full of achievements and honors. Still, at the end of a successful day in academia, she’d lock the door to her apartment and retreat to the comfort of her kitchen. Alone, she’d hurriedly consume thousands of calories – chips, ice cream, and fast food, whatever was available. She’d eat until she felt sick. She knew this was not healthy, especially since she felt so guilty and down afterwards. Still, she wasn’t sure she could stop.
Paul worked at the best pizza place in town. Before each shift, he’d promise himself that “today was a new day.” He decided (again) that he would try bringing his lunch to work. As he packed a turkey sandwich, a small bag of chips, and an apple, he thought about how he wanted to feel healthier and how bringing his lunch would help him save a little money, too. Later that night, after the dinner rush, his manager sent him on his break. But he didn’t eat the lunch he packed. After a whole pizza, a big piece of chocolate cake, and a couple wings, he felt so full it was difficult to go back to work. His coworkers never said anything, but he wondered if they noticed how out of control he felt.
Lindsay hated her job. She suffered through most of her eight hours day-dreaming on the internet – ogling job postings at various recruiting sites or lamenting how she didn’t live up to her friends’ success that she saw on the social networks. Most mornings she’d stop at the coffee shop around the corner for a large sugary latte and an oversized muffin or danish. She’d eat hurriedly in the car, and be sure to never bring any of it in to work. At lunch, she’d eat only a salad or something light, but couldn’t wait to get home. She’d order take-out most evenings, always asking for several packets of plastic ware or making up references to her “family” or “we” hoping they didn’t know all the food was just for her. During the day, the thought of food was the only thing she looked forward to. Still, for reasons she couldn’t quite explain, she always ended up feeling worse after she ate. She hated feeling this way, but had no idea how to stop.
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Once you feel full, do you often continue to eat? Do you feel you have no control when it comes to food? Do you often feel bad about yourself after eating? If you answered yes to these questions, you could have Binge Eating Disorder. Women and men who are experiencing Binge Eating Disorder often feel shame and/or dissatisfaction with the amount of food they eat, what they eat, their body weight, or their size.
You Aren’t Alone
Change, Inc. Nashville Counseling can help! But in today’s food-centered culture, it can be easy to miss the signs and symptoms of binge eating. Yet, it’s a common eating disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates that about 3% of adults (that’s 1 in every 35) in the U.S. meets the diagnostic criteria for Binge Eating Disorder. That’s approximately 8 million people who are struggling with binge eating right now. Binge eating is common in men and women, and found equally in Hispanics, Caucasians, and African Americans.
What does a binge look like?
Binges commonly occur in secret. A typical binge includes a large amount of food that is consumed quickly, and this consumption is accompanied by strong feelings of shame and a loss of control. There is no magic quantity of food or length of a binge – this varies by person and context.
For some, binges may last for 2-3 hours or may occur sporadically over the course of the day. Often, food is consumed so hurriedly that the individual is not connected to the full experience, taste, or sensation of the food they are consuming. After bingeing, it’s common to experience feeling of shame, disgust, depression, or hopelessness. Other common signs of a binge include eating in secret, hiding food or evidence of food, and desperate feelings of needing to diet and lose weight.
Is Binge Eating Disorder the same as Bulimia?
While Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia have some commonalities, they are distinctly different. While Bulimia often involves binging, it also includes some kind of purging. Methods of purging may include vomiting, laxatives, and excessive exercise. Men and women with Binge Eating Disorder do not purge, though they may plan or attempt strict diets to try and lose weight.
Individuals who experience binge eating also often experience a negative body image and seek food as a way to deal with stress. However, they aren’t necessarily overweight. In fact, individuals with this disorder could be of any size or weight..
How do I find relief?
With help from Change, Inc. Nashville Counseling, you can quit binging and learn to experience food in a new way. You can learn, through counseling, how to create a normal and healthy relationship with food. Counseling can help you make sense of not only what triggers your binge eating, but what lies at the heart of the problem. We’ll help you gather and create the tools that will help you to break the cycle.
Practical steps you can try now to help with Binge Eating Disorder in Nashville:
1. Kiss dieting goodbye.
Did you know that if you restrict your food, you are more likely to binge? According to NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association), dieting increases your chances of bingeing by as much as 12 times. Who wants those odds? Instead of dieting, listen to your body. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Look for your body’s cues of fullness, hunger, and other feelings. Ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? Is it hunger? Sadness? Boredom? Am I thirsty? Tired? Check it out, and do your best to respond accordingly.
2. Practice being kind to YOU.
Practice compassion. It’s sometimes easier to take care of others than it is to take care of ourselves. But we need kindness and compassion for ourselves too. Remember that binges are often triggered by feeling bad. Paradoxically, sometimes we think that if we feel bad enough, it will help us stop. But this usually doesn’t work. Instead, feeling bad usually just brings on another binge.
How you think about and treat yourself can interrupt this cycle. Listen to the internal messages you send yourself. Are they kind? Are they compassionate? If not, sit with that knowing for just a moment. Really, sit with it for just a few more seconds. Recognize that you have been unkind to yourself AND that you can start to change that now. Begin to make changes in how you treat yourself. Aim to get enough sleep, make time for experiences (besides food) and relationships that bring you joy and contentment, and practice offering kindness to yourself. This will get easier with practice.
3. F is for Feeling.
Shame can be a common trigger of a binge. Often, binges are sought as a way of coping with something unpleasant (past/present) or from worry or fear about the future. It’s common for a binge to be sought (sometimes unknowingly) to replace one’s awareness of feeling – at least temporarily. Through repeated attempts to escape our feelings, we can lose awareness and connectedness to them. Now is good time to re-engage. You can start by increasing your vocabulary of feeling words. Seriously. Type “feelings words” into your favorite search engine, and get to expanding your repertoire. Begin a dialogue with yourself and keep it going. You matter enough to know how you feel – ask yourself. Check in regularly.
4. Support builds strength.
You don’t need to face this alone. And you don’t need to be a war with your body, food, or your feelings anymore. Friends and family can be a great support, but that doesn’t replace the help of a professional. Find someone you can talk to who is knowledgeable about the disorder and can work with you to repair and redefine the relationship you have with food. Our expertise can help you get the tools you need to identify triggers and confront underlying causes. We know you want to experience a relationship with food that involves freedom and contentment. We can help you get there.
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