Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder, thought to occur is approximately 2% of adult Americans, but the prevalance is much higher in people with overweight/obesity, women, and people ages 18-35 years. BED was officially added to the diagnostic manual in 2012. It is important to talk about because it can cause psychological distress as well as physical conditions such as overweight/obesity and its related conditions. There are safe and effective ways to treat BED. Let's bring more awareness and open dialogue to this important condition.
BED is defined as eating large amounts of food in a short period of time with a feeling of lack of control that leads to extreme distress, poor self-image and feelings of unhappines about body weight. It can be mild, moderate, or severe. Binge eating frequently occurs in private. It may be planned out and with certain foods.
The causes are thought to be both a genetic predisposition combined with environmental factors. The environmental factors can be related to food and body image, such as modeling of certain eating patterns or media related body images. It is notable that these environmental influences are more likely to happen to young people with the genetic predisposition to BED since the genetics tend to run in families where eating patterns are observed. Environmental factors can also be less specific, such as abuse, divorce, or low self-esteem.
Extreme dieting can also increase the risk of binge eating. After significant weight loss, cravings can increase. Additionally, in some cases, people are not comfortable with the way they feel or look at a lower weight. This may be more common in people with a history of abuse. In the Rainier Medical program, some of the ways in which BED is addressed to try to reduce the risk of binge eating following significant weight loss via a medical protocol are:
- word choice: avoiding the use of words like "good, bad, cheating" in describing eating
- focusing on positive health habits, such as eating on time and drinking enough water and getting enough sleep, rather than number of pounds lost per week
- eating 5 times a day, starting within an hour of waking up, so you do not go more than 3 hours without eating
- avoiding lists of foods that you "can" or "can't" have and e