Binge Eating Disorder or BED is a food disorder in which a person frequently consumes large amounts of food in short periods and suffers severe guilt when finished. This disorder is exacerbated by anxiety and insecurity and, in turn, causes the vicious cycle to repeat over and over again. An individual who suffers from BED understands that it is cruel, humiliating and can strike at any moment of vulnerability.
During months where routine in predictable – September to June for those who work or are in school – binge eating can be easy enough to hide. Everyday practices are its best cover as we are in more control of our lives during these months. However, BED should not be dismissed during this time, nor should its warning signs be ignored.
During the holiday months, BED becomes much more punitive and often unbearable for those who experience the disorder.
Now that summer is here, for most people that usually means going to the beach with friends, hanging out by the pool, endless summer cookouts, shorts and tank tops, and the anxieties about body image. If you are one of the millions with an eating disorder, this time of year may make it even harder to manage your symptoms. Body image issues become obvious and maintaining a healthy relationship with food becomes more challenging.
Summer is a time to relax and recharge, but it is important to stay committed to your recovery. Consider these summertime challenges:
- The increased “free time” that occurs during summer tends to create more “alone time” and eating disorder behaviors thrive in isolation and secrecy.
- Body image issues may increase during summer months, as we tend to wear less clothing and show more skin.
- Wearing a bathing suit can be particularly challenging for many.
- The lack of structure in the summer months can lead to unhealthy routines like skipping meals or altering your normal sleep habits. This can make eating disorder and mental health symptoms worse.
- Changes in the summer schedule can lead to an increase in physical activity and excessive exercise.
- Co-occurring mental health issues like depression and substance abuse benefit from treatment and are not likely to go away in summer months.
- Getting back into activities with “old friends” or even “new friends” can add to the social demand and thus increase overall stress.
- Eating disorder behaviors may be exacerbated if stress increases due to new activities (taking courses or starting a new job) in summer.
- Eating disorders are challenging to treat, require specialized treatment and have a high relapse rate. Anorexia nervosa, in particular, has the highest mortality rate of all mental health issues.
- The longer that you wait to seek help for an eating disorder, the sicker you may become, making future treatment even more challenging.
But if you are struggling, or know that a loved one is struggling, do not delay seeking help any time of year. Call a professional for guidance. The courage you draw upon to choose treatment now will inevitably lead to improved outcomes and improved well-being.
Important information about Binge Eating Disorder
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder in the country and is defined by eating large quantities of food ” as much as 5,000-15,000 calories ” in a single sitting, then experiencing feelings of guilt and shame as a result. Binge sessions may occur after a period of stringent caloric restriction or dieting and they are often characterized by feelings of a loss of control.
Those who struggle with binge eating are often overweight or obese and, as a result, are likely to struggle with medical problems such as heart disease, some cancers, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, high levels of “bad” cholesterol, and/or type II diabetes.
- An estimated two-thirds of people living with binge eating disorder are obese.
- Binge eating contributes to the development of obesity, which in turn can trigger a host of chronic health disorders, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
- Binge eating disorder is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder, and an estimated 3 percent of Americans are living with the problem. Additionally, about 50 percent of patients with BED are also diagnosed with depression, 24 percent are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 44 percent self-report struggling with eating habit management.
- Cortisol released during the stress response and the corresponding storage of fat in the abdominal area are increased issues for those living with BED and obesity as compared to the general public, according to a study published in the journal Appetite. Stress can also be a trigger for binge eating.
- Binge eating has been linked to increased rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, especially if the person with BED struggles with feelings of low self-worth and/or feels lacking.
- People living with binge eating disorder very often also struggle with disrupted sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep, waking at night to eat, and struggling to go back to sleep.
- The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that people living with binge eating disorder are at higher risk of developing such health problems as headaches, joint and muscle pain, sleep apnea, digestive problems, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and fatty liver disease. They also experience difficulty in getting or maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
For BED victims, though it may not feel like it now, it does get better. Here are a few extra tips to help with your recovery, keep you on track and reduce the possibility of relapse.
- Set regular times for eating, but be careful about it. Do not starve yourself by allocating inconvenient times for a meal. The more control you have over food, the more you will find control in your mind.
- Look at food in a positive manner. Food is not an enemy but key to your survival. Learn to manage food intake to your benefit and overall health.
Most importantly, accept that some days are better than others. Do not blame yourself if you don’t feel invincible every day. Accept that you had a moment of weakness and continue to strive for a better day and a healthier future.
Good luck and have a Happy Summer!