After a binge eating episode, binge eaters typically feel physically and emotionally distraught. They often feel extremely uncomfortable as their stomachs have become stretched and bloated. They often feel depressed, out of control and despondent. All too often binge eaters, regarding themselves as failures, resign themselves to a lifetime of unhappiness, weight gain and social isolation. In extreme cases, binge eating leads to severe depression and thoughts of suicide.
The primary behavioral trait of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is binge eating, not to be confused with the occasional overeating most everyone engages in from time to time. Binge eaters are compulsive overeaters, having lost control over their eating habits. Binge eaters typically eat huge portions of food during a binge and often continue to eat well after they are full. After a binge, binge eaters usually feel ashamed, disgusted and angry with themselves but are often not able to change their unhealthy eating habits. Binge eating tends to affect more women than men and can also affect children as well as adults.
Binge eaters usually binge more than once a week. A binge can last up to two hours at a time, with the binging pattern continuing as long as six months. Binge eaters often avoid others as they prefer to eat alone, not wanting others to witness their unhealthy eating behavior. They tend to gain significant weight, are ashamed of their body size and often withdraw socially. Binge eating very often leads to obesity and the many health problems associated with obesity.
What to do after an eating binge?
1) Ask yourself why
Ask yourself why you binged. Were you sad, stressed, anxious, bored, feeling deprived of your favorite foods, looking for comfort? Many people who binge eat also tend to suffer from depression, although whether depression is a cause or an effect isn’t clear. If you can get to the reasons why you binge you can take some positive steps to control it. With early intervention you may prevent your binge eating from progressing to Binge Eating Disorder if it hasn’t already.
2) Don’t weigh yourself
Don’t run for the scale to see how many pounds you just added on after an eating binge. Annette Colby, PhD, RD, LD at Cinnamonhearts.com strongly suggests “hiding your scale” and not weighing yourself after a binge. Rather than weighing after binges and feeling more upset, weigh yourself once a week. Colby also suggests that an occasional binge won’t add on the fat but frequent binging definitely will.
3) Seek healthy alternatives
Don’t internalize the binge as part of an unhealthy lifestyle that you can’t change. You can change but it will take some hard work and determination. Look for healthy alternatives when seeking comfort and pleasure rather than overeating. Eat a healthy, reasonably sized meal and then get up from the table and walk away. Engage in activities that take your focus off of food. Keep yourself as busy as possible to prevent boredom and a trip back to the kitchen.
4) Change unhealthy eating habits
As binge eaters often eat little to nothing during the day and then binge heavily at night, eating light balanced meals throughout the day can help reduce nighttime binging. Avoid salty foods that cause water retention and bloat. Drink plenty of water to flush out the system and also reduce feelings of hunger. Get rid of those unhealthy foods you reach for when binging. When snacking avoid high-sodium, high-fat, high-calorie junk food. Opt for healthy substitutes such as high-fiber fruits, low-fat yogurt, nuts and other nutritious alternatives.
5) Seek support from friends
Look to your friends for support. Plan activities with friends during and after dinner. Take a walk or go to the movies. Join an exercise group. Looking forward to sharing an activity with someone will lessen the urge to overeat at dinnertime. If eating alone induces you to overeat, arrange to enjoy dinner with friends several nights a week.
6) Join a weight-loss program
As binge eaters tend to have little success with dieting, exercise and weight control, joining a weight-loss program can help, as it provides the needed structure and support that binge eaters often need to succeed. Some weight-loss programs also address issues associated with eating disorders and can prove quite beneficial.
7) Seek professional help
Seek help from professionals and support groups when your efforts at controlling your binge eating are not working. Don’t let your shame or embarrassment prevent you from getting the help you need. Don’t let your binge eating get to the point of risking your health and endangering your life.
8) Don’t give up on yourself
Many binge eaters are filled with self-loathing, poor body image and low self-esteem. They are convinced they are unworthy of anything better. If you feel this way you need to stop the self-loathing and self-abuse. You are worthy of a better life, of turning your life in a positive direction. Once you realize this you will be able to take the necessary steps toward self-loving and self-healing.
Binge Eating Disorder is a very serious disorder that needs to be recognized and addressed. Without intervention, BED all too often leads to life-threatening mental and physical health problems. By replacing unhealthy eating behaviors and lifestyle habits with more healthy alternatives, binge eating can be treated and successfully controlled.