During my years in high school, I had poor eating habits. I wouldn’t eat much for lunch because my friends didn’t really eat and I didn’t want to be seen as the “fat” one. At this time I also dealt with a lot of emotional trauma trying to fit in and adjust to high school, it was a new environment for me. So when I would come home I would just eat whatever we had to fill that empty feeling inside of myself.
While I don’t think I would be diagnosed as a binge eater, I was definitely an emotional eater. I have been my whole life. When I become anxious or overwhelmed my reaction is to have a snack or a meal, usually an unhealthy one. Afterwards I will feel guilty about eating and feel even worse about myself (To read more about bingeing and shame, read this article by Lizabeth Wesely-Casella).
While I feel like I can understand and somewhat relate to Binge Eating Disorder (BED), I cannot pretend to know more than what I research. Emotional eating and binge eating are two completely different disorders. According to the research I’ve done, binge eating is when you consume food, small or large amounts, with a feeling of being unable to control what you are doing and how much you take in. Afterwards, there is a feeling of distress.
Binge eating becomes a cycle that is difficult to break, like any disorder or illness, that requires professional care. It is important to receive the necessary treatment for any eating disorder or addiction. Asking for help is the most important step you can take to getting better. Like most addictions or disorders, recovery will be a life-long process for anyone suffering from BED. In the beginning, every day will be a test to see if you can break the habit of dependence on food.
Along with poor eating habits, I also had an issue with self-harm growing up. I would eat when I felt bad and then feel worse. I would also blame myself for things I had no control over and harm myself. Self-harm became a way for me to block emotions. Instead of crying or dealing with anxiety or other emotions I would harm myself. While self-harm is nothing like binge eating, the habit of being out of control when you feel an emotion and the need to deal with it differently is similar.
I share my personal experiences dealing with self-harm and emotional eating because I know how to recover from them. It’s a painful experience when someone discovers that you are harming yourself, whether from binge eating or cutting. Those are emotions you have to deal with and realize that you need to get help. For my recovery, I went to a therapist where I discussed my issues with emotion. It’s hard in the beginning to stop yourself, but if you take it one day at a time things don’t seem so overwhelming. Each day will become a victory and you’ll begin to feel better about yourself.
With any disorder or addiction, it’s important to seek professional support and treatment. Health professionals who offer treatment for Binge Eating Disorder include psychiatrists, nutritionists, therapists, and eating disorder and obesity specialists. An effective treatment program for BED should address more than just your symptoms and destructive eating habits. It should also address the emotional triggers that lead to binge eating and your difficulty coping with stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, and other uncomfortable emotions. Therapy can teach you how to fight the compulsion to binge, exchange unhealthy habits for newer healthy ones, monitor your eating and moods, and develop effective stress-busting skills. Three types of therapy are particularly helpful in the treatment of Binge Eating Disorder are:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on the dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors involved in binge eating. One of the main goals is for you to become more self-aware of how you use food to deal with emotions. The therapist will help you recognize your binge eating triggers and learn how to avoid or combat them.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on the relationship problems and interpersonal issues that contribute to compulsive eating. Your therapist will help you improve your communication skills and develop healthier relationships with family members and friends.
- Dialectical behavior therapy combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness meditation. The emphasis of therapy is on teaching binge eaters how to accept themselves, tolerate stress better, and regulate their emotions. Your therapist will also address unhealthy attitudes you may have about eating, shape, and weight.
Breaking the old pattern of binge eating is hard, and you may slip from time to time. This is where the support of others can really come in handy. Family, friends, and therapists can all be part of your support team. You may also find that joining a group for binge eaters is helpful. There are many group options, including self-help support groups and more formal therapy groups.
Helping someone with Binge Eating Disorder
If the person shuts you out at first, don’t give up; it may take some time before your loved one is willing to admit to having a problem. You can help by offering your compassion, encouragement, and support throughout the treatment process. If your loved one has Binge Eating Disorder:
- Encourage him or her to seek help
- Be supportive
- Avoid insults, lectures, or guilt trips
- Set a good example by eating healthily, exercising, and managing stress without food
I believe that every experience you go through in life is for a purpose. When you come out a better, stronger person you can look back and see how far you’ve come and who you’ve developed into. Too many people these days don’t like to ask for help or admit they have a problem. I can’t stress to anyone who suffers for binge eating, self-harm, or other disorders and addiction how important the word HELP is. Never be afraid to ask for help or to seek it out. It’s your life that you need to take control of. A happy, healthy you is the best you, you can be.
Information sources: Helpguide.org If you are interested in following along with BED Week, you can join the event on facebook or follow it on twitter by using the hashtags #BEDWEEK, #DSM5, #BEDAWARENESS, #EATINGDISORDER and #ED.