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Binge Eating

General Information
Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
Who Binge Eats?
Binge Eaters and Dieting
Other Resources

General Information

Binge eating disorder is characterized by periods of impulsive gorging or continuous eating that is usually kept secret. While there may be no purging involved, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets. Binges are usually followed by intense feelings of guilt and shame and the individual often experiences depression and other psychological problems. Food is used as a dysfunctional means of coping with these psychological issues. Up to 40% of people who are obese may be binge eaters, though body weight may vary from normal to mild, moderate, or severe obesity. [1][2]

Binge eating disorder is also referred to as compulsive overeating and affects both women and men, though it appears twice as often among women.

People with binge eating disorder suffer from episodes of uncontrolled eating, or bingeing, followed by periods of guilt and depression. A binge is marked by the consumption of large amounts of food, sometimes accompanied by a pressured, "frenzied" feeling. Frequently, a compulsive overeater continues to eat even after she becomes uncomfortably full.

Binge eating can lead to severe medical problems including high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

If you think you might have a binge eating disorder, it's important to know that you are not alone. Most people who have the disorder have tried but failed to control it on their own. You may want to get professional help. Talk to your health care provider about the type of help that may be best for you. The good news is that most people do well in treatment and can overcome binge eating.[3] [ To Top ]

Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

Often the person who bing eats will:

  • Eat large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
  • Eat much more rapidly than normal.
  • Eat until the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Eat alone because of shame or embarrassment.
  • Have feelings of depression, disgust or guilt after eating.
  • Have a history of marked weight fluctuations.
  • Frequently engages in fad diets.
[4] [ To Top ]
Who Binge Eats?

Binge eating disorder may be the most common eating disorder. Most people with this problem are either overweight or obese*, but people of a normal weight can also be affected by this disorder. The 1998 NIH Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults define "overweight" as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 and obesity as a BMI of 30 or more. BMI is calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters) squared.

BMI Information

About 2 percent of all adults in the United States (as many as 4 million Americans) have binge eating disorder. About 10 to 15 percent of people who are mildly obese and who try to lose weight on their own or through commercial weight-loss programs have binge eating disorder. The disorder is even more common in people who are severely obese.

Binge eating disorder is more common in women than in men, the ratio being 3:2. The disorder affects blacks as often as whites. There is little known about its incidence in people of other ethnic groups.

People who are obese and have binge eating disorder often become overweight at a young age and they might also lose and gain weight (yo-yo diet) more often than those without the disorder. [ To Top ]

Binge Eaters and Dieting

People who are not overweight should avoid dieting because it may increase the severity of binge eating.

In this case, dieting means skipping meals, not eating enough food each day, or avoiding certain kinds of food (such as carbohydrates). These are unhealthy ways to try to change your body shape and weight.

Many people with binge eating disorder are obese and have health problems because of their weight. These people should try to lose weight and keep it off. People with binge eating disorder who are obese may find it harder to stay in a weight-loss program. They may also lose less weight than other people, and may regain weight more quickly. (This can be worse when they also have problems like depression, trouble controlling their behavior, and interpersonal problems). These people may need treatment for binge eating disorder before they try to lose weight. [ To Top ]

Other Resources

[1]Adapted from The National Eating Disorders Association

[2]">Adapted from The Renfrew Center Foundation

[3]Adapted from The Centers for Overcoming Overeating

[4]">Adapted from The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases

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