Eating Disorders: A Slow Suicide Part 2
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Eating Disorders: A Slow Suicide Part 2

Last week, I shared the dangers of anorexia and a little about bulimia with you. By the way, I added a Christian-based treatment center to Part 1. This week, I am sharing the dangers of binge eating, a very common eating disorder today. It is so common, a magazine dedicated to this disorder appears in my doctor's office magazine rack called Guide to Binge Eating Disorder by Health Monitor.

I've known a number of bingers in my career as a personal trainer and personally. I had a roommate in college who could polish off two large Papa Johns pizzas by herself, then she would scavenge the pantry eating food from the rest of us who shared the apartment with her. So, our apartment had a binger, and anorexic/bulimic, and a normal person! What a mix.

Out of respect for the individuals, a composite might give you an idea of what someone with binge eating disorder is like: Binger seems to be a passive-aggressive individual who seems to get along well with people, appearing to be a happy, jolly large person. He pokes fun at himself to diffuse any comments people might make about his weight or how much he eats. His jolly happy disposition is a cover for insecurity and deep emotional pain. He will go the extra mile for you if you are nice and caring toward him. But if you hurt his feelings, he will hide later to gorge on large amounts of food in the course of an hour or two. Then he will get back at you in insidious ways when you least expect it.

Binger's insecurity has a long history from childhood. Some of his upbringing includes being the butt of jokes and target of mean kids who verbally pick at the "Fat Boy". He doesn't come across as outstanding at much of anything compared to other children, so humor becomes what makes him stand out. It's not unusual for someone like Binger to be a victim of sexual abuse at a young age. The thought seems to be, "If I'm fat and ugly, they will stop doing this to me," But it is also a comforting mechanism. His parents may have coddled him and soothed his insecurity with food, while picking at him to make about most anything. By adulthood, his scales may tip over 300 pounds. He can eat three times what anyone eats in a meal or a days worth of calories in one binge session. Because he feels ashamed of himself, he either hides his gorging on food, eats in the middle of the night. He feels disgusted with himself and tries to lose weight, but can't break the cycle. Binger is a very unhappy person on the inside. Do you recognize these traits in yourself or someone you know? This composite is what I have personally and professionally seen in people with Binge Eating disorder. This may not be the total picture of people with this disorder.

According to Eating Disorder Hope, these factors most commonly appear in people with Binge Eating Disorder:
  • Biological: Biological abnormalities, such as hormonal irregularities or genetic mutations, may be associated with compulsive eating and food addiction.
  • Psychological: A strong correlation has been established between depression and binge eating. Body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and difficulty coping with feelings can also contribute to binge eating disorder.
  • Social and Cultural: Traumatic situations, such as a history of sexual abuse, can increase the risk of binge eating. Social pressures to be thin, which are typically influenced through media, can trigger emotional eating. Persons subject to critical comments about their bodies or weight may be especially vulnerable to binge eating disorder.

Binge Eating Disorder is more common than anorexia and bulima. Bingers are usually overweight to obese, some are 300+ pounds. There are varying degrees such as moderate and severe.  They feel an overwhelming amount of guilt and shame while their stomachs feel very uncomfortable. The shame they feel fuels the next feeding frenzy. They will usually binge at least twice a week or more. Quite often there is an event that triggered the beginning of binge eating. The binging can go on secretly for a long time. In fact most people who know the binger just think they are overeaters.

The body takes a toll from the abuse the binger heaps on himself/herself. Our bodies are not designed to carry this much excess weight. The heart pumps really hard to keep the person alive and moving. Heart attacks at a young age are very possible. Much of the foods consumed are high calorie usually carbs, fats and salt, or carbs and sugar is the "drug of choice". High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes is very common at a young age. The back, hips, knees, and feet develop osteoarthritis early, with the knees bowing outward for some of these people. Sadly, there are a number of people ending up in bariatric wards weighing 500 pounds or more absolutely unable to stand up or walk.

Some of these individuals do have surgery like lap band. Stomach "stapling" isn't as common anymore because the psychology behind the behavior still causes binging. Some of those who have had their stomachs stapled (surgically shrinking the size of the stomach) have had them rupture and died. Successful weight loss and health management must focus on psychological therapy. The root cause must be addressed before weight loss success and normal eating patterns can be attained. Those who do the multi-faceted approach are the most successful, but like the anorexic, they wrestle with the emotional prompts to control their eating. Relapses are common with binge eating as well.

The results of binge eating disorder have many physical, social, and emotional problems. Some of these include:
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Insomnia or sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Muscle and/or joint pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Depression and/or anxiety

Signs and symptoms:
  • Continuing to eat even when full
  • Unable to stop eating or control food eaten
  • Stocking up on  food to eat secretly later
  • Eating normally with others, but binging in secret
  • Eating to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Being "on auto-pilot" while binging
  • Never feeling satisfied when finished eating, no matter how much  food is consumed

It's important to show compassion and concern to people with binge eating disorder. If someone you know has this disorder, it is better to talk to them about what is bothering them than about the eating itself. It is appropriate to show concern for their physical and emotional welfare.

If you have a child or teen who is overweight or fits the profile of someone with an eating disorder, please be careful how you approach criticism with them. Please, do not attack them personally. Always address the behavior of concern followed with what can be done to correct the behavior. Never reward or punish with food. Always offer healthy food choices at home and opportunities for physical activity that are positive. Teach them how to respond to stress and frustration in a healthy manner. Some children who are overweight, simply slim down during adolescence. If weight problems persist into teens, it may require medical testing since there could be hormonal or glandular abnormalities that need to be addressed.

Below is a list of Eating Disorder resources who are well-qualified to help people with Binge Eating Disorder. I will caution you that some of them may use New Age Spiritual practices as part of their treatment plan, but you will need to decide for yourself what group will be helpful and has easy access in your area. I did find Canopy Cove, who offers Christian-based treatment for eating disorders. It is worth checking to see if they have treatment available in your area.


May God bless you!

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