Binge eating could lead to several health problems

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-7-06-33-pmToday, thanks to a booming food industry, eating out (or ordering in) has become the norm. Restaurants and takeaway joints across the country are doing brisk business thanks to an ever-increasing population that has no qualms about spending a substantial amount on food. While some people tend to be extra cautious about what they eat, a large number go on regular binge eating sprees — an activity that can do you more harm than you realise, say experts.
A recent study mentioned that people who have a binge-eating disorder may be at a higher risk of illnesses, with the strongest associations with endocrine and circulatory systems. Apart from this, those who were obese and went on binge eating sprees, had an increased risk of having respiratory disease and gastrointestinal ailments than those who were not obese.

What is binge eating?

Clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany says that binge eating means more than just eating a lot. “In this, a person feels out of control and powerless to stop eating. That’s why binge eating is also called compulsive or comfort overeating. People with this problem may overeat when they feel depressed, upset, hurt or emotionally drained. Many find it comforting and soothing to eat, but after a binge they’re likely to feel guilty about the out-of-control eating. Binge eating also occurs in another eating disorder called bulimia nervosa. Persons with bulimia nervosa, however, usually purge, fast, or do strenuous exercise after they binge eat.”

How does it affect one’s health?

Healing diet specialist Dhvani Shah says that it results in a stark decrease in micronutrients, causing dulling of skin, hairfall, hormonal imbalance, acidity and constipation among the immediate symptoms. “Vitamin deficiencies, loss of muscle tone and lower bone density are some of the long-term side-effects,” she says.
Adds consultant clinical nutritionist Tripti Gupta, “Binge eating disorder can prove devastating as it has less to do with food and more to do with feelings. One binges to distract or punish themselves caused due to negative feelings. Unfortunately, these feelings become worse after the binge is over and when reality strikes but the vicious cycle has taken the better of you, further weakening you emotionally. Physical, mental and emotional trauma can set in varying degrees in individuals leading to self destruction, abnormally high cholesterol and sugar levels, hormonal imbalances, out of control behaviour patterns and, in some cases, prove fatal. Suicides are very common with extreme cases of binge eaters.”

Causes of binge eating

Many people with binge eating disorder often have a history of depression. “Whether depression is a cause or effect of binge eating disorder differs from case to case. Many people report symptoms of anger, sadness, boredom, anxiety or other negative emotions that trigger a binge episode. Psychological problems stemming from a bad childhood, relationship issues or dysfunctional families are common in people with binge eating disorder. People who have distorted concept of their body image are also prone to binge eating,” explains Seema.

Overcoming binge eating

Several methods are being used to treat binge eating disorder. “Cognitive-behavioural therapy teaches patients techniques to monitor and change their eating habits as well as to change the way they react to difficult situations. EMDR Therapy helps people access their disturbing memories and process them to avoid binge episodes. Treatment with medications such as antidepressants may be helpful for some individuals. The initial goal of treatment is to teach the patient to gain control over the eating behaviour by focusing on eating regular meals and avoiding snacking,” says Seema.

Adds Dhvani, “It is very important to consultant a certified nutritionist, who can assist you to lose weight the right way. Eating small frequent meals also minimises hunger pangs and aids weight loss. Immediate use of multivitamin supplements is also suggested.”

Ends Tripti, “Your nutritionist alone can’t help entirely. Family, close friends, counsellors and life coaches are equally important in treating this eating disorder. One needs to feel happy first to feel healthy. So, like any other addiction the one thing you should never stop a binge eater from doing is eating. Let them eat the quantity but modify the quality first. Make them aware, counsel them, reach out to the cause of their stressful eating and gradually make them realise the difference. Help them identify with themselves and the relationship they share with food. Wellness diets play a major role in such situations whereby we continue to administer food addicts their favourite foods and are cleverly weaned off the unhealthy to healthy eating pattern with essential support.”

Ask yourself if you do any of these things regularly

  • Do you frequently eat abnormally large amounts of food?
  • Are you unable to control what or how much you eat?
  • Do you eat in a hurry or hate being disturbed while eating?
  • Do you eat beyond being full, not realising when to stop until you can’t stuff yourself any more?
  • Are there very small gaps between big meals?
  • Do you eat large meals after feeling sad, angry or upset?
  • Do you find comfort in food because you have low self-esteem?
  • Do you cry while you are eating?
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