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By On February 2nd, 2015

From Our Dietician’s Desk: Binge Eating Disorder

EatingDisorderWordmap Written by: Joleen Wilson, Registered Dietician, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician, for Pathway for Eating Disorders Treatment at Brookhaven Hospital

There are many factors influencing a person’s weight, but emotional eating (when food is used as an outlet for coping with life’s stressors) is one way calories can quickly add up.  Binge eating disorder (BED), also called compulsive overeating, affects about 5% of Americans at some point in their lives.  While experts debate on the exact parameters of a binge, the term generally refers to a discrete period of time during which an individual overeats to the point of physical discomfort without the presence of hunger or a metabolic need driving such eating behavior.  Accompanying the episode are feelings of loss of control and psychological stressors such as guilt, disgust, or depression.

Triggers to a binge include psychological stressors as noted above, calorie-restricted diets, and the restriction or abstinence from, and then reintroduction of, highly palatable foods such as fast foods and sweets.  Not surprisingly, these are the foods that often make up a binge eater’s “trigger foods”.   The key difference between BED and bulimia nervosa, in which binge eating is a criterion for diagnosis, is that the individuals with BED do not engage in compensatory behaviors such as over exercise, vomiting, laxative use, or fasting to compensate for the large number of calories consumed.

Binge Eating Disorder is very dangerous to one’s health.  There is a strong association between the disorder and the presence of other chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and other health problems related to overweight and obesity.  Additionally, individuals with BED are more likely to experience psychological complications such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.  Some researchers have concluded that compulsive overeating can be addictive, much like someone with substance abuse responds neurochemically to dopamine release when they use drugs or alcohol.  Thus, working with clients with BED is different than working with the overweight and obese population.  Treatment is best accomplished using an interdisciplinary approach with a team consisting of a medical doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, and dietitian, among others, in which the underlying diagnoses are addressed in addition to the eating behaviors.

At Brookhaven Hospital, we use a team approach in our Pathway for Eating Disorders Treatment program.  We have provided treatment for eating disorders since 1995.  We treat both women and men who are struggling with eating problems across the spectrum from restricting to overeating.  On Wednesday, February 4th, we will host a professional seminar presented by Kathleen Verba and Sara Mahan, “Prevention of an Eating Disorder and Ways to Spread Awareness.”  Call 918-438-4257 to register to attend.

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