Imagine this and see if it sounds familiar to you: Despite your resolution of a week (day/hour) ago, here you sit, surrounded by food wrappers, in a daze about what has happened to your “willpower”. Or perhaps you have been thinking all day about the pizza you will have tonight when you are finally alone. Maybe you are thinking about another trip to the secretary’s desk to get chocolate, or counting the day’s calories to see how far over the limit you are. Perhaps you are feeling simultaneously terrified about gaining back weight you have lost and about getting chinese food on the way home. And in all cases, you are feeling the shame that comes with the belief that you should be able to control this eating behavior on your own. And perhaps resolving to stop after this time.
This is not a willpower issue. This is binge eating disorder. And to make changes that stick, people need treatment.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., accounting for three times the number of those diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia combined and one third of the U.S. obese population. “This is a group that suffers in silence and shame,” says Chevese Turner, Managing Director and co-owner of Bodywise, a BED treatment center in Annapolis and Ann Arbor (MI) and founder of The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA). “Many binge/compulsive/emotional eaters believe the next diet to come down the road will be the answer, and as a result they cycle through periods of dieting and overeating, with corresponding weight gains and losses. They are consumed by food thoughts, and beat themselves up regularly for not having enough “willpower” to lose weight and keep it off, which erodes self-esteem and self-worth.”
Binge eating disorder is also one of the leading causes of obesity in the U.S. It is estimated that 25 percent of the people in this nation who are obese have BED, and 75 percent of those with the disorder are obese. With the obesity epidemic and related health issues, as well as increasing concern about its burdens to society and the health care industry, BED has taken a significant toll on many lives.
Amy Pershing, Founding Director of Bodywise, has been treating binge/compulsive/emotional eaters since 1991 and is a nationally recognized thought leader in the treatment of binge/compulsive/emotional eating. “Recovery is about honoring your body and beginning to understand what it needs,” says Pershing. “It is trusting that you can develop a different relationship to food, and your health. For folks with BED, food plays a complex role in their lives; bingeing or grazing may be used to deal with anxiety, strong feelings of all kinds, the effects of trauma, or difficult life circumstances. It may also be about long-standing patterns that are virtually impossible to change without good treatment. Recovery is all about having a lot more tools in the toolbox to deal with these underlying issues, and learning how to handle triggers to binge, not turning to yet another diet. Dieting actually further reinforces the patterns that are at the heart of BED.”
BED is characterized by a variety of symptoms and can have life-threatening consequences. Behavioral and emotional signs that individuals with the disorder typically exhibit include consuming large amounts of food in a single sitting, eating rapidly, frequent eating alone, at night, or in secret, hoarding food and hiding empty food containers; feeling depressed, disgusted, or shameful about eating; feeling out of control of the behaviors, and spending many hours a day preoccupied with thoughts about food or how to lose weight.
Serious physical health complications can be a result of long term bingeing or compulsive/emotional eating as well. Studies indicate that many binge/compulsive/emotional eaters have physical complications that are can be associated with obesity, but are also a result of chronic dieting with many weight gains and weight losses over a lifetime. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease (including heart failure as a result of weight cycling), gall bladder disease, cirrhosis, osteoarthritis, joint and muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, depression, anxiety, ADD, and OCD are all associated with BED.
“The best way to deal with BED is a team approach to treatment,” says Pershing. “Our program offers all the components necessary for recovery, including individual therapy, nutrition counseling, support groups, movement classes, and a variety of other services. In our Annapolis office, we are thrilled to have people who are the caliber of Rebecca on our team, with years of experience treating these issues.”
“Recovery needs to be about learning how to care for our whole selves, including making eating and movement sources of joy and satisfaction,” Pershing notes. ”For most people, their typical ideas about eating and exercise are anything but joyful. They are either “on” or “off” the wagon. Bodywise is about getting rid of the “wagon” altogether.”
For more information, please visit www.thebodywiseprogram.com or call toll free (888) 371-0671.
Thanks Amy Pershing, LMSW, ACSW for your informative article.