We've all open a can of Pringles or a tub of Ben & Jerry and "accidentally" polished the lot while watching our favourite Netflix show...
Where is the line, then, between a momentary lapse of judgement and a diagnosable 'Binge Eating Disorder' ('BED')?
In post-pandemic life and the economic turmoil that plagues so many of us food has become the emotional safe haven for us . Once a way to come together, it now acts as a calming agent for the emotional recluse within us, giving us blocks of comfort as we seek to escape our daily monotony.
In our work as Chipping Norton's health, fitness and wellness specialists we have seen people join the gym to lose weight. When you first start with us our goal is not to simply help you lose the weight but help you uncover the root cause of the weight gain.
Sometimes we will uncover cases of BED in the initial stages of a member's fitness/ weight loss journey. It's important for us to identify this disorder in order to better equip ourselves with the right wellness rituals that will help the member heal from the inside out. You cannot simply tell a person with BED to stop eating ... there is an informed, strategic, professional manner in which to help a person with this disorder but we must first be able to identify it.
In our experience we have discovered that weight gain is attributable to 3 key factors:
Stress, anxiety and. overall chronic emotional distress (situational and/or chemical);
Any one of the above factors can then lead into an eating disorder. This list is not exhaustive.
Our focus now is on number three, thought the first two points may contribute to number 3 manifesting. Everything is linked!
Characteristics of BED
Binge eating disorder is vastly different to simply overeating.
We all overeat (hello holidays, weekends away, special events).
BED, in contrast, is accompanied by certain characteristics, or "symptoms" that can help us identify whether a member is suffering from BED:
Loss of control. Feeling completely misaligned to self as something within takes over. You will typically feel an uncontrollable urge to eat anything and everything to satisfy the mind's demand for food. People with BED have even reported turning to raw pancake batter or fish sticks to satisfy the hunger. Eating odd combinations of food to fill a "void" has also known to happen.
Feeling of guilt, remorse, shame. Feeling a toxic concoction of negative emotions after a binge session is all too common, leading to self-loathing, shame or a feeling of complete surrender.
Impulse control. An inability to moderate consumption or stop consuming during a binge session is also a tell-tale sign. That is, you just cannot stop even when you know you're not hungry and/or you do not need more food.
Let's explore this case study together. Can you identify the real world BED characteristics that our protagonist has in this story? Can you relate?
Case Study - Long
My head was pounding and my eyes threatened tears.
John was standing right there, so I refused to allow one tear to fall down my face.
We talked for awhile.
He talked about work, we discussed the agenda for the kids' sports tomorrow night and then he retired to the living room to watch his favourite show with his usual scotch and coke in his hand.
He was stressed. He would never say it out loud, but I could feel it. I wasn't feeling a connection between the two of us so I wasn't motivated to press him on the issue. What was the point. I mean, did he ask ME about MY day? Screw him.
There was no excitement, spontaneity, laughter, happiness, intimacy... we were going through the motions. We didn't argue tonight, though - that's a relief.
I took a deep breath in and opened the fridge as I tried to ignore the terrifying numbness I was feeling about my life.
There wasn't anything interesting in there. I'd gone grocery shopping the night before and stocked the fridge with all the healthy ingredients needed for the U8F 8 week meal plan. Yet here I am on a Monday night craving anything but the god damn salad,
I'm never losing weight... this is just who I am. Screw it.
I opened up my phone and ordered pad thai from my favourite Thai place down the road. I added some spring rolls, curry puffs and deep fried ice cream to the order.
It just doesn't feel like enough ... but I ordered it anyway.
It was arriving in 30 minutes. Damn.
I opened the pantry and my heart skipped a little beat as I saw there was an unopened bag of potato chips and some cereal in there.
I prepared a bowl of nutrigrain and let it soak while I hid the chips from sight. They were mine.
I relished each crunch of my cereal and for a brief block of time - as I watched my show on my phone and devoured the cereal - I was truly at peace.
I emptied the bowl and placed the bowl in the sink - I couldn't be bothered cleaning up right now and I didn't want to give my mind a chance to wonder.
I was saving the chips for my real meal, later.
I opened the fridge again as I opened the kids' lunch boxes - they wouldn't miss a few blocks of cheese and a jelly cup, right?
The food is finally here. I'm starving.
"You ordered food?" John asked.
Was his tone accusatory? He only talked to me when he was judging me. I felt a panic rush through my body and said "it's just soup. I'm not feeling well."
"I'm not saying anything" he said, confused by my outbreak but I could see the judgement in his eyes. I've gained 30kgs since our wedding 3 years ago, I thought miserably as I tried to mask the sound of the chips hidden in my robe, two bags of takeout in my hands.
I ran upstairs and shut the door after telling John I needed half an hour to myself.
I unpacked the food onto the TV stand and turned my attention back to my favourite show.
Everything is okay I thought as I took my first mouthful of pad thai (little pieces of potato chips giving it the crunch I loved). Everything is okay.
What are some signs of BED you can identify from this case study?
It's a malicious cycle of internalised toxicity that can be combatted with the right self-love rituals, an awesome community and some help from qualified, compassionate humans who have spent years studying to help and guide people just like you.
There is help out there when you're ready. Get in touch with our team to regain control of your life and live the life you deserve.
DISCLAIMER: BED manifests in all forms. This case study is merely one glimpse of life with BED (inspired by our own experience and the experience of many of our members) and must not be considered an exhaustive representation of BED.
"The Binge & the Brain": https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4919948/
Eating Disorders Victoria: https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders-a-z/binge-eating-disorder/