Binge Eating: Causes, Triggers, and How to Stop Them

What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)? It is a common eating disorder where you compulsively eat large amounts of food while feeling powerless to stop. People who experience this feel shame, guilt, and regret right after they indulge themselves. They fall into a cycle of overeating, feeling awful, and then binge eating again to restore the feeling of relief.

Experts point out three factors that may cause binge eating disorder.

  • Biological
    Hormonal irregularities may contribute to binge eating. For example, the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls appetite) may not be sending correct messages about hunger and fullness. Researchers have also found a genetic mutation that appears to cause food addiction.
  • Psychological
    If you have anxiety, low self-esteem, or an obsessive personality, it may be a factor. There is also a strong correlation between depression and binge eating.
  • Social and Cultural
    Binge eating may stem from a family member who’s had an issue with eating disorders, depression, or alcohol or drug addiction in the past. Children who have been criticized for their body shape or weight are also vulnerable. Also, those who have been sexually abused. Another reason may be because of social pressure to be slim.

Triggers may differ from one binge eater to another. Here are four common triggers:

  • Stressful situations
    Looming deadlines and bills that are due often stress people out. So when panic starts to set in, binge eaters also start to reach for tasty treats closest to them to feel a bit of relief. Emergency situations or lack of sleep may also be a factor.
  • Toxic people
    Toxic people are emotionally draining. They do nothing but bring negativity to your life. Sometimes, those with BED go on a binge after dealing with these types of people.
  • Emotional reaction
    Binge eating is most often triggered by intense emotions such as loneliness, frustration, or depression. They use food as a means to fill the emptiness that they feel.
  • Hunger
    They skip a meal or two so they can have that triple chocolate cake they’re craving. They withhold fuel from their body so they start craving junk food that has no nutritional value other than a quick fix.

How to Stop It
If you have BED or know someone who does, these steps may help them recover. Remember: It is possible to stop a binge once it starts, or even before it’s begun.

  • Learn your triggers
    Based on what was previously discussed, list down what situations or people trigger your binge. Then consciously remind yourself that you are not hungry. Rather, you are feeling stressed or upset.
  • Remove temptation
    Dr. Leslie Anderson, a training director at the Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research at the University of California, San Diego advises not to keep any food that you like to binge on. So if you have a penchant for chocolates, make sure your office drawer or fridge is not stocked with them.
  • Follow a regular meal plan
    Get on a regular pattern of eating. The more you restrict yourself and under-eat, the more you will feel hungry and binge.
  • Seek professional help
    Professional support and treatment from health professionals specializing in the treatment of binge eating disorders can be the most effective way to address it. You may choose to do a one-on-one or group therapy session. Eating disorder support groups may be of great help as well.

You or someone you know CAN beat this compulsive urge to eat. You just need support and a lot of self-control.

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