Most of us have overeaten from time to time. But a full-scale binge goes beyond overeating. It is a type of eating disorder.
In a typical binge, high-calorie foods, such as pastries and ice cream, are eaten rapidly and continuously until the eater is stopped by pain, the need to vomit, sleepiness or is interrupted by someone. After a binge, the eater may feel relief, deep shame or guilt. People who binge often compensate for bingeing by fasting or going on extreme diets between binges. However, these diets may actually cause more bingeing.
Nutritionists have developed some guidelines for preventing binge eating. They recommend the following:
- avoiding very strict or restrictive diets that lead to severe hunger pangs;
- eating regular meals and light low-calorie snacks between meals;
- keeping the kinds of foods that are eaten during a binge out of the house;
- analyzing past episodes, noting when they happened, what mood triggered them, what was eaten, where the food came from, the location of the eating and any other useful information.
The binger can then develop a strategy for the future. This might include avoiding situations that lead to binges, and a plan to follow when the urge to binge strikes. Keep a record of your binge eating, noting how you felt during the binge, and what led to it. When you find yourself on the brink of a binge, try these approaches:
- Wait 10 minutes before you give in. During that time, do something else, such as taking a walk or calling a friend. You may forget all about bingeing.
- Before beginning, drink a glass of water, or eat an apple or other high-fiber food. The fullness in your stomach may stave off the urge to binge.
Binging is a serious health problem. If it continues in spite of your efforts, see your healthcare provider. Get help in developing a weight-control program that encourages gradual weight loss through healthy eating habits and regular exercise.