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Weight Cycling and Yo-Yo Dieting – MedicineNet

A person with a binge-eating disorder consumes a large amount of food within two hours, and does it often. Having a binge eating disorder means being unable to control the amount of food consumed. You are unable to stop eating, even when you are full.

Most of us overeat from time to time, and many people often feel they’ve eaten more than they should have. But, does this mean we are “binge eaters?” Probably not: Eating a lot of food does not always mean that a person has an eating problem.

How Common Is Binge Eating?

Binge eating disorder is a relatively recently
recognized disorder and is thought by some to be the
most common of the eating disorders.

About 2% of all adults in the U.S. (as many as 4 million Americans) have
binge eating disorder. About 10% to 15% of people who are mildly obese and who
try to lose weight on their own or through commercial weight-loss programs have
this condition. The disorder is even more common in people who are severely

Unlike other eating disorders — such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa
— a substantial number of men suffer from binge eating disorder, but it is
still more common in women. It is more common among the severely overweight, but
can be found among people of any weight.

What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?

No one knows for sure what causes binge eating
disorder, but there are several factors that are thought
to contribute. Genetics and biology seem to play a role
in the development of the disease. Researchers are
actively studying how abnormalities in levels of certain
neurochemicals in the brain can contribute to binge
eating. Individual psychology is also thought to play a
role: about 50% of people with binge eating disorder
suffer from depression, and it is thought that negative
emotions — anxiety, shame, and guilt — contribute to
out-of-control eating behaviors. Social and cultural
factors also likely play a role in binge eating
disorder, as food can become a way to show love, get
comfort, or even induce guilt. The food industry and
wide availability of processed foods can make it more
difficult to be in tune with what will nourish our
bodies. As well, Western culture emphasizes a desire for
thinness. Many people with binge eating disorder have
been on multiple diets.

Is Binge Eating Unhealthy?

Yes, binge eating has been linked to the following

What Are the Signs of Binge Eating Disorder?

Someone with a binge eating disorder has frequent
episodes of binge eating, occurring at least two days a
week for six months.

Binge eating episodes are associated with at least
three of the following symptoms.

  • Eating rapidly
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after

While binge eaters are typically distressed about
this pattern, they do not induce vomiting, fast, or
abuse laxatives or diuretics.

Binge eating also occurs with another eating disorder, called bulimia
nervosa. Persons with bulimia nervosa, however, usually purge, fast, or do
strenuous exercise after they binge eat. Purging means vomiting or using a lot
of diuretics (water pills) or laxatives to keep from gaining weight. Fasting is
not eating for at least 24 hours. Strenuous exercise, in this case, means
exercising for more than an hour just to keep from gaining weight after binge
eating. Purging, fasting, and over exercising are dangerous ways to try to
control your weight.

Often, a person with binge eating disorder feels overweight and has a history
of trying to lose weight many times. Yet many failed diets may leave them
feeling powerless over the binge-eating pattern.

How Is Binge Eating Treated?

Binge-eating disorder is best treated
with a combination of approaches. Psychotherapy, such as
cognitive behavioral therapy and insight-oriented
therapy, can help patients learn to recognize the
thoughts and feelings that can trigger binge eating.
Group therapy can also be quite helpful in helping
patients feel less shame around their symptoms. Some
self-help strategies such as keeping a journal and
meditation can help people to identify and tolerate
difficult feelings that can lead to binge eating.
Nutritional counseling can be used to educate the
patient about healthy food choices and, more
importantly, about how to recognize the difference
between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Finally,
for some people, certain medications such as
antidepressants can help to treat associated depressive
symptoms and in some patients can help regulate the urge
to binge eat.

WebMD Medical Reference

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