We’re feeling extra-inspired this week to spread our message of wellness and peace for ALL bodies. A few of our team members attended a conference about breakthroughs in treating binge eating disorder, hosted by The Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service. We learned a lot and also left feeling a renewed sense of urgency in our mission to help EVERY body feel safe, cared for, and well.
Throughout the conference, we were reminded that binge eating disorder (BED) is so often misunderstood, despite being incredibly prevalent. In fact, many people (including physicians) don’t immediately recognize BED as an eating disorder. Let’s break down 3 truths about BED, so we can better understand it, and support those who are battling it.
BED Isn’t Just About Bingeing — It’s Also About Restriction
BED is an eating disorder of restriction. Presenter and BEDA founder Chevese Turner explained that throughout her journey with BED, she often also carried an Atypical Anorexia diagnosis. Here’s why this is so common: one of the most common triggers for a binge is a period of restriction. Our bodies consider a period of restricted food intake to be a famine, and do everything to override this lack of nourishment. In other words, our brain will signal us to get as much energy-dense food in us as possible, as soon as possible. This is why restricting or limiting food all day can result in a nighttime binge. It’s our bodies trying to make sure we have enough nourishment to function and thrive!
It’s Often Misdiagnosed
It’s no surprise that BED is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. It wasn’t even recognized as an eating disorder by the APA until 2013, yet it’s more common than you may think. BED affects 2% of men in America, and 3.5% of women.
But here’s why this can be so dangerous. Many physicians don’t recognize BED as an eating disorder. If a person with BED lives in a fat body, his or her doctor may encourage or insist the patient lose weight. When the patient turns to diets to achieve this goal, the restrict —> binge cycle gets triggered.
It’s NOT About Willpower
So many people struggling with BED are told they should “just put down the fork;” a piece of advice that makes BEDA’s Turner laugh out loud. It is not that simple!
For many people with BED, the act of bingeing is a tool that helps them feel safe when they are triggered. We all carry past traumas and triggers, and for those with BED, a binge is often an act of self-preservation. This is why suggestions like, “just distract yourself,” or “take a walk” aren’t often very helpful. Presenter and founder of The Bodywise Project Amy Pershing reminded us that when treating BED, it’s important to see the binge for what it is: a helpful tool!
The goal of treatment is to gently replace that tool with another one, but it’s also not so black and white. Expecting the behavior to stop overnight, or to cease completely forever isn’t always realistic. But it IS possible to look at ourselves (past and present) with compassion and love. That’s one of the most helpful ways to move forward, into the future.
Do you struggle with Binge Eating Disorder? Here are some resources for you to consider: