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Binge Eating Disorder

      Binge eating disorder has only recently become defined as a health condition, and it affects millions of Americans. Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by frequently eating very large amounts of food, while feeling a loss of control over the eating. Binge Eating Disorder is different from bulimia nervosa (binge-purge) in that binge eaters do not purge the food through vomiting or laxative use.

Experts believe that Binge Eating Disorder is likely the most common eating disorder, affecting approximately 2% of Americans. The majority of people suffering from Binge Eating Disorder are obese, and more women suffer than do men. A high percentage of people with Binge Eating Disorder were obese in childhood.

Although most of us eat too much occasionally and often eat bigger quantities of food than we should, this is not considered binge eating.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

- Frequent episodes of eating what most would consider an abnormally large quantity of food.
- Feelings of a loss of control over how much food is being consumed
- Eating much faster than normal
- Eating so much that the body feels uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
- Eating alone due to embarrassment about the amount of food eaten
- Feelings of guilt or depression after overeating

The causes of Binge Eating Disorder are unclear and are hotly debated by professionals. Suggestions include depression, the improper functioning of some brain chemicals, psychological problems and metabolic problems.
Binge Eating Disorder can lead to very serious health problems, particularly those associated with obesity. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease and some cancers.


For the most part, Binge Eating Disorder is not treated through dieting. Most binge eaters have problems sticking to diets and have a tendency to regain lost weight. Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder usually involves behavioral therapy that seeks to address changes in eating habits, as well as psychotherapy that examines relationships to family, friends and how binge eating relates to these relationships.

Binge eaters should discuss their eating habits with a doctor. Proper treatment is essential to avoid the many pitfalls associated with yo-yo dieting and potentially negative psychological effects that weight gain can have.

The Mayo Clinic's Health Living Centers provides excellent advice and research about diet and nutrition. Excellent resources about diets and nutrition are offered by the website.

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