It is a very common story. A kid gets a little heavy in his preteens, and the other kids start in. light teasing, maybe a bully gets involved. The Child starts getting down about the situation. The Child starts getting down about their self’s. They look for places and things to make themselves feel better. They stay at home instead of going out and playing, and you know what makes them feel better? That Twinkie will make them feel better. Those chips will make them feel better, and so will that soda.
They binge eat before you know it, and it becomes a hard pattern to break. As a parent, it is easy to overlook the initial warning signs. As a parent, logically, it is easy to reconcile those initial warning signs. For is not a healthy appetite in a child a good thing. Phrases like, ‘they are a growing child,’ and, ‘it is OK for them to want thirds they are so active,’ jump to mind.
Now everyone overeats from time to time. Everyone has a piece of the pie on too many occasions, and Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates excess. What is binge eating? Who can it affect? And most importantly, what do you do about it.
Table of Contents
What Is Binge Eating
Just recently recognized as a valid disorder, overeating can and does affect anyone. It is recognized by not just overreacting but a few other symptoms as well:
- An out-of-control feeling while overeating.
- The inability to stop overeating.
- Eating even when not hungry.
- A deep feeling of shame when the process is done.
- You eat very fast and for long periods, ignoring even feelings of being full to continue eating.
- It is differentiated from bulimia by the lack of the characteristic purging afterward.
- Eating by yourself because of shame and embracement.
You can see quite easily how this problem, once started, can be a circular problem. Once your stress and emotional problems start causing you to binge eat, the feelings of guilt and shame caused by binge eating can trigger more guilt and shame, which in turn causes more binge eating. The problem is self-perpetuating and almost always requires outside intervention.
What Causes Binge Eating Disorders
Binge eating comes with an inability to deal with or control stress in your life. This feeling of no control can be amplified, especially in children, by situations of bullying. But what truly causes binge eating disorders? Well, no one is truly sure about that. Yet there are some common factors we can look at.
Biology does play a part, but we are unsure of how big a part is. Genetics is involved, too, as you are more likely to be predisposed to binge eating if it runs in your family. Internal chemistry plays a big part, and you are 50 percent more likely to binge eat if you suffer from depression. Psychology can factor in with people suffering from anxiety and shame or guilt disorders predisposed toward overeating.
And, of course, you are more likely to develop a disorder if you are overweight.
How To Stop Binge Eating
This is a complicated and in-depth question. It is also a question with many answers. Many doctors and psychologists who are worth a damn say that various actions and treatment options employed together are the best methods.
The first is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is usually teamed up with an insight-oriented therapy. This method allows a person to be essentially retrained in seeing their thought patterns to alter the behavior, thoughts, and triggers that cause binge eating.
This, in conjunction with group therapy, proves very effective. Group therapy is very important because breaking these patterns makes you about 75 percent more likely to succeed with a decent emotional support system. This success number dramatically goes up in teens and drops when that support system is not present. Also, group therapy helps a person dismiss the feelings of shame that can cause a circular problem.
Some therapists also team these things up with a self-help program. Such as keeping a journal and meditation. These methods can help people identify bad, dangerous, and triggering behaviors.
Most quality doctors will also employ educational assistance here. Looking at what the person is trained to eat is a key to the whole process. Speaking to a nutritionist about what to eat and when will help a person make better food choices. It will also make people see the difference between the different types of hunger that can cause overeating, mostly physical hunger or emotional hunger.
And of course, antidepressants can help break the cycle of shame and guilt that are the underlying cause of these issues. Depression medication can also have the positive side effect of regulating appetite.
A Story Of Childhood
We want to relate a story. This story is about a boy named Nathan (Who had changed his name to protect his identity). He was a young man going through school in the racially diverse and racially charges Los Angeles. He was an outsider, not by choice but because he was racially different from most other kids.
He was bullied in grade school. Physically Who beat him? He was ostracized and left out. He would hide during times not in class. Recess and play times he would spend cowering behind a building, alone and grateful for a day in which no one found him, cause that day they did find him, he got beat up and called names.
At lunch, while kids were playing kickball and dodge ball, he was watching and thinking how cool it would be to play those sports. If he ever asked, he paid for it. His only solace was the cafeteria. There under the watchful eyes of the lunch lady and the teachers and janitors, the other kids would leave him be. He could eat his food in peace. He would often sit until lunch was over, taking other kids’ leftover foods and eating to avoid staying.
He had found his place in grade school and was glad of it. Things got a little better, and he liked the food. The stale sandwiches and the cold meaty food. But it was his escape. Fast forward to middle school, and it was the same thing. He had to contend with more clever bullies, but something else was happening; now, it was the girls. You see, Nathan got a little bigger due to his eating. He wasn’t fat, but he was a little oversized.
The benefit of the extra size was strength. The overeating caused a benefit, and he could now fight back. The bullies realized he was not an easy target, so they left him alone. So he was free to eat. He was free to be left alone, and food made him feel better, gave him a place, and allowed him to fight.
He spent middle school alone but picked up an instrument in his begging band class. He liked that. Fast forward to High School, and Nathan is known as a loner. He is good at an instrument, and something wonderful happens. He is welcomed into the band program. Marching band is exercise, and the band is a sense of community. He continues to overeat, but no one sees the negative side effects cause the marching keeps him in shape.
In his third year, his father dies, and to help the family; he has to find work. Nathan’s stress and long hours cause more overeating, and he gets bigger again. But still, in relative shape, no one notices. He graduates and moves on. He enters the working world unable to go to college due to family needs.
He is getting much less exercise but is under even more stress. He eats for comfort, and as he gets bigger, he feels shame. Now in his thirties, he is obese and dealing with a lifetime of shame and guilt for letting people down and doing it to himself.
What Can Overeating Do To You
The story above, Nathans’s story, is a common one. Many people overeat and binge to relieve stress. It doesn’t. It causes more from the shame and the guilt of the act. It is a feeling quite terrible. It can cause deep depression. It can cause weight gain, sickness, and obesity. The calories and cholesterol, whether overweight or not, can cause heart disease and diabetes. These can lead to all kinds of health-impacting situations, including death.
And obesity comes with all kinds of risk factors of its own. Risk of heart attack and the like, but that’s a whole other article.
Some Alarming Numbers
Now we will throw some statistics at you, so pay attention. 65 percent of America, more than 97 million people, is overweight. A good 50 percent of those qualify as obese. Obesity can be defined as being 20 to 30 percent over your ideal weight.
4 million people in The United States have binge eating disorders. Most of these either are or become overweight. Half of those became obese and took on all the health problems associated.
When Should Someone Get Binge Eating Help
When is enough? When does a person say to themselves this is unhealthy and needs to stop? Do you wait until you are pre-diabetic from all the sugary binging? Do you wait until you are uncontrollably falling into a deep sleep after each binge? That is a sign of diabetes. Do you wait till you have gained a hundred pounds? Two hundred pounds? Do you wait till after your first heart attack? Do you wait until you cannot keep up with your Child at the playground, or are you out of breath from going up the stairs?
Well, you are talking about a shame-based problem, and the very definition of shame is that person does not want to admit it. They want to hide it. If you have a problem, chances are you know it but are powerless to stop it or ask for help.
Those who can do it themselves, rare as they are, tend to excel at healing the issues at hand, but they are a rare breed. Let’s say it, folks, when you are a compulsive or binge eater, you know it. It’s a pang of shame and guilt that drives your problem, which prevents you from getting the help you need to solve it. After all, you have to tell people, lots of people, to get help.
That’s why it is so important for parents to see the problem and do something about it. Most times, Who can only break the cycle from the outside. A strong support structure tells a person it is OK, let us help together, we already know, and there is no shame. The words, ‘we still love you,’ are among the most potent and powerfully healing in the whole of civilization. And they cause people to want to get help.
Parents, the world today is an orbiting ball of stress, and in the future, many new stress disorders will rear their ugly heads toward you, your family, and your children. Binge eating can be among the most dangerous and can permanently shred a life and a person’s self-worth more than most other disorders.
Be patient, and be observant. Who can treat these problems, and normalcy achieved? But above all, realize this is a mental illness, and your Child is a victim, not a willing participant.