WHAT ARE THE BEST TREATMENTS FOR BINGE EATING?
Updated: Jul 26
By Melani De Sousa, Founder, Wellness & Intuitive Eating Coach at The Wellness Workshop.
What are the best treatments for binge eating? If you’ve ever eaten a proportionately large amount of food in a short period of time, only to feel sick, guilty, and full of shame immediately after, chances are you’re familiar with the act of binge eating, or may even be suffering from Binge Eating Disorder.
Binge eating is considered a pattern of disordered eating and is a common symptom in eating disorders such as the above-mentioned Binge Eating Disorder, as well as Bulimia Nervosa. During a binge, a person is likely to consume large amounts of food even when not physically hungry, eat without tasting the food, and generally eat alone away from others. Binge eating is different to overeating - where a person may periodically have an extra helping of food or eat beyond satiety on a special occasion like Christmas or Easter.
So what are the best treatments for binge eating, and how can you find out if you have Binge Eating Disorder? Let us answer the second question first.
what is binge eating disorder?
Binge Eating Disorder or BED, is a ‘psychological illness characterised by frequently eating excessive amounts of food, often when not hungry’ (Eating Disorders Victoria 2020) BED is similar to Bulimia Nervosa, however is characterised by the absence of purging behaviours such as vomiting, over-exercising or the use of laxatives. Some of the warning signs of Binge Eating Disorder include:
A sense of lack of control in relation to eating behaviour
Eating until uncomfortably full
Eating when not physically hungry
Repeated episodes of binge eating, which often results in feelings of shame or guilt
Eating in secret
Feeling extremely distressed, upset and anxious during and after a binge episode
Depression and/or anxiety
treatments for binge eating & Binge eating disorder
Step 1 in treating binge eating or binge eating disorder is seeking advice from your General Practitioner (GP). In Australia, your local GP can provide an initial diagnosis as well as coordinate your care plan and subsequent treatment. Your plan may include consulting with a Dietitian or Psychologist, or in some cases a Psychiatrist who may recommend medication (see below).
An Accredited Practising Dietitian can provide nutritional therapy to treat binge eating, and binge eating disorder. Nutritional therapy involves managing your dietary intake to ensure you have an adequate amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to sustain regular bodily functioning. In most cases, binge eating occurs as the result of food restriction, therefore ensuring you are consuming enough food is a necessary part of the treatment process. A Dietitian will also help you explore your feelings, behaviours and beliefs around food, particularly food rules and rituals which may have contributed to the onset and continuation of your binge eating.
As with many mental illnesses, regular appointments with a psychologist can help you understand the thoughts, behaviours and emotions behind your binge eating or Binge Eating Disorder. Therapy allows you to become aware of how your mind works, understand the triggers that cause binge eating, and provide you with strategies to deal with and effectively cope with difficult emotions. Given most eating disorders develop largely because of an inability to deal with unpleasant, stressful or emotional situations, psychological treatments like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) aim to address negative patterns of thinking, problematic attitudes (particularly to weight, shape & self-esteem) and difficulty regulating emotions and emotional responses. Psychological treatment for binge eating disorder may also explore the role of trauma and past traumatic events, as well as interpersonal relationships with family and friends that may have contributed, or be contributing to binge-eating behaviour.
Psychiatric intervention, particularly if you are suffering with another illness or disorder such as depression, anxiety or a mood disorder, can help regulate the chemicals in your brain that may be contributing to harmful thought processes and behaviours. In Australia, medications such as SSRI’s (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are prescribed to assist patients suffering from an eating disorder, with emotional regulation by increasing the level of serotonin in the body. An increase of serotonin in the body as been scientifically proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety (common in BED sufferers) as well as decrease body image and weight concerns. (Eating Disorder Hope 2020)
Self-help and guided self-help
Self-help strategies for binge eating and Binge Eating Disorder have become more readily available in the last ten years, predominantly due to the emergence of smart phone apps. Self-help approaches involve the use of books and work-books, manuals, smartphone apps and web-based platforms designed to help you understand, manage and overcome issues associated with binge eating. Working with a professional like a therapist or coach together with self-help resources has been proven as a more effective strategy than self-help alone. Studies in 2013 from Rutgers University indicated almost half of binge eating sufferers experienced a complete drop (zero) in binge episodes after a 12-week program based on cognitive behavioural therapy principles. Programs like the Intuitive Eating program by Tribole & Resch, and Overcoming Binge Eating by Fairburn are excellent self-help programs for binge eating treatment.
The Intuitive Eating Program
Intuitive Eating originally developed in 1995 by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch is regarded as one of the most prolific pieces of literature for sufferers of binge eating and Binge Eating Disorder. The program helps you to identify, understand and overcome your negative relationship with food using a 10-step program that proudly denounces fad diets. Both the book and workbook teach you how to regain trust in your body, eliminate stringent food rules, develop effective coping mechanisms, and eat mindfully for both satiety and satisfaction. The Intuitive Eating program is now an international phenomenon advocated by millions of women across the globe.
Like other substance abuse issues or addictions, binge eating can often develop as a result of suppressed emotion, trauma or an inability to cope with one’s thoughts and feelings. Clinical hypnotherapy offers an alternative to conventional binge eating treatment by allowing you to tap into your subconscious and identify the triggers and underlying reasons for your compulsive eating, as well as negative thought patterns that may be driving the behaviour. Hypnotherapy also provides you with an opportunity to re-evaluate relationships and challenge old beliefs you may be holding onto about your identity and the role you play in others’ lives.
how to find the right treatment for you
If you or someone you know is suffering from binge eating, or Binge Eating Disorder, speak to one of our qualified professionals by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and telephone number. We can provide you with relevant, friendly advice unique to your circumstances over the phone and point you in the right direction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melani De Sousa is driven by her passion to stop the glorification of weight obsession and disordered eating in today’s health and fitness industries. She is an accredited Wellness Coach and founder of The Wellness Workshop. She is also an Intuitive Eating Coach, helping sufferers of Eating Disorders move on with their life through recovery. Melani is also a Personal Trainer, and was awarded the 2019 Australian PT of The Year 2019 by Fitness Australia, the nation's peak industry body.