With the chagim underway everyone seems to be busy with preparations, shopping, and of course cooking the lavish delicacies that will be served at the never-ending meals.
In the last issue, I discussed the challenges of Rosh Hashanah for those experiencing disordered eating or suffering from an eating disorder. When one thinks of an eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa often come to mind. These are the two more “well-known” eating disorders, though they are still gravely misunderstood by the masses. There are two other eating disorder classifications which need attention, especially in the context of the upcoming holidays: Binge Eating Disorder and EDNOS.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM -5 listed eating disorders in such a way that caused individuals who did not suffer from the exact symptoms of Anorexia or Bulimia, to be classified as having EDNOS, or “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.” This meant that those suffering from binge eating were given that label. Now that the manual has been updated, Binge Eating Disorder, which was often classified as EDNOS, has been given its own listing. Also, the parameters regarding Anorexia and Bulimia have changed so that fewer will be put in the EDNOS category. But what is Binge Eating Disorder?
A binge is not what happens when someone is very hungry and goes through a large bag of potato chips. A binge is also not when a teenager goes through a break-up and cries while consuming a pint of ice cream. Rather, a binge is an emotional response which involves a mindless obsessiveness surrounding the food. A binge session looks as follows: a woman responds to unpleasant feelings (anxiety, fear, pain, etc.) by consuming a large amount of calories in a short amount of time. Binge sessions can run anywhere between half an hour to more than five hours, and the individual consumes somewhere around 600 – 5000 calories within one session. The binges generally take place in private and the individual bingeing loses hunger and fullness cues. This is similar to what people call “compulsive overeating,” though those who compulsively overeat do not always binge. Some individuals react after having binged by purging their food through exercise, vomiting, or laxatives. That, in essence, is the definition of Bulimia: a binge followed by a purge of the food consumed. However, those who do not purge their food in any way suffer from Binge Eating Disorder.
Why do individuals binge? The “need” to binge comes from a place of discomfort with one’s feelings. Some professionals believe this a way to cope with feelings of “emptiness,” by taking in large amounts of food. It is accepted by all that this is an emotional response and poses serious health risks.
How does one overcome this disorder? Those suffering from binge eating must break the cycle of binges. Generally, the individual will binge and follow this by restricting his/her food intake so as not to gain weight from the binge. However this will oftentimes result in another binge as a means of providing the body with the calories it craves. The first step, then, is it to break the cycle of bingeing and restricting. This must go hand-in-hand with uncovering the purpose that the binge serves in the individual’s life. All eating disorder serve a greater emotional purpose.
My eating disorder was a means to help me “stay young” (by continuing to be in a child’s body, by being taken care of since I could no longer take care of myself) among other things. This was uncovered through therapy, which is recommended for those suffering from an eating disorder as a first step toward recovery. Once the individual knows what the eating disorder behaviors mean, s/he can begin to work toward normalizing the behaviors and letting go of the symptoms by replacing them with healthy coping skills. This is not simple, by any means. The recovery process, and learning to let go of the eating disorder behaviors, to trust one’s body and the healthy ways to overcome negative emotions is painful and slow. But it can be done.
I raise the issue of awareness regarding binge eating specifically at this time because of the plentitude of food during the holidays. For those suffering from binge eating or overeating, this is a very scary time. There is a tremendous amount of food in the house, and with the pressure surrounding the holidays and the company, they may be tempted to binge. It is important to recognize the signs of binge eating and to have a discussion with your loved one, not about the food, about what is going on that is causing him/her to use food as a symptom. For those experiencing binge eating, you are not alone and the first step is to recovery is to ask for help.
I wish you all Chag Samaech and remind you that the holidays are about something much greater than food and recipes.
For more information binge eating and eating disorders, or to see a specific topic in next week’s edition, email Temimah at informationtvc_gmail.com or visit www.tvcsupport.org
By Temimah Zucker