Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Feeding Frenzy: How To Deal With Binge Eating

By Sunny Sea Gold

Teen Vogue~ When I was sixteen years old, I sold candy bars to raise money for my junior class student council. After carting them around all day at school, I finally gave in to my chocolate craving and had one. Then two. Then three, four, five. Despite feeling sick to my stomach, I couldn't stop. I ate half a dozen 100 Grand candy bars that afternoon, and then spent the evening trying to make myself throw up.
I'd been obsessed with dieting and calories since I was thirteen, and any attempts to resist junk food always ended with me eating stuff by the bag, box, and tub; but after downing those candy bars that day, I knew something was wrong. I didn't have anorexia, because I wasn't starving myself, and I didn't have bulimia, because I couldn't actually get myself to purge.
It turned out that I had something I had never heard of before: binge eating disorder (BED), an illness characterized by frequent overeating during which you feel out of control and then very upset afterward. And I wasn't the only one suffering from it. Despite the fact that people don't talk about it as much, BED is more common than anorexia and bulimia combined: A study last year by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 1.6 percent of all American teens have it, compared with 0.3 percent who have anorexia and 0.9 percent who are struggling with bulimia.

Kelsey, a seventeen-year-old from Philadelphia, recently discovered that she's one of the hundreds of thousands of teen girls dealing with BED. "A typical binge will go something like this: I tell myself I'm only going to have one cookie, but it turns into ten," she says. "After I eat those, I'll grab some chips because I want something salty. Next thing you know, I'm standing in front of the fridge eating leftovers. Then I'll want something sweet again, so I'll have a couple of ice cream sandwiches and some cereal." She confesses that she repeatedly raids the fridge and cupboards although she's not hungry, and even when she's already full. "It's as if I'm on autopilot— just shoving all the food in—and before I realize it, I've eaten a ton," she says. Too ashamed to binge eat in front of others, Kelsey waits until she's home alone: "When my mom leaves, I sometimes go straight to the kitchen so I can have a huge pig-out with no one around."

Of course, everyone overeats once in a while—accidentally finishing off a big bag of chips while watching TV or having seconds of pie at Thanksgiving—but binge eaters' behavior goes way beyond that. "The key issue that distinguishes binge eating disorder from the normal overeating we all do is the loss of control, and one sign that there may be a binge eating problem is if it causes distress to the person and interferes with her life in some way," explains Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program and author of the bookCrave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop (Walker & Company). "This could mean not going out with friends to eat, avoiding social situations, like parties, in which there is food, and choosing to stay at home with your binge foods over going to school or an activity."
For Kelsey, who's currently in her senior year of high school, overeating is definitely getting in the way of her happiness. "I binge eat almost every day and I feel disgusting," she says. "I've gained fifteen pounds in the last few months, and it's a struggle to get out of bed every morning. When I look in the mirror I want to cry. None of my clothes fit anymore, so now I just wear sweatpants and T-shirts to school and no makeup. I've lost all my confidence."

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