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All too often when someone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a psychologist who specializes in treating eating disorders, they will jokingly say, “I have one those, I eat too much” and sometimes laugh and pat their stomach. As no laughing matter, in actuality, binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. An estimated 3.5% of women, 2% of men, and 30% to 40% of those seeking weight loss treatments can be clinically diagnosed with binge eating disorder. The disorder impacts people of all ages (including children and adolescents), races, and levels of education and income.
According to the diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder (BED), the behavioral and emotional signs or symptoms include:

• Recurrent episodes of binge eating occurring at least once a week for three months
• Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a short time frame (considered any two-hour period)
• Lack of control over eating during the binge episode (feeling you can’t stop eating or control what or how much you are eating)

Binge eating episodes are also associated with three or more of the following:
• Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
• Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
• Eating much more rapidly than normal
• Eating alone out of embarrassment over quantity eaten
• Feeling disgusted, depressed, ashamed, or guilty after overeating

It is important to note that people with binge eating disorder tend to have higher rates of depression and other mood disorders, greater incidence of other addictions, and significantly higher rates of traumatic experiences. Therefore, it is crucial that treatment providers understand how to treat not only the eating disorder, but the co-occurring issues that contribute to and maintain binging behavior. The following excerpt from one brave client’s testimony of battling binge eating disorder highlights some of these facts:

“My addiction to food started at a very young age, about 4 years old. The insanity of using food to numb the fear, shame, pain and abandonment by my parents, an active alcoholic and drug addict, worked at the time to bring me comfort and enabled me to survive and function in my dysfunctional home. As I grew older and attended school I was ridiculed for being a fat kid and had few friends, I isolated more and more with the food, usually sugary, fatty, high-carb items. I ate in secret, I ate in my bedroom especially at night. I wanted to stop but could not. By the time I was almost through my first year of college I ate myself up to 265 pounds – gaining almost 75 lbs. in less than 9 months. I was gaining weight so fast I used to fall down the stairs – my sense of balance was off in more ways than one.

I used drugs, nicotine, speed and crystal meth as my own treatment to curb ‘my appetite’ and it worked for a while. When I was 23, I was introduced to the 12- step program Overeaters Anonymous; I was so unhappy with myself and my weight, but I wasn’t ready and left the program. I finally went back at 31. I was desperate and surrendered to the 12-step program, doing everything they told me, lost about 100 pounds, and kept almost all of it off for about 12 years. However, I relapsed when I thought I could try a little compulsive eating and some of my favorite sugary foods. This started the insanity of food addiction for me again, put on about 80 pounds, then my husband died in 2006 and I gained more and more weight until I weighed 330 lbs.

My primary care physician suggested I consider weight loss surgery and I met with a surgeon and a therapist. I started counseling for my eating disorder in 2010. After about 6 or 7 months of soul searching and therapy I decided to have Gastric Bypass surgery in February of 2011. The surgery, along with a recommitment to the Overeaters Anonymous program saved my life. I lost a little over 180 pounds and have maintained at least a 160 weight loss for about 5.5 years.

Regarding maintaining my recovery, I knew I didn’t have brain surgery (although sometimes I’d wish I had!) and it really helped me to see my counselor, attend support groups, and be very committed to my OA program. The gastric bypass, my new commitment to taking care of myself, and following all the weight loss surgery eating guidelines have been a life saver – I am much more aware of my actions and sometimes unhealthy behaviors with food and my 12-step program reinforces the fact that I truly have a food disorder, a compulsive eating disease that tells me “it’s okay” to start down that destructive eating path again! One day at time I do my best to choose not to do that.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with binge eating disorder, know that you are not alone and that help is available. The Chrysalis Center’s team of experts offers both therapy and nutritional counseling for binge eating disorder.

Additional resources:
https://bedaonline.com/
https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/conditions/binge-eating
http://www.midss.org/sites/default/files/yale_food_addiction_scale.pdf

Kelly Broadwater, LPA, LPC, CEDS is a certified eating disorder specialist whose clinical practice is strongly focused on binge eating disorder, weight loss surgery patients, trauma, and addiction.



 

Today kicks off National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017 (February 24- March 3) with this year’s theme appointed, “It’s Time to Talk about It”.

It’s time to talk about the public health crisis that eating disorders pose, as 30 million individuals of all ages and genders suffer from these illnesses in the United States. If you think you could be one of them, take a few minutes to complete this confidential online screening. http://nedawareness.org/get-screened

It’s time to talk about the fact that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental health disorder; more people die from eating disorders than any other psychiatric condition. http://www.something-fishy.org/memorial/memorial.php

It’s time to talk about binge eating disorder being the most common eating disorder, greatly contributing to our country’s obesity epidemic. http://bedaonline.com/resources/

It’s time to talk about the inadequate funding for eating disorder research. According to the National Institutes of Health in 2011, research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s averaged $88 per affected individual. For autism, the amount was $44. For eating disorders, the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93.  In response, the Eating Disorders Coalition is an organization whose mission is to advance the recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority. To learn more about how you can get involved: http://www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org/inner_template/get_involved/take-action.html#/

It’s time to talk about the messages that Americans are bombarded with about food, weight, and unachievable body ideals that add to the prevalence of eating disorders. Why else would 47% of elementary school girls who look at popular magazines say the pictures make them want to lose weight? Body positivity campaigns need to be the norm, not the exception. http://selfesteem.dove.us/

It’s time to talk about the loved ones who are impacted by their family members’ illness and the toll it takes on them. There is now more support than ever out there for caregivers. http://www.feast-ed.org/

It’s time to talk about how to get help. The earlier a person seeks treatment for an eating disorder, the greater the likelihood of full physical and emotional recovery. To search for treatment near you, https://www.edreferral.com/treatment. Locally if you are looking for support, Chrysalis Center offers individual, group, and nutritional counseling for people with any type of eating disorder. Our SOAR group (Staying Open about Recovery) and dietitian led meal support groups are currently open to new participants.

Most importantly, it’s time to talk about hope for the recovery process. As a certified eating disorders specialist, I’ve learned the most over the years not from scholarly articles or expert led workshops, but from my amazing clients and their families who have battled these deadly diseases and overcome them. To honor those who are walking this path, this week our blog and Facebook page will be publishing writing from the real experts- those in the process of recovery. Thank you to these brave individuals for sharing their powerful stories, taking the time to “talk about it”.

From a client:

“For the first time in my life, I don’t have to work to find the positives.

In high school, when the dark thoughts and voices began to take over, I challenged myself to sit down every night and make a list of three positive things that happened that day. Most nights, I struggled to come up with one.

It wasn’t easy, but after time, this helped me focus on the positives in my life instead of the negatives. I began to see treatment and therapy as an opportunity to grow instead of a punishment. I began to view my eating disorder as a challenge to radically love myself and the world around me. I began to have hope again.

The hardest part is talking about it. I kept my eating disorder a secret for three years before I confided in a friend. I stayed quiet for another two years before I reached out for help. I let five years go by while I suffered silently.

I’m working today on unapologetically being open about my experience. I have nothing to be ashamed of. It has taken me six years to believe that my eating disorder is not something I need to hide.

You have the strength to talk about it. You have the ability to take back control over your life. One small step towards recovery today will amaze you in the future when you look back on your journey.

This life is so beautiful and you deserve to enjoy it.”

 

Kelly Broadwater, LPA, LPC, CEDS is a psychologist and professional counselor who holds the distinction of Certified Eating Disorders Specialist from the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. She co-founded the Chrysalis Center in 2003 and is proud of the team of experts she’s assembled to treat eating disorders and other mental health concerns.


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