Think just for a moment about eating disorder portrayal in the media. What do you see? If I had to guess…it’s likely a white woman living in a thin body struggling with anorexia nervosa. It’s also likely that your high school health class only provided brief education on anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In more recent years, some progress has been made towards increasing awareness of all eating disorders. Eating disorders do not discriminate… they affect persons of all socio-economic backgrounds, genders, ethnicities and races, and body shapes and size. Did you know that the most common eating disorder among adults in the US is Binge Eating Disorder, commonly referred to as BED? One study found evidence that BED is three times more likely to occur than anorexia and bulimia combined!
So what is BED? BED is described as consuming a larger amount of food, typically eating past fullness, more than once a week for a period of at least three months, and is often followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Other symptoms of BED can include engaging in restrictive eating, eating in secrecy, and feeling out of control around food. It is quite common for individuals navigating Binge Eating Disorder to have co-occurring diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, substance use, trauma, and body dysmorphia. BED has been recognized as a formal diagnosis for 10 years. Unfortunately, the general public and some medical providers are not up to date on the symptoms and relevancy of BED.
Binge eating is often described as an isolating experience and can be overlooked as “lack of willpower.” This idea of willpower couldn’t be further from the truth! Binge Eating Disorder is a serious AND treatable mental health condition. While continued advocacy is needed for the treatment of BED, I have some good news. If you are navigating BED, please know that you are not alone. BED is quite responsive to psychotherapy, particularly ACT, and nutrition counseling. Recovery is possible for ALL eating disorders.
Let’s continue to break down the walls of the eating disorder stereotypes. I hope when you now think of eating disorders, you begin to think of folks from all backgrounds, body shapes and sizes.