Contrary to popular belief, a person does not develop an eating disorder because they are weak or have no self-control. Instead, an eating disorder is a mental health condition that factors such as genetics or trauma can cause. An individual’s quality of life can significantly deteriorate as they experience ongoing stress and even life-threatening complications from an eating disorder.
This article will focus on binge eating, the most common eating disorder in the United States, and how treatment can help.
Types of Eating Disorders
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a person with an eating disorder experiences “severe disturbances in… eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.” Several complications can result from an eating disorder, such as the development of diabetes or brain damage, and mental health conditions like toxic shame and suicidal ideation. A person can even die if they become severely malnourished and underweight.
The following are three common eating disorders:
Binge eating manifests as reoccurring episodes of eating lots of food even when a person is not hungry.
Anorexia nervosa causes people to see themselves as overweight even when they may be dangerously underweight. They tend to avoid many foods or eat very little.
Bulimia nervosa involves eating a lot of food at one time and then purging oneself by forced vomiting, using laxatives, excessive exercise, and other methods.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
There are different reasons why a person may have an unhealthy relationship with food.
Eating disorders are influenced by a complex interaction between biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors. They can also be hereditary and involve structural abnormalities in the brain that cause some individuals to be more susceptible to eating too much or too little.
In the case of binge-eating, a person may have learned to use food to cope with stress. Tasty foods and sweets stimulate the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine into the body. This is like what happens when a person uses drugs like cocaine.
Feelings of pleasure and relief are triggered, initiating a reinforcing cycle similar to addiction. Every time a person becomes uncomfortable, they turn to soda or a bag of candy like others would a cigarette or a beer.
Signs You May Be Addicted to Food
Individuals with a binge-eating disorder struggle with what might otherwise be called food addiction or process addiction. Binge-eating is the most common eating disorder in the United States and can lead to diabetes and heart disease complications.
Asking the following questions can help individuals get a sense of their relationship with food:
- Do you hide your eating habits from others?
- Do you eat so much that your stomach hurts?
- Do you eat despite being full or when you are not hungry?
- Do you often feel like you cannot control how much you eat?
- Do you try to set rules around eating but make excuses to break them?
- Do you feel guilty and shameful after eating, but your behavior does not change?
Time to Think Differently About Food
Getting treatment for an eating disorder like binge eating is a step in the right direction toward changing one’s relationship with food. At facilities like Avalon Malibu, treatment for process addictions involve a combination of approaches due to their complex and pervasive nature.
Clients can expect to engage in intensive psychotherapy to establish healthy behavioral patterns and psychoeducation to learn about the chemical and psychological aspects of their disorder. By cultivating a deeper self-awareness, clients will become more compassionate and accepting of themselves and where they are at in their recovery journey.
Being Mindful of What & When You Eat
It is crucial to find a treatment center that recognizes the cognitive, physical, and spiritual aspects of treating process addictions like binge eating. A holistic approach to treatment means effectively addressing these three elements and healing the connection between them through mindfulness-based therapies and nutritional interventions.
Mindfulness-based therapies can include practices like yoga and meditation, which are powerful tools for changing harmful eating patterns. Process addictions trigger compulsive behavior, leading clients to do things they have always done without thinking about their consequences. By learning how to focus on the present moment and develop a more vital self-awareness, clients can start to act with intention and control.
Getting Back to Optimal Health
Nutritional services are an important component of recovering from a binge-eating disorder. Clients receive a nutritional assessment and are provided feedback on how they can stabilize their weight and meet specific vitamin and mineral requirements.
Facilities like Avalon Malibu also provide dietary support; a chef is on-site to cook healthy meals that meet each client’s nutritional needs and preferences. Nutritional information is also provided to clients to supply them with the knowledge to make good choices.
Eating disorders distort the way a person perceives themselves in relation to food. With conditions like binge-eating, a person may become “addicted” to the pleasure that food triggers. It is important to find treatment early on to avoid medical and mental health complications. Avalon Malibu is a licensed addiction and mental health treatment center located in Malibu, CA. We treat adults struggling with various types of addiction, including process addictions like binge-eating. If you are hesitant to seek treatment because you are deeply ashamed of your behavior, please know that binge-eating is not your fault. It is a serious disorder that can be treated with your willingness and commitment. Our mindfulness-based therapies and nutritional services are led by an expert team that is dedicated to helping you take control over your eating habits and recreate your relationship with food. Please call us today at (844) 857-5992 with any questions or concerns.