Being a binge-eater, is like being an alcoholic, except it involves food instead of alcohol. It is an addiction which affects people of all levels of fitness.
A lot of focus has been placed on anorexia-nervosa, and bulimia-nervosa, but it seems that compulsive overeating gets ignored, and/or lost in the shuffle. A common misconception is that binge eating occurs only with obese individuals.
I can tell you first hand however, that I know more binge-eaters that are actually in shape, than out of shape. The major reason for my writing this article is because I myself have personally suffered from the disorder, and have found it extremely detrimental to my fitness and overall well-being.
While the strategies presented in this article are in no way a cure to the disease (the actual cravings begin in one's own MIND), they may be a helpful step toward curbing one's desires, and substituting other actions in place of excessive eating.
Usually when one engages in an episodic binge, he or she has starved him or herself throughout the course of the entire day. When night time comes, the person's hormones are out of whack, which will often lead to a sugar-craving (or salt/fat craving).
Since the binge-eating follows a regular pattern of "eat a bunch," and then "starve yourself the following day due to guilt", the cycle will continue, and will eventually prove to be very detrimental to one's well-being, digestive system, and overall level of fitness.
Personally, when I speak of "recovering from a binge," I am explaining how to make it so that if a binge does occur, you can reduce the guilt you feel, by acting in a proper manner the following day to reduce the harsh effects on your body.
When excessive eating of carbohydrates occurs, the carbohydrates are converted to a form called glycogen, and stored in the muscles, and liver.
If the liver and muscles are filled to their maximum capacity with glycogen, then any excess carbohydrates which are consumed, will be stored as fat. In order to keep your weight in check, you should completely avoid binge-eating altogether. But, if it does occur, here is a good way to recover:
1. If you overeat (particularly with carbohydrates), eliminate carbohydrates from your breakfast the following morning. You have to burn off some of that stored glycogen before you start to overflow your body with excess carbohydrates. You CAN eat the next morning, just make sure you eat the RIGHT food!
2. If your stomach is filled with a surplus of food from the day before, try to exercise in the morning before you eat anything, and go to the bathroom to unload some of the food in your digestive system before you start overloading your body with excess calories to be stored as fat.
If you eat anything at all, have some salad, fiber, or a small amount of protein (chicken breast, turkey breast, egg whites, fish, etc) instead of carbohydrates. Burn up some of that stored glycogen before you ingest unnecessary carbs.
Night Eating Syndrome
While binge-eating may occur at any time, I have found the majority of cases to take place late at night, after dinner, often with intermittent periods of waking up and eating throughout the night. Recently, there has been a name associated with this particular case of binge-eating.
Scientists have coined the term "Night Eating Syndrome," and have found that individuals suffering from the disease are actually affected on a hormonal level, rather than just on the surface.
In a study done by the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and the University Hospital in Tromso, Norway, which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a combination of two related studies based upon behavioral and neuro-endorcine data was performed.
The behavioral study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, attempts to define behavioral characteristics of the disorder by recording the eating times during the course of an episode, and the mood level throughout the waking hours as well as the frequency of night-time awakenings.
The neuro-endocrine study conducted at the University Hospital in Tromso, Norway, attempts to characterize the syndrome in terms of circadian profiles (occurring approximately every 24 hours) of plasma melatonin, leptin & cortisol-the hormones linked to sleep & appetite that are found in lower levels in people with night-eating syndrome.
Through their study, they found the following facts to be true for most individuals:
1. The person has little or no appetite for breakfast. He or she delays the first meal for several hours after waking up. The individual is not hungry or is upset about how much was eaten the night before.
2. The individual eats more food after dinner than during that meal.
3. The person eats more than half of daily food intake after dinner but before breakfast, and may leave the bed to snack at night.
4. This pattern has persisted for at least two months.
5. The person feels tense, anxious, upset, or guilty while eating.
6. Night-Eating Syndrome is thought to be stress related and is often accompanied by depression. Especially at night the person may be moody, tense, anxious, nervous, agitated, etc.
7. The person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Wakes frequently and then often eats.
8. Foods ingested are often carbohydrates: sugary and starch.
9. The behavior is not like binge eating which is done in relatively short episodes. Night-Eating Syndrome involves continual eating throughout evening hours.
10. This eating produces guilt and shame, not enjoyment.
Steps To Complete Recovery
As with any addiction, the first step toward recovery is to acknowledge the existence of a problem. Once one realizes that, he or she can outline the specific times the disorder affects him or her, and take the appropriate steps toward recovery.
The final goal is to stop binge-eating altogether, and be able to choose small amounts of food in moderation. But in order to do this, one has to understand and pinpoint the EXACT point and time that the thought of binge-eating pops into his or her head, and develop a strategy to overcome it.
Personally, I have found that since I will only binge eat late at night, it is much better for me to force myself to go to sleep at a certain time, so that I do not overeat. If I am up past 11 or so during the week, the thought of eating bad food will enter my head. I will either force myself to go to sleep, or do what I call a "substitution" exercise.