Come February, we’re deep into winter, and the short days combined with frigid temperatures may have us reaching for our favourite comfort foods. Hot, creamy soups, rich casseroles, hot chocolate—it feels like the colder it is outside, the more we want to stay indoors and eat…and eat, and eat.
For most of us, occasionally overindulging at mealtime is okay—we simply move on, perhaps pledging to eat better tomorrow. But for some people, it’s not that simple. For those who suffer from binge eating disorder (BED), overeating brings on feelings of deep shame and self-loathing. People with the disorder feel like they lose control when they eat; they may also eat too quickly, eat beyond feeling full to the point where they’re uncomfortable, and hide their binges from others. In other words, meals and snacks become minefields of physical and emotional stressors.
So how do you know if you’re an occasional overeater, or if there could be something more serious at play, such as binge eating disorder? To find out, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I regularly consume a lot more food than most people would in a similar time period?
- Do I feel out of control during an episode of bingeing?
- Do I feel very upset after binge eating?
- Have I binged at least once a week for the past three months?
If you answered “Yes” to these questions, it might be time to have a conversation with your family doctor about your relationship with food. You are not alone: BED is the most common eating disorder in Canada, more common than anorexia and bulimia combined, and it affects both men and women. It’s not a “choice” or a “phase;” it’s a serious medical condition which is associated with mood disorders, anxiety and depression.
The good news is that BED is treatable. Options to manage the disorder include cognitive behavioural therapies and nutritional counselling. In addition, the first Health Canada-approved medication to treat BED was announced last October. Not everyone needs medication, of course, but it can be part of a healthy, holistic approach to managing the disorder.
So if you’re concerned that your eating is out of hand, don’t try to tough it out—get help! Speak with your physician, or reach out to organizations such as the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), Anorexie et Boulimie Québec (ANEB), or the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED).