Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the U.S., and Black Americans are not exempt. But in general, we just don’t know what it is.
“BED has a huge impact on the African-American community,” says Dr. Lesley Williams, chief executive officer at Liberation Center in Phoenix, Arizona. “Despite this, there is limited awareness and understanding of the condition and clinicians themselves rarely recognize or diagnose it.”
Although binge eating is a complex problem, here are five essential aspects of the disorder that you need to know:
1. Binge eating is not the same as just eating too much.
Binge eating can be life-threatening. Those who suffer from it feel as if they’ve lost control during episodes and can’t stop eating. They are often accompanied by shame and guilt, which can turn into more dangerous reactions such as purging. Other possible dangers are an increased risk of surgeries such as gastric bypass surgery, gallbladder surgery, and other health complications such as type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
“This is an eating disorder that greatly impacts people’s quality of life and cannot be cured by just ‘going on a diet,’” Williams said.
2. The problem isn’t all physical.
There is a huge psychological aspect to binge eating, and the condition often stems from — and attributes to — mental health problems.
“The psychological and emotional dangers are that when people binge, that out-of-control feeling around food lowers their self-esteem, sense of worth, and colors almost everything they do,” says Karen Koenig, clinical social worker, eating educator, and author. “They begin to fear being around food, going out to eat, or being alone with food. They lose trust in their appetite cues, especially a sense of hunger or satiation. Binge-eating also contributes to self-hate, purging or taking laxatives, remorse, and a total devaluation of the self.”