What comes to mind when you hear the term binge eating disorder? Overeating? An occasional binge? That irresistible feeling to dig in – no holds barred – during holiday festivities?
The reality is, binge eating disorder, also known as B.E.D., involves much more than overeating or the occasional binge during the holidays. In fact, these misperceptions may prevent adults and children from receiving the help they really need.
“B.E.D. is the most common eating disorder. But at the same time, it is the least talked about,” Dr. Lesley Williams, a board certified Family Medicine physician and a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, tells BlackDoctor.org.
According to the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), B.E.D. impacts approximately 2.8 million U.S. adults.
Symptoms of B.E.D commonly found in both adults and children, as Dr. Williams explained, include “eating an excessive amount to the point where you feel uncomfortably full,” “having a lack of control when eating,” and “feeling significant guilt and/or shame following a binge.”
Binge Eating Triggers in African Americans
One of the biggest myths about eating disorders is that the face – and body – is only that of young white women. Exact statistics on the prevalence of eating disorders among women of color, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), aren’t available. However, may Black women (and men) suffer in silence out of shame or not realizing they are experiencing more than overeating from time to time.
“Sometimes it may be something that is happening emotionally,” said Dr. Williams about what may trigger binge eating specifically in African Americans.
“Oftentimes in the African American community, we don’t talk much about mental health. So, frequently, someone may be facing some kind of distress and not know how to manage it – instead of talking to someone about it, they look to food as a form of comfort.”
Dr. Williams shared that in her practice many patients don’t talk about eating when they’re stressed, feeling sad or dealing with unfamiliar emotions. “Many times, turning to food is more acceptable than [seeking] professional help, therapy, or even medication.”
When it comes to children, Dr. Williams says emotional stress and bullying can be major triggers in Black children.”In some cases, we see children where they are one-of-a-kind, like the only African American in their environment – they feel out of place and may not have the words to communicate that, so they turn to food for comfort due to feeling like the odd man out,” Dr. Williams explained.