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How to Control Binge Eating Disorder

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 4/27/2011

A key symptom of binge eating disorder is a loss of control while eating. This lack of control can be difficult to overcome, but this article offers tips and discusses therapies for controlling binge eating disorder.

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    Binge eating disorder (BED) is typically associated with a loss of control while eating. However, there are some basic things people who suffer from binge eating disorder can do to help control their binge eating. These are some tips to help control binge eating disorder and its symptoms:

    • Manage your stress1. This takes some introspection to identify stressful triggers, but stress can trigger a binge eating episode. Once a source has been identified, it can be dealt with appropriately. Instead of using food to cope with this stress, try to relieve your stress with an activity that you enjoy. Some examples might include meditation or expressive writing.
    • Eat 3 meals a day and avoid skipping meals. Having an eating schedule can help control binge eating disorder symptoms by providing order and reducing periods of hunger. Skipping meals will likely leave you hungry, and may result in binge eating.
    • Learn your common binging foods and avoid them. If you typically binge on junk food, limit access to these foods. Keep them out of your house or apartment, or even purchase a small portion to help control your binge eating.
    • Exercise. This acts as a stress reliever and an anti-depressant for adults, and can help with controlling binge eating disorder symptoms. The goal should be maximizing your health.
    • Listen to your body. Learning when you are physically hungry is a great step toward controlling binge eating disorder. Also, with this knowledge, it's easier to distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger.
    • Get support. Talk with family and friends to help bring binge eating disorder into the open. Joining a support group is helpful because it provides support and knowledge from other sufferers.
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    Interpersonal Therapy

    Interpersonal therapy aims to identify social conditions under which binge eating disorder arose and were maintained2. Once these problematic situations have been identified, interpersonal psychotherapy tries to make interpersonal changes which address problematic social conditions. Then, the patient and therapist identify ways to handle future problems. Links between these interpersonal problems and binge eating are made throughout the therapy, and it is believed that resolving these problems leads to stopping binge eating episodes.

    This therapy was examined by Wilson, Wilfrey, Agras, and Bryson in an article that appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry. They found that BED sufferers who received interpersonal psychotherapy were more likely to stop binge eating two years after therapy when compared to another therapy group.

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    Guided Self-Help Based on Cognitive Behavior Therapy

    In the same study by Wilson, Wilfrey, Agras, and Bryson, guided self-help therapy based on cognitive behavior therapy was used to treat binge eating disorder. This therapy was based on Dr. Christopher Fairburn's book Overcoming Binge Eating and focused on creating a pattern of regular moderate eating using self-monitoring, self-control strategies, problem solving, and relapse prevention. Relapse prevention was promoted to help maintain behavior change.

    Two years after the end of therapy, patients had a similar outcome to those in the interpersonal psychotherapy group which were significantly better than the comparison therapy. Both treatments appear to be effective for controlling binge eating disorder.

    Controlling binge eating disorder is difficult, but simple things like exercise, eating 3 meals a day, learning and avoiding your binging foods, and the other tips mentioned above can help significantly. However, if these tips are not enough, there is help out there in the form of guided self-help and interpersonal therapy. Just taking the steps toward receiving help may the hardest part, but it will be worth it.

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    References

    1. http://helpguide.org/mental/binge_eating_disorder.htm

    2. Wilson, G. T., Wilfrey, D. E., Agras, S. A., and Bryson, S. W. (2010). Psychological Treatments of Binge Eating Disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(1), 94-101.