The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 23, 2013

Speaking of Health: Understanding and overcoming binge-eating disorder

— Sometimes we push our waistbands to the limit — especially during holidays or other special events. But when you lose control of your eating habits on a regular basis and find yourself ashamed and embarrassed, there may be a serious underlying condition.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, binge-eating disorder occurs in 3 to 5 percent of women and 2 percent of men in the United States. This means it has become more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Understanding binge-eating disorder and finding ways to cope with it can make a difference in your life or the life of a loved one.


Q: What is binge-eating disorder?

A: Binge-eating disorder is a severe eating disorder in which you frequently consume large amounts of food. This usually occurs in secret and results in great personal shame. This condition usually becomes a compulsive act that turns into an uncontrollable habit.

Many people with binge-eating disorder are overweight and unhappy with their body image.


Q: What are some symptoms of binge-eating disorder?

A: Again, everyone overeats occasionally, but when your cravings and compulsions become insatiable, binge-eating disorder could be the cause.

Some symptoms to watch for include:


Q: What are the risk factors for binge-eating disorder?

A: Although the cause of binge-eating disorder is unknown, there are multiple risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing the condition.

These risk factors include:


Q: Can you prevent binge-eating disorder?

A: There is no guaranteed way to prevent binge-eating disorder. However, talking with family and friends — especially children — about healthy body image and lifestyle choices is extremely helpful in fostering a positive self-image.

Additionally, providing loved ones with support and comfort if they are having trouble with weight and eating may help keep their problems from progressing.


Q: What help is available for eating disorders and weight management?

A: Speaking with your health care provider and pursuing professional assistance is always the best option if you have concerns about an eating disorder.

Sharing your feelings, concerns and issues with loved ones can help you find support and assistance during this difficult time. There are also many support groups and websites that provide help and understanding to individuals and families dealing with eating disorders.

Mayo Clinic Health System also offers the Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, Relationship, Nutrition (LEARN) program, which is an effective weight management program that teaches important skills necessary to create lasting changes and maintain a healthy body weight. This program looks at many behavioral, environmental and psychological factors involved with eating patterns and unhealthy lifestyle choices. For more information about the LEARN program, please call 507-385-6500 or 507-385-5700.

Binge-eating disorder can be devastating for you, your family and everyone else who cares about you. The good news is that with understanding and support, you can overcome binge-eating disorder and find healthy ways to maintain a positive body image and enhance your well-being.


Lisa Hardesty, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist at Mayo Clinic Health System. For more information, please go to Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.