Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by eating unusually large amounts of food in a short period of time at least once a week for months on end. People with binge eating disorder have no control during binge episodes and these episodes are often followed by feelings of guilt or shame. If left untreated, BED can lead to obesity, which may lead to a variety of obesity-related complications, including:
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
- certain cancers
BED may also lead to other eating disorders.
Creating a binge eating disorder toolbox can help with both short- and long-term recovery.
Signs and Symptoms
Have your eating habits gotten out of control? Are you embarrassed by the large amounts of food you’re eating? If so, it may be a sign that you have an eating disorder.
It’s easy to confuse emotional eating episodes with bingeing, but there are several distinguishing factors.
You may have BED if you’ve encountered the following symptoms at least once a week for the last three months:
- eating until you’re uncomfortably full
- eating excessively large amounts of food, even when you’re not hungry
- putting yourself on frequent diets
- feeling distressed after bingeing episodes
- feeling out of control over your binge eating episodes
If you identify with any of these habits, see your doctor.
BED should be taken seriously. It’s a real disorder, and has been recently recognized as its own eating disorder category in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM-5).
What’s a BED Toolbox?
An eating disorder toolbox is a collection of items, activities, people, and other resources that can help you overcome your disorder. You should think of it as a first line of defense in your recovery.
Johanna Kandel is the founder and executive director of the Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness. She writes in her book “Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder” that you can “never have too many tools.” Kandel further explains that “recovery is about knowing that you have options.” The more tools you have, the more options you have and the more likely that you’re able to recover.
You can add or remove things from your toolbox as you see fit. What might work for one period of time may not be as effective down the line. Add as many tools as you like, take away those that you’ve outgrown, and keep revisiting it.
How to Create Your Toolbox
There are no right or wrong items to place in your recovery toolbox. The key is choosing things that fill you with strength and resolution. You can make a physical or virtual container to hold your items. Some people find it useful to make a Pinterest board, while others prefer collecting physical items and storing them in a binder, notebook, or box.
Here are a few ideas of what to add to your collection:
- Shared experiences: It helps to understand that you aren’t alone. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that around 4 million adults struggle with binge eating disorder. Try searching online for BED recovery stories, and for blogs with tips and pieces of advice.
- Trusted friends: You may have told a few of your closest friends or family members about your disorder. When you’re having a bad day or feel like you might binge, try reaching out. Keep a list of their phone numbers in your toolbox. A quick phone call or visit can do wonders.
- Moderate exercise: The Mayo Clinic explains that exercise can lift your mood by increasing your endorphins. Keep in mind that healthy exercise habits involve activities in moderation. Try something like walking, swimming, jogging, cycling, or yoga. If you need an idea, think back to activities you enjoyed doing as a child, like dancing with friends or playing a sport. You may find that you can still enjoy these activities as an adult. Remember to focus on your breath and your inner strength, rather than on burning calories.
- Stress relief: Consider adding other activities to your toolbox that bring you joy. BED is closely linked to stress and depression, so participating in hobbies that make you happy can be effective in managing the disorder. Whether it’s kayaking or painting, volunteering or reading, fill your spare time by doing something enjoyable.
- Safe places: You may have a special place, like a local park, museum, or even your own bedroom, that brings you back to center. Designate this place as a haven or a thinking spot. It can also be helpful to have a drawing or photograph of your safe place to look at when you cannot physically get there.
- Other resources: Your doctor or counselor is another great addition your tool box. For ongoing support, try a support group. You can connect with people who have gone through similar issues and get encouragement. Ask your doctor for a list of recommended groups.
Use Your Tools
When you feel out of control or have an urge to binge, visit your toolbox. Don’t get discouraged if this method doesn’t work for you right away. Keep trying new tools until you find something that sticks.
Do you have a Pinterest binge eating disorder toolbox you’d like to share? Where do you find inspiration?