Binge Eating Disorder is a fairly new "diagnosis" - as with all diagnosis' it takes time, funding, research, man/woman hours to label a behavioral pattern and get it approved and published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (aka my bible in my profession). This means that BED (Binge Eating Disorder) has existed for a long long time however it is only recently that enough attention, research, money etc. has been invested into it that it now has a name and place in the medical field.
The first thing that needs to be said is that we ALL binge eat at times. Perhaps you haven't eaten all day because you've been chasing kids around town or traveling for work and suddenly you are overcome with hunger and you consume a day's worth of calories in a sitting. This is a binge to a degree. This is not a disorder. What classifies anything as a disorder is two things 1) frequency/recurrence 2) distress/stress. If there is a repeated pattern and if that pattern causes you and your life distress this is when we begin to look at this particular behavior as a disorder.
In my 80/20 program, one of the first group sessions is entirely focused on our relationship to food. Like ANYTHING else, food can become an addiction. In the DSM V, BED is categorized under "Eating Disorders" but I will tell you from my research and time with clients, I think this categorization is incorrect. I believe BED belongs under "Addiction". BED is a very chemical/neurologically driven disorder. It's not a character flaw or a moral ineptitude. It's not about "choice" because if that were the case NONE of us would ever "choose" to be addicted to anything! DUH!
Addiction (and specifically BED) is about a need for connection. Human beings are not meant to operate in isolation. And when we are feeling isolated, disconnected, stressed, shameful, afraid, we will naturally reach for connection. If there is no adaptive connection already in place (i.e. a partner, parent, mentor, loved one) we will reach for ANYTHING to soothe ourselves, to decompress, to unwind the horrible agony of disconnection. Some people are more hard wired to reach for alcohol. Some for gambling. Some for shopping. Some for food. Some for ALL of the above.
Food addiction in my opinion begins young. In our country particularly it is easier than EVER to become addicted to anything, most especially food. When you begin at a young age feeding on high glucose foods your brain makes an adjustment. It begins to associate comfort, base level "okay" ness with glucose and then add to this any sort of trauma, pain, difficult life experience where there was no human connection available but there was cake/cookies/pizza/donuts your brain makes an even bigger adjustment. It has now solidified a connection between glucose and emotion regulation. Multiply that by the years old you are and that my dears is why is so dang hard to "disconnect" with food and "reconnect" with other more healthy, adaptive coping mechanisms such as relationships, yoga, journaling, exercise.
Some of my 80/20 group members have suggested that I offer the program to individuals without the group element. This they told me would be helpful to those particularly struggling with shame and embarrassment. Then they wouldn't have to face a group and deal with the discomfort. I have sat with this for some time now. Our society likes "individual" sessions of any kind. Don't we? And I believe in their power to a certain degree. I see her point and if I just wanted to make a profit only, I could market myself and my program in this way. But that isn't my goal. My goal is to help people. To effect change. Change in you. Change in your body. Change in your system. This, despite how desperately I wish I could tell you the opposite, requires DISCOMFORT. The only way through something like BED is to get really really uncomfortable with a trusted, safe person/s and to go through it, not around it. If, and I believe this with all of my heart, BED is about a loss of connection, then we must have a group to be connected with in order to have a radically different experience. I saw this happen with my first 80/20 group. They made connection.
If you think you may be struggling with this disorder, reach out. You, my dears, are not alone.