Eating disorders are an insidious, complicated, treatment-resistant set of diseases. Unfortunately, most of us are familiar with the most commonly known eating disorders-anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The former is diagnosed when a patient weighs 85% less than their ideal body weight. This state is self-imposed and is the result of an individual purposely starving oneself in an effort to lose weight. The latter, bulimia nervosa, is diagnosed when a person engages in repeated bingeing and purging behavior also in an effort to lose or maintain body weight. In this context, bingeing behavior is comprised of an individual consuming an exceedingly large quantity of food and then purging it from the body in some fashion. Typically, the purging of the food occurs by self-imposed vomiting. However, other methods of “purging” the food can also include excessive exercising and diuretics. Another ubiquitous eating disorder-based condition is of course, obesity. Obesity is a label for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height and is typically a result of consistently unhealthy eating. While these diseases are complex and multi-layered, they are at least a known quantity.
However, there is another kind of eating disorder that is not such a known quantity. And, this disorder is likely as destructive and as common as the aforementioned conditions. It is called Binge Eating Disorder (BED). BED has recently been recognized as a separate category in the eating disorder community. In fact, some experts believe it is the most pervasive of all the eating disorders, impacting millions of Americans each year. BED is similar to bulimia nervosa in that large quantities of food are consumed on a regular basis. What is dissimilar and notable is that those with BED do not engage in compensatory behavior (purging, excessive exercising, extreme dieting, diuretics) in the wake of the binge. What makes it distinct from obesity is that the person’s behavior occurs in episodes rather than on a continuous basis so the person suffering with BED typically does not qualify for an obese or severely overweight diagnosis.