Nine million Americans are binge eaters, making it the most common eating disorder in this country. The paradox of binge eating is that it is simultaneously a well-guarded secret (squirreling away foods in our desk drawers or making our way numbly through bags and pints and boxes in the privacy of our living rooms) and a socially acceptable behavior (the "rewards" for making it through another work week or the constant holiday/big game/gathering over-indulgences).
If the survey was expanded to include anyone who has ever gone through a period of binge eating, I suspect the percentage of people in the U.S. who fit into this category -- now at 3% -- would be much higher. A traumatic event totally and quickly shifted my entire thinking about food, eating, and how I was fueling my body. But in the years before that, I certainly, shamefully, sadly, had moments when I could have been sitting uncomfortably close to the binge eater category.
Fortunately, it doesn't (and shouldn't) take a trauma to shake a binge eater out of their disorder. A new study shows that a 12-week self-help program could be the answer.
Researchers report that participants in a self-guided, six-step program using the book "Overcoming Binge Eating" had markedly more success than those participants who sought out other help through weight-loss programs, supplements, and over-the-counter medication.
At the end of the 12-week program, 63.5% of those participants had ceased binge eating. That number increased to 74.5% in the six months after the program ended. Participants who did not follow this program were much more likely to continue binge eating. Only 28.3% of the control group members stopped binge eating in those three months, and 44.1% at the six-month check-in.
At the year mark, approximately 64% of the people who completed the 12-week program were no longer binge eating. The number from the other group stayed pretty steady, with just over 44% successfully avoiding binge eating.
The 12-week program included therapy sessions along with skill-building exercises to encourage self-control, self-awareness, and healthier problem-solving. The total cost, which added up to $3,670 for a full year for each person, may seem exorbitant. However, the control group participants actually spent more. And while they only spent about $150 more, the price tag was still higher for a smaller chance of success.
Would a self-help program like this help you?
- Do you have a binge eating disorder?
- Eating disorders without a name
- Boys have eating disorders, too
[photo credit: Getty Images]