Would a binge-eating program serve you well?

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?

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[photo credit: Getty Images]