Of all people who are trying to lose weight, approximately one-third currently suffer from binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder (BED) is a very serious eating disorder when the person is unable to control their eating. Obviously, this results in significant weight gain. Often while eating, the person will eat beyond the point of feeling full. This differs from bulimia in that the person does not “purge” or get rid of the food through vomiting. People who suffer from BED often binge on food in secret, so it appears as if they’re eating normally when they’re in front of other people.
Binge Eating Treatment
A recent study found that there is one activity that can actually help lower levels of BED – physical activity. Why is this an important new find? Although there are several types of therapy that treat BED such as psychotherapy, medication, and CBT; only about 50% of people who complete these programmes see a complete reduction of their symptoms. People with BED tend to turn to binge eating as a way to cope with difficult emotions such as depression, anger and/or sadness.
This particular study looked at people who suffered from binge eating disorder who were seeking a treatment for weight loss, not necessarily who were interested in looking at their binge eating disorder specifically. Of the 213 people who completed the study, the more time the participants spent engaging in aerobic activity (such as jogging, walking, biking, etc.), the more the severity of their BED decreased. Other studies (Foassati et al. 2004) found that for people in therapy for their BED who added physical activity saw even better improvement in their symptoms than people who only attended therapy without engaging in physical activity.
How to increase physical activity levels
So, how can you increase your physical activity levels if you’re starting out at the beginning? You have loads of options. Activities around the house such as gardening, cleaning or playing with your kids can definitely be a form of exercise. Although you can go to a gym, some people feel apprehensive about going to a gym or can’t afford the fees; but there are other ways you can get physical activity too.
The idea is start off small and work your way up. Start off by walking around the block for about 10 minutes three times a week. Each week see if you can add about 5 minutes to your walk until you reach 30 minutes three times a week. Once that starts to feel easy, start briskly walking. Once that starts to feel easy, try lightly jogging, etc.
You can also follow workout videos online from places like Fitness Blender. Still find that you’re struggling to stay motivated to keep with it? Personal Trainers are great resources to tap into. Many low-cost gyms offer personal training programmes for cheaper than you think. For example, my gym in Dublin only charges 30 euros an hour for personal training, and allows you to bring a friend if you want to split the cost. Additionally, these same low-cost gyms often offer classes for free. If you can find a friend to go with you, you’re much more likely to stick with an exercise programme.
- Fossati, M., Amati, F., Painot, D., Reiner, M., Haenni, C., & Golay, A. (2004). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with simultaneous nutritional and physical activity education in obese patients with binge eating disorder. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 9(2), 134-138.
- Wilfley, Denise (2002). Psychological treatment of binge eating disorder. In C.G.
Fairburn & K.D.Brownell (Eds.), Eating disorders and obesity. A comprehensive handbook
(2nd ed., pp. 403-09). New York, NY: Guilford.
- Yanovski, S. Z. (2002). Binge eating in obese persons. In C.G. Fairburn & K.D.
Brownell (Eds.), Eating disorders and obesity. A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 403-
09). New York, NY: Guilford.
- Zamora, D. (2008, February 12). Fitness 101: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Exercise (B. Nazario, Ed.). Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/fitness-beginners-guide
Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.