Boomers And Binge Eating
When it comes to eating disorders (EDs) – anorexia, bulimia, binge eating --- we usually think of teenage girls, but it turns out that the rate of EDs among older women has increased by 42 percent in the last decade. Some of these women have had eating disorders early in life and relapsed, but others develop symptoms in middle age. Not surprisingly, we outnumber men by ten to one. But did you know the biggest problem in older women is binge eating?
Bingeing involves consuming very large quantities of food over a short period of time and eating even when not hungry. Binges are often planned and can involve buying "special binge foods." It takes place in private and women who binge often report feeling they have no control over their eating. After the binge they feel guilt, shame and disgust. Experts in EDs say these feelings highlight underlying psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Binge eating is not just the occasional over-indulgence in food but a regular, consistent compulsion to eat until physically ill. Unlike those afflicted with bulimia, people with a binge eating disorder eat do not purge their food.
Unfortunately, the binge eating cycle is tough to break and has physical consequences besides gaining weight. Binge eating leads to a surge in blood sugar which causes the pancreas to produce insulin (a hormone that helps to break down fat and carbohydrate in the body). The insulin causes blood sugar levels to fall rapidly, resulting in a false message being sent to the brain that more food is needed to top up glucose levels. This results in cravings for sugary foods to provide a quick glucose fix, so the person eats large quantities of food even when they are not hungry. Eating large amounts of sugary foods leads to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels and insulin production, causing the cycle to begin again.