There are LOADS of blogs and websites which talk about food allergies and Celiac Disease and many of them are geared toward children or the parents of children. As such, the focus is on issues that affect people much younger than me. Through blogging, I’ve talked to people like me, around my age who grew up with life-threatening food allergies. There aren’t nearly as many of us as their are young kids with food allergies. Instead of looking at how to cope in school, we deal with coping in the work place. Instead of worrying about whether relatives will kiss our young food-allergic child, we navigate the challenges of romantic relationships. Instead of worrying about whether our child will have a normal life, we deal with the stigma that food allergies are a “kid’s thing” and that it’s all in our head. And instead of worrying about how to keep our kids safe from all the food they’re allergic to, we’re binging on the foods we know we CAN eat.
Binge Eating Disorder is basically bulimia without the behavior(s) to compensate for the binges (e.g. purging, over-exercising, fasting, laxatives). AED says it’s a term used to “describe individuals who binge eat but do not regularly use inappropriate compensatory weight control behaviors such as fasting or purging to lose weight. The binge eating may involve rapid consumption of food with a sense of loss of control, uncomfortable fullness after eating, and eating large amounts of food when not hungry. Feelings of shame and embarrassment are prominent.” It’s not officially recognized by the DSM as an individual eating disorder but falls under the classification of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). You can binge eat without having binge eating disorder, just like you can be depressed without having depression.
Binge eating is commonly thought to be associated with restrictive eating. Even people who frequently go on diets often find themselves binging on candy and chips after a few days of being overly careful and counting every single calorie. In an article from 2011 Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez writes, “Just as the study subjects went from being normal eaters to binge eaters, so do many people in our society today binge because of rigid dieting. Many people can relate to the symptoms reported in this study, but few realize that restrictive dieting alone can create such problems.” While I haven’t seen any studies or research done on binging and food allergies, it logically makes sense that if our diets are severely restricted and for an extended period of time because of severe food allergies, we would be more likely to engage in binge eating when we find foods that are “safe.” This isn’t even considering the emotional and psychological aspect of having severe food allergies and how that could tie into self-soothing with food.
I do not have binge eating disorder, but I definitely binge eat more often than I’d like. While a “binge” can mean different things to different people, for me, it’s when I consume WAY more than is appropriate for one person in one sitting and I don’t feel like I can “just stop.” It’s not usually because I’m hungry, so as a result, I always feel guilty and regretful (and often sick!) afterwards.
Being diagnosed with Celiac Disease initially brought on even more restriction for me than my food allergies already had. For the first few months, I was extremely cautious about every single thing I ate. Now that I’m 6 months in, I’m still very cautious, but I have days where I see something’s gluten free and just go crazy eating it all. I’ve been known to eat entire boxes of Cinnamon Rice Chex at once, or entire boxes of cookies. If I get a truly gluten-free pizza, I will eat it one sitting. Red Robin’s bottomless french fries made in a dedicated fryer? Yeah, I definitely have way too many servings of those. Once I start, I don’t think someone could stop me if they tried!
Because this is something I’ve been dealing with for a long time, I do have some tips to help stop or prevent binges.
1) If it’s not individually packed, MAKE it individually packed. Never eat out of an open bag or carton! Not only do you lose the concept of a serving size, there is no stop signal because all of the food is in front of you. Separate the food into snack or sandwich sized zip-lock bags. I usually make my boyfriend do it, so I don’t start eating right from the bag or box while I’m making it into serving sizes!
2) Better yet, don’t keep tempting foods in the house. I try to avoid having foods in the house which I’m likely to binge on. This doesn’t mean you should never eat them, it just means to keep them from the place you spend the most time mindlessly eating.
3) Have someone hide the food from you. This sounds totally crazy and drastic, but I’ve definitely had my boyfriend hide food from me. It works because often times, just seeing the food is enough to trigger a false hunger signal. Do I REALLY need to know where the entire bag of Mounds are, or a whole tray of cookies is? No, I don’t. I’d rather have a craving for one, ask him to get it for me, eat one and not see it anymore. Out of sight, out of mind.
4) Go for a walk or run. Or do yoga, meditate, take a shower. Whatever floats your boat. When you feel the urge to eat everything in sight, do something active or relaxing to get your mind thinking about something else.
5) Have a cup of tea. Or water. We hear it all the time that often hunger is really just thirst in disguise. Just sipping something slowly can minimize the cravings, calm you, and fill you up.
Note: I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist. This is based on my own experiences and observations of other people I know with food allergies. If you think you may have an eating disorder, please consult a health professional.
If you’ve had food allergies or Celiac Disease from a young age, do you find yourself binging on “safe” foods?