Overeating habits could be a precursor to a health disorder

People who always have the urge to overeat all the time are termed by experts as those with binge eating disorders.

They say the urge sometimes could be overwhelming, and leaves the victim with no option but to overeat whenever they are having a meal.


Francis Kazungu, general practitioner in Kigali, says it’s not uncommon to find many people over eating from time to time, and by doing this, they always take in more than what they are supposed to.


Understanding the term


He says it’s common to find the habit in early adulthood, and late adolescent stage.

“People tend to even eat when they are not hungry, which leads to binge eating. The most surprising part is that one can continue eating long after they are even full,” he says.

He cautions that this, however, is not a good habit to adopt and can make one gain unnecessary weight, thus leading to many non-communicable diseases, and therefore avoiding it is important.

Kazungu says for one to be having binge eating disorder, there are always some signs and symptoms. This should indicate that such people have a problem in eating and they should seek medical help.

“Eating large amounts of food, however, does not mean that a person has binge eating disorder. There are symptoms that can be identified at least in a specific period of time,” he says.

Some of the symptoms, Janvier Rusizana, a general practitioner at La Nouvelle Clinic in Remera says, include frequent episodes of eating large amount of food often; feelings of being unable to control what or how much is being eaten among others.

He as well notes that eating fast than usual, until one becomes full and starts feeling uncomfortable, eating alone out of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten, are just some of the most common signs that one has a problem when it comes to over eating.

Children should be given nutritional foods to avoid binge eating./Net Photo

What could be the reason?

Sylvester Twizerimana, a psychologist based in Rubavu District, says that there are a variety of factors that may push one to indulge in such habits.

For instance, he notes, the social pressure to be slender can lead one to have the urge to eat more so that they can grow big.

He says that another reason is that parents may sometimes use food as a means to comfort their children whenever something happens (they have been wronged or feel sad).

“This behaviour is dangerous because it can lead to children gaining unnecessary weight, which at the end might affect them. Worse still, is that such children may end up picking up the habit even when grown up,” he says.

He adds that those children who are exposed to frequent critical comments about their bodies and weight are also vulnerable, or those who have been sexually abused in childhood.

Another factor, Twizerimana says, could be psychological factors.

Here, he explains that depression and binge eating are strongly linked and that most of these people are either depressed or have been before.

“Others may have trouble with managing and expressing their feelings. Low self-esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction may also contribute to binge eating,” he says.

He however adds that biological abnormalities can contribute to binge eating. For example, the hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls appetite) may not be sending correct messages about hunger and fullness.

Effects of binge eating disorder

Joseph Uwiragiye, head of nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital Kigali (CHUK), says binge eating can result in a variety of physical, emotional, and social problems.

More importantly, he says, one is likely to suffer health issues, including stress, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts than someone without an eating disorder.

He says experiencing depression, anxiety, and substance abuse as well as substantial weight gain are just among the effects that could result from binge eating. Once the habit has started, it’s very hard for such people to change the situation.

Uwiragiye says dialectical behaviour therapy can be a solution to people with this health problem.

He explains that this kind of therapy can help one’s behavioural skills to help them tolerate stress, regulate their emotions and improve their relationships with others, all of which can reduce the desire to binge eat.

“If one wants to lose weight and has a problem of binge eating, they should first treat the problem before deciding to lose weight,” he advices.

This, he explains, is so because many people with binge-eating disorder always have a history of failed attempts to lose weight on their own, because dieting may trigger more binge-eating episodes, making weight loss less successful.

Additionally, he says that one should always stick to the right diet no matter what even if they are moderating the quantity of food they are taking in, to handle the problem of binge eating.

Binge eating is common in early adulthood, and late adolescent stage./Net Photo

Dealing with binge eating

According to Rusizana, it can be difficult to overcome this kind of a problem. He says that some people may need the assistance of an eating disorder treatment centre or dieting clinics.

“In fact, this disorder may be difficult due to the fact that food is a necessary part of life, unlike those with other problems like drugs,” he says.

He says that there are a variety of steps one can try out in order to overcome the problem, which when left could bring more harm than good, and that when followed, it can help cope with the condition.

Private Kamanzi, nutritionist at Amazon Clinic in Remera, says that once one identifies the symptoms above, they should seek treatment and therapy immediately.

He says that for instance, it could be of benefit if one enrols in an eating disorder treatment facility or attend therapy session in places where such services are available.

“One should always be willing to learn and make themselves vulnerable, carry along with them limited amounts of food yet nutritional. This will definitely limit temptations of eating large,” he says.

Alternatively, he says setting aside time to do what one enjoys most is very vital and most importantly, planning an exercise plan, which could be at least three times a week.

However, he notes that when it comes to exercise, one should first seek help from their health experts on what exercises are good for them and when to do them. This is so because some people have some underlying health problems that hinder them from doing vigorous exercises.

Lastly, Kamanzi advises that it’s important to determine the causes and triggers of the disorder and then take steps to prevent further binge eating.

“ Eating breakfast daily is important as well because it keeps one full and prevent them from getting hungry fast, which could lead them to eat a lot of foods with  high calories” he says.



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