12-Week Program Curbs Binge Eating
Research Shows Talk Therapy Sessions Help Binge Eaters Eat Less
April 1, 2010 -- Binge eaters can help themselves eat less for up to a year
by participating in a 12-week therapy program, new research indicates.
The research, which produced two studies, shows that a majority of people
participating in talk therapy sessions had stopped bingeing at the end of the
Those participants not only lost weight but saved money because
they spent less on dietary supplements and weight
loss programs, according to the second study.
Talk Therapy for Binge Eating
The program consisted of getting participants to read the self-help book
Overcoming Binge Eating, by Christopher Fairburn, MD, a professor of
psychiatry at the University of Oxford, and then taking part in a 12-week
course in which counselors explained strategies.
Researchers enrolled 123 members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan in
Oregon and Southwest Washington. More than 90% were women, and the average age
Half of the participants were asked to read the book and then attend eight
therapy sessions over a 12-week period. The other half did not participate and
served as a comparison group.
Researchers found that:
- After 12 weeks, 63.5 % of participants had stopped bingeing, compared to
28.3% who didn’t take part.
- After six months, 74.5 % of participants said they'd abstained from
bingeing, vs. 44.1% in the comparison group.
- After a year, 64.2% of participants were binge free, compared to 44.6 % in
the comparison group.
All participants were asked to provide information about their binge-eating
episodes, how often they missed work, and how often they were less
productive on the job.
They also were asked how much they spent on health care, weight loss
programs, and weight loss supplements.
Researchers also report that:
- Average total costs were $447 less in the therapy group.
- Total costs of the therapy group were $3,670 per year, per person, compared
to $4,098 in the comparison group.
Binge Eating: New Diagnosis?
“People who binge eat more than other people do during a short period of
time and they lose control of their eating during these episodes,” Ruth H.
Striegel-Moore, PhD, a professor of psychology at Wesleyan University and lead
author of the study focusing on cognitive therapy, says in a news release. “Our
studies show that recurrent binge eating can be successfully treated with a
brief, easily administered program, and that’s great news for patients and
The researchers say the American Psychiatric Association has recommended
that binge eating be recognized as an eating disorder like bulimia and anorexia. The new diagnosis, they say, may focus more
attention on bingeing and how best to treat it.
In addition, the new designation could influence how insurers cover
treatment and influence the number of people diagnosed.
“While program results are promising, we highly encourage anyone who has
problems with binge eating to consult with their doctors to make sure this
program is right for them,” says Lynn DeBar, PhD, a clinical psychologist at
the Kaiser Permanente Center for Human Research.
Both studies are published in the April issue of the Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology.