How to Talk to Your Doctor About Binge Eating

From the WebMD Archives

It might not be easy to admit you have a problem with eating too much. Once you’re ready to do that, though, talking to your doctor about bingeing can get you on the path to recovery.

Not sure how to get the conversation started? Doctors offer these four tips:

Be honest about your eating. Tell your doctor what’s going on and how long you've been overeating.

You might have to start the discussion. That's because primary care doctors, as well as those focused on treating other medical issues, might not always question your weight or eating habits. Even if your bingeing has made you gain weight, your doctor might suggest dieting and exercise without suspecting the possibility of binge eating disorder. (Two-thirds of people with the disorder are overweight.)

“Simply coming forward and talking about it is the first step,” says Randall Flanery, PhD. He's a clinical psychologist in St. Louis, MO. He's been treating people with eating disorders for more than 25 years. “If you can get the discussion going, it really can get a life of its own.”

Tell your doctor if you often:

  • Eat an extreme amount of food in a short amount of time
  • Do so until you feel uncomfortably full
  • Eat alone because you’re embarrassed about how much you're having
  • Eat when you’re not hungry
  • Feel like you can’t stop eating
  • Feel upset, guilty, or depressed afterward

Tell your doctor how bingeing affects your life. Your doctor needs to know if your eating habits cause problems with your everyday life. She might ask:

  • How long have you been bingeing?
  • Has it affected your ability to work?
  • Do you worry that food has taken over your life?
  • Are you avoiding certain activities, like dating or buying new clothes?
  • Does your bingeing keep your from dining out with others?
  • How do you feel about yourself?
  • How do you feel about yourself after you’ve eaten?

Your doctor asks these questions because she wants to know what might be causing you to lose control of your eating. For example, some people binge eat because they feel stressed, says Eric DeMaria, MD, of Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth, VA. Counseling and talk therapy can teach you to spot the things that trigger you to binge eat, and they can help you get better.

Continued

Talk about your eating habits and health history -- and your family’s, too. Binge eating can run in families. Tell your doctor if anyone in your family has ever had an eating disorder or unhealthy habits tied to food.

You should also discuss any other problems or concerns you have. This includes your mental health -- any thoughts of feeling sad, anxious, or even angry. Binge eating commonly happens with depression or another mental health condition. It's important to get treated for both.

Ask how often you should have a physical exam. Many people who binge eat are overweight. Being an unhealthy weight can raise your risk for many other health problems, so it’s important to have your doctor examine you. She might also order blood and urine tests to check how well your body is working.

Get a checkup by a doctor on a regular basis, even when you're healthy.

Ask who else can help you get better. A team of professionals can help you recover. Your doctor is a great resource, but you'll also want to see a mental health or eating disorders specialist, as well as a nutritionist or dietitian. If your doctor doesn’t refer you to a specialist, don’t be afraid to seek one out, DeMaria says.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on December 31, 2014

Sources

SOURCES:

Randall Flanery, PhD, director, Webster Wellness Professionals, St. Louis, MO.

Eric DeMaria, MD, Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center, Portsmouth, VA.

Kaiser Permanente: “Binge Eating Disorder.”

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