Raj is a 14 yr. old school going adolescent. His room is his world – he studies, sleeps, chats with friends, and listens to music, all from his room. It looks like a typical bedroom, except for what’s hidden in the closet corners, and under his bed. There are stacks of chocolate bars, several chips and juices, hidden away without the knowledge of his parents.
Raj has not yet finished the day’s homework, and has just gorged on a bag full of cookies and chips and he is looking for more chips to eat. He knows that he will soon feel guilty about eating all this, especially since he is overweight, but at this point he cannot control and just has to eat.
Binge eating refers to eating large amounts of food, usually much more than most people would normally eat. It is characterised by a sense of lack of control over eating when the binge eating episode occurs. Usually, people who binge-eat may avoid eating in front of others and binge in private; thus the presence of this condition may go unnoticed. Binge eating is common among adolescent and college-age youth, and is associated with increased body fat, weight gain, and increases in psychological symptoms in childhood.
Some key features of binge eating include:
- Eating much faster than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling hungry
- Eating alone due to embarrassment about the amount of food one is eating
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or guilty after eating
Here are some warning signs to look out for that indicates the presence of binge-eating in your adolescent:
- You may notice large amounts of food missing from the refrigerator or shelves. You may also find wrappers in your teen’s room or in dustbins.
- You may frequently find food stashed across several places in the house, especially in your child’s room, like in closets or bathroom drawers, and other unusual places not meant for food storage.
- You may have noticed your child eating huge amount of food when alone or indulging in excessive eating at night, frequently.
If you feel that your child is showing frequent binge eating episodes, then you can do a lot to help. Some suggestions are as follows:
- Remember that food may be a way of coping with emotional issues. If there are frequent episodes of binging, try to find out if your teen is having issues at school, or with friends, and the like.
- Read and educate yourself about binge eating. There may be more than one reason to binge eat and thus, you being aware of the possible causes can help drastically.
- Once you know what you are dealing with, try and talk to your child about it. It is more than likely, that on being offered unconditional support, your child will open up his world to you about the bingeing.
- Listen to what your child has to say, and avoid any blame game. Binge eating is not under your child’s control, so reflect and understand how you as a parent can help.
- Seek professional help if needed. Just having someone to talk to who will not judge you helps and only third party professionals who have no personal relation with your family can provide that, they are trained to do so. Go to a psychologist or counsellor of your choice, and they will lead you from there.
Remember, the key to dealing with your teen is support, calm and patience. This is the time of utmost care and losing restraint in front of your teens will only increase their ordeal and will definitely not help them in coping.