Comprehensive Treatment of Binge Eating Disorder

Dr. Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, CEDS shares her expertise and insight into the understanding and treatment of binge eating disorder. 

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is possibly the most common, and the most misunderstood of all the eating disorders. Why is this so? First, the public at large often consider those who struggle with weight to be lazy, lacking will power or initiative, and/or simply unconcerned about health. Society at large, including the medical and health care fields, routinely prescribe simplistic behavioral weight loss approaches (eat less, exercise more) to those who suffer with this condition. The cycle begins.

Weight cycling and weight gain, and further emotional suffering persists, as the person impacted by the condition is living in that horrible paradigm of learned helplessness. Damned if they don’t diet (condemned by society) and damned if they do diet (weight cycling and dysregulation in their relationship with food.)  

I worry about the 17,498,700 million people (40% men,) who suffer with this condition and where treatment will lead them. Many BED programs are popping up throughout the country and are often focused on weight loss and exercise, despite claims of specialized treatment. BED presents a complex biopsychosocial condition. As with working on a car, it is important to “look under the hood” when it comes to treatment for this condition. 

What do we need to look out for in order to help these individuals? Treatment must be as serious as treatment for the other forms of eating disorders. Treatment for BED must target the often overlooked and undertreated co-occurring psychiatric illness that drive bingeing. Psychiatric management of this condition must be thorough and cannot merely skim the surface. More and more is being understood about executive functioning issues, mood disorders, and how anxiety and even trauma may be at play in a man or woman with BED. And, the psychotherapy component of treatment must be robust. Oftentimes, scarred with shame and fueled by weight stigma and bias, individuals (and their families) need psycho-education and a family therapy treatment component. There are biological forces at play that connect to both nutrition and metabolic functioning. Many under-identified medical conditions can be a part of the picture, and without a knowledgeable medical doctor involved, can be missed. The role of movement, and the emotional experience when faced with opportunity and expectations around movement in treatment, requires depth of thought and compassion.  

This is just the beginning. Exposure therapy and mindfulness are critical to recovery. A focus on healing, self-care, and living a life driven by self-compassion and values are part of the “big picture” changes that result in the paradigm shift that take a patient from a place of pain toward recovery and then to a place of being fully recovered (a part of treatment for all eating disorders.) 

With the addition of BED in the DSM V, the medical community has taken an extremely validating step forward for those who experience BED. The medical and mental health communities are demonstrating knowledge and respect for the reality of this condition and the suffering of those who are associated with this condition.

It is my hope that those who pursue treatment will have an experience that is deeply meaningful and is founded on the true reality of this complex biopsychosocial experience. I do not want to see treatment short-changed. I do not want to see the surface skimmed with simplistic care that solely targets the surface of the person’s experience. 

I am so proud of ‘Embrace, a Binge Eating Recovery Program at Oliver-Pyatt Centers.’ The name itself embodies so much of what Vicki and I personally know becoming recovered is all about. We created ‘Embrace’ because we wanted to provide a program that is going to change lives and empower people who need treatment that is definitive, validating, and comprehensive. It is an honor for me to work with Dr. Karin Lawson and our team of providers to create ‘Embrace,’ a place for individuals with Binge Eating Disorder where we can really “dive deep” and do the real work.  

For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Embrace, a Binge Eating Recovery program at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please contact admissionssubscribe to our blog, visit our website, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.