Clinical psychologist Cynthia M. Bulik is an expert on binge eating and has written a new book on how to conquer food cravings.
In "Crave," Bulik discusses just how much genetics play a role in the disorder and explain why people crave the foods they do.
Read an excerpt of "Crave" below and click here to visit Binge Eating Disorder Association's Web site. .
It's a common scenario played out in millions of households around the country every single day: a woman eats her favorite ice cream straight from the carton until she reaches the bottom, or a man goes to his favorite sports bar and practically inhales 20 buffalo wings — each is simply trying to satisfy intense, at times overwhelming, cravings. Some crave sweets; others crave pasta — whatever the target — it finds it's way from hand to mouth.
Every binge is different, just as every craving is different and every binge eater is different, but the scenario is most often the same: binge-eaters like to be alone with their behavior, often turning to late-night, early morning or even what I call "backseat" binges to ensure that no one sees their so-called "shameful" activities. Maybe the kids are asleep, the parents are out of town, the spouse is still at work, or the roommate just left for that big business trip or is still taking her semester exam.
My patients have told me countless horror stories of how far they went to conceal a binge; driving across city, county, or even state lines so no one they know will witness them driving from fast food restaurant to convenience store, or binging from drive-thru to drive-thru in record time. Some have even hidden in a closet with a grocery bag full of clandestine food.
For those willing to look a little more deeply past the carefully constructed façade, some telltale signs of a classic binge eater might be: snack cake wrappers wedged between sofa cushions, "caches" of food hidden throughout the house, fast food receipts stacked like Monopoly money in glove boxes and greasy wrappers littering the car floorboards. But not everyone leaves a trail; some binge eaters spend as much time covering their tracks as they do shopping for the binge itself.
Regardless, the cravings can seem insatiable. Day or night, alone or with someone just in the other room, the binge-eater can hardly refuse the cravings that cause him or her to ingest 500, 1,000 or even sometimes as many as 3,000 or more calories in a single sitting.
The urges to eat are often as intense as they are spontaneous; we will talk later in this book about what triggers a mere craving or a full-fledged binge episode, but patients have told me that when it happens, for whatever reason, they feel "powerless" to resist the urge and often "zone out" while eating. So while the initial craving may be for a certain food group, restaurant, snack cake, or donut shop, what happens during the binge itself has very little to do with taste. Recently a colleague of mine confessed to me that she was concerned that her husband might be a closet binge eater. When I asked her why she thought that, she admitted that she had caught him feasting on a rather peculiar binge of saltine crackers and mayonnaise in the middle of the night!