Here’s something I hadn’t thought about before. The definition of binge-eating disorder (BED) says that binges involve eating more food than most people would expect you to eat in a relatively short time. So what if all of the people in your world don’t find your eating out of the ordinary?
Another way of asking this question: Could the definition of BED be culturally-dependent? A blurb about a recent study suggests that black women meet BED criteria less often than white women. One of the project’s researchers says, “These (black) women could be binge eating, but they may have less anxiety and distress surrounding their eating habits, so they don’t recognize it as an issue.”
Where it really gets interesting is in the comments (all bolding mine).
He makes a really good point, though I have to admit I bridled at “we can try to convince these women they have a problem”. If the definition is culturally dependent, it doesn’t seem right to pathologise women’s eating habits simply because they don’t fit the (white-identified) norm.
Looking at eating habits in context sounds more sensible than applying arbitrary rules about what is and isn’t bingeing, though that might pose a risk of overlooking detrimental eating habits because they’re “normal” in context (for instance, and I apologise for the cliche, a 17-year-old model may have a restrictive ED yet not stand out from her peers in terms of how little she’s eating). An eating pattern that does not cause psychological distress may still be causing physical harm, though I’m not sure whether that would still count as an eating disorder.
The always insightful Meowser says:
Bingeing is not just enjoying some brownies and ice cream; it’s inhaling ALL the brownies and ALL the ice cream as fast as you can so you can get to the whole pizza and the bags of cookies and whatever else you’re bingeing on, and stuff it all in before you can stop to think, much less taste any of it. It’s the opposite of actually enjoying food, really. And there’s an ugly racist element to this (presumably white) researcher’s theorizing that these black women can’t possibly know what they’re doing to themselves and must be lying about how much they eat.
During my eating disorder, I saw a shrink who diagnosed me as bulimic after asking me how often I binged and how I felt during these binges. The only problem was that I considered anything above 500 calories a day to be a “binge.”
I remember being in a weight loss program at age twelve, and going through a chapter in the little textbook about binge eating. We did this exercise where we ate a slice of apple as quickly as possible, and then ate another slice slowly, savoring it. We were asked how often we binge, big binges or little binges, by ourselves or with others. There was no option for people who did not binge. We were all fat, so we must all be binging, right?
Believe it or not, I tried to restrain myself from over-quoting, so I highly suggest checking out the whole discussion. I’m still trying to formulate my thoughts on this issue, but I thought it was worth thinking and talking about. Thanks for the post, Rachel!
Posted by mo pie