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Many articles have been written about women and eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, but little has been written about women and emotional eating, also known as binge eating. Everyone overeats from time to time: taking an extra helping at holiday dinners or overeating during periods of high stress, for example, when coping with work related problems or relationship and family issues. However, when overeating becomes a regular and uncontrollable pattern of behavior, it is usually considered an eating disorder.
Compulsive overeating, commonly called binge eating, is characterized by compulsively overeating while feeling out of control and powerless to stop the behavior. Binge eaters use food to cope with stress and to regulate negative emotions. Binge eaters are rarely hungry when they begin to eat, they continue to eat long after they are full, and they eat so quickly that they do not realize what they are actually eating or tasting. A typical binge eating episode can last up to two hours, however some individuals binge on and off all day long. The disorder is more common than bulimia and anorexia and affects a significant number of women. The key features of binge eating are as follows:
• Frequent episodes of uncontrollable eating.
• Feelings of guilt, distress or upset during and after eating.
• No attempts are made to "undo" the consequences of overeating by vomiting, fasting, or over-exercising.
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