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Science of Binge Eating: Why You Can’t Stop

From the Show: Staying Well
Summary: You have self-control over your impulses but still find yourself coming out of multiple food hangovers. Why does this keep happening?
Air Date: 11/11/13
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Stephanie Zerwas, PhD
ZerwasDr. Stephanie Zerwas is Associate Research Director for the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Dr. Zerwas conducts individual, group and family therapy for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Her background in developmental psychopathology inspires her exploration of childhood risk pathways that lead to disordered eating and eating disorders. In particular, she examines how genetic risk for eating disorders interacts with experience across the developmental life span.

Dr. Zerwas is the recipient of a number of grants funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and edits Exchanges the blog of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.
Science of Binge Eating: Why You Can’t Stop
It happens to you more often than you are willing to admit. You're unsatisfied after you've already eaten a personal sized pizza, so you reach for chips, candy, ice cream, or anything that's in your sight.

After you come out of your food coma, with a haze of dancing sugarplums, you're confused and are unaware of what just happened. You're not alone; many people overeat. But when does binge eating become an issue?

If you're scheduling time to let yourself binge, or you binge eating in private, you should ask yourself why you are doing so.

Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in adults, characterized by isolation, anxiety, stress and feelings of powerlessness.

There are many factors that play a role in binge eating, such as chemical, psychological, and social settings. For example, when you overeat and before your immediate feelings of regret, your brain releases a chemical, dopamine, which controls the reward and pleasure center in your brain.

Associate Research Director for the Center of Excellence in Eating Disorders, Dr. Stephanie Zerwas, explains the science of binge eating and discusses when you should consult a doctor.