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Binge Eating and the Recession

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In 2007, Jane E. Brody wrote an article for the New York Times recounting her experience with binge eating as a young woman in the sixties. Then there wasn’t even a name for the disorder. At that time, she found herself far from home, underemployed, with a nasty boss and no love life. Since she always linked food and love, she began bingeing.

Ms. Brody tells of her descent into this dangerous disease, eating nothing all day and binging all night. She had never heard of purging, who had at that time, so she became obese. She writes, “A half-gallon of ice cream was only the beginning. I was capable of consuming 3,000 calories at a sitting. Many mornings I awakened to find partly chewed food still in my mouth.”

One night Ms Brody contemplated killing herself. Then after seeing a psychologist who couldn’t cure her problem, she devised her own eating plan to free herself from this terrible affliction that she knew would eventually kill her. And she did lose weight, but she never mentioned addressing the deeper reason for her binging.

Now suppose there is a young woman like Jane, a young reporter, and we place her in today’s economy. Let’s say, it’s 2007 she’s far from home with a pretty good first job, a job that barely qualified her for a little condo near work. She isn’t happy, but she’s doing okay financially. But she feels alone and she binges. She has never reached out for help. And today, unlike the sixties, there is help.

Then a year after our reporter bought her condo, the market fails. She’s laid off. Of course the binging becomes worse even life threatening. Imagine this woman who, like many binge eaters, doesn’t have much self-esteem, and what self-esteem she does have was tied to her job. Now laid-off, she sits in her condo 24/7 trying to keep from binging. Financially, she’s at the point where she’ll soon lose her condo, and she’s binging on the cheapest, unhealthiest food.

Today with the unemployment rate at 10.2% there are probably many women like Jane. In fact, Sept 29, 2008, Rob Waters of Bloomberg.com reported that, “Operators of telephone help lines, insurers, hospital administrators and therapists… say the financial services crisis, which has caused an explosion of foreclosures, is sending everyday people to mental-health services at levels not seen since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.” And what happens when a woman who is alone and who already has a eating disorder is laid off and loses her home?

Binge eaters often have suicidal thoughts like Jane Brody. So I pray these women call a help line like the National Eating Disorders Association’s at 800-931-2237and reach out to family and friends.


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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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