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Health Study Addresses Guilt Of Binge Eating

Binge-eating unhealthy foods like cake over the holidays can be balanced by eating healthier meals around it.

A new study suggests that the guilt associated with binge eating during the holiday season can be worse than binge eating itself.

The study, conducted by Kelly Klump, Ph.D. at Michigan State University, advised women not to feel guilt for binge eating during the holiday season.

The guilt, Klump said in the study, can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.

Rachel Zimmerman, IU Health Clinical Dietitian, deals with patients who suffer from eating disorders. Zimmerman says people should not feel guilty about enjoying the occasional unhealthy treat.

"If your family member is going to make their special, one-time-of-year holiday candy, that would be better to eat it and enjoy it and just try to balance out," Zimmerman says. "Maybe if you're going to eat the candy, don't go overboard with drinking drinks that have a lot of calories, like sugary beverages or alcohol, and those can be hidden calories that we don't think about."

Zimmerman says the guilt associated with binge eating can be worse for women because of societal pressures.

"I think there's a little bit more pressure on women to maintain a certain physical appearance, and sometimes men don't have that much pressure," Zimmerman says. "A lot of that pressure comes from society when we just look at models and magazines, so women can have this feeling a little more often than men."

Instead of feeling guilty about binge eating, Zimmerman suggests balancing out unhealthy foods with healthier meals throughout the rest of the day.

"The main takeaway is that everything is all about balance," Zimmerman said. "Of course we know that it's best to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and lean protein, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we are also finding foods that we enjoy and that give us some fun in our lives. So, it's not all about taking all of the 'bad foods' away. I think as long as we're eating them in small amounts but making sure that we're getting in plenty of healthy foods, we're going to have a good balance."

Binge eating disorders affect 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men in the United States, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

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