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How your body shape could be making you binge eat

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

It's time we stop seeing weight gain as a weak willpower issue

Bingeing happens. In our society, filled with tasty junk foods to fit every craving, who hasn't looked down from the TV to see an empty box of cookies, a pizza box and a melting half-eaten pint of ice cream and wondered who ate all that food? But, if you're prone to regular food binges, it may have as much to do with your body shape as it does with your willpower, says a new study.

Women who are apple shaped, or carry their extra weight around their midsection, may be more prone to binge eating, says a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The researchers found the connection after tracking 300 young adult women for two years and monitoring their weight, where they stored their body fat and reports of eating behaviors. They discovered that women with greater central fat stores were more likely to have episodes of "loss-of-control eating" and also had more of these episodes over time.

So basically, you carry fat around your waist, which makes you binge out on junk food. Then, that junk food is stored as more fat around your waist, which makes you binge even more — talk about a vicious cycle! Plus, we can't exactly choose what type of body we're born with. Thanks a lot, Mother Nature.

More: An impulsive personality might make you more prone to an eating disorder

Before you get depressed (which can also make you prone to binge eat!), know this might actually be good news. It's true that binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder, said to affect 2-5 percent of both men and women — and the consequences to both mind and body can be devastating. That feeling of losing control when you eat can be terrifying all on its own.

But it's also true that knowledge is power, and the researchers say that knowing the link between body shape and binge eating could help doctors and patients to take steps to prevent binges before they start. And the earlier you catch it, the easier it will be to change the behavior, they add.

More: 1 in 4 women admit to eating in secret to avoid guilt and shame

But, perhaps the best part of this research is that it shows a solid biological reason why some people feel out of control around food and other people don't. There is some comfort to knowing that the reason your husband still has candy in his desk from last Christmas while you ate an entire bag of M&M's while you were stuffing the stockings isn't because you have zero willpower.

Food and weight shouldn't be a moral issue, and this is one more piece of evidence that gaining weight isn't a moral failing. Our bodies are an incredible gift, and learning to be happy with them — instead of fighting against them — is one of the most powerful lessons we can learn.

For more information on binge eating disorder, including symptoms and how to get help, go to the National Eating Disorders Association.

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