What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that involves repeated episodes of consuming large amounts of food within a short period of time.
This way of eating impacts the persons quality of life, causes guilt and shame, and happens on a regular basis for at least 3-months.
Binge eating disorder is a relatively new eating disorder. It was officially named in 2013 in a new edition of the DSM, the manual for diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.
But that doesn’t make it any less worthy than other eating disorders. It also doesn’t make it more rare than other eating disorders. In fact, binge eating disorder is the eating disorder with the highest prevalence, alongside OSFED.
Binge eating disorder does not discriminate based on body size, ethnicity, or gender.
Certain health conditions do have a higher rate of binge eating disorder, including PCOS and ADHD. At Ease Nutrition Therapy, we work with a lot of people who have PCOS who also struggle with binge eating disorder.
What is the difference between binge eating and Binge Eating Disorder?
Simply put, Binge Eating Disorder is a diagnosed eating disorder whereas binge eating doesn’t fit a set criteria.
The main difference between binge eating and having binge eating disorder. The main differences are the intensity, frequency, and the amount of time binging has been happening.
Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
The official criteria for Binge Eating Disorder is:
- Recurring episodes of binging
- Where binge eating episodes happen for at least once per week, for 3 months
- There is no making up for binges with compensatory behaviours, like with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa
What exactly counts as a binge?
Binge eating is different for everyone. A general explanation of what binging is, is:
- Eating more than the amount of food that someone who doesn’t binge eat would eat in a similar situation. This is quite vague, right? We would add that this happens for a continuous period of time, e.g. more than three months.
- Feeling a lack of control over eating when binge eating
- Eating more rapidly than normal, especially when you’re eating alone or when you’re emotional
- Eating until you become uncomfortably full
- Eating until you feel physically unwell
- Eating large amounts of food when you don’t feel physically hungry
- Eating alone because you feel embarrassed over how much you eat
- Feeling distress, guilt, shame, or frustration over how much you ate
There’s a difference between binge eating and having binge eating disorder. The main differences are the intensity, frequency, and the amount of time binging has been happening.
What’s the difference between overeating and binge eating?
This is a really great question. There’s a difference between eating too much and binge eating. The main distinction is that with binge eating, it’s not a choice. The urge to eat is much deeper in binge eating than in overeating.
The main difference between overeating and binge eating is that someone who binge eats experiences more distress over their eating. Those who binge eat might have been struggling for a longer amount of time and their life might be much more impacted with by their binging.
Is overeating normal?
Overeating can be part of normal eating. There are many reasons to overeat including:
- Food tasting good
- Starting to eat when you’re too hungry
- Feeling emotional or like you need to soothe with food
We work with many people who are overeating, but identify as binge eaters.
Binge eating can be confused with extreme hunger and rebound eating. These are both common when someone moves away from a restrictive way of eating, and has a period of overeating.
In summary: Binge Eating Disorder, binge eating, and overeating
We’ve given a lot of information about all three. We want to stress that if you feel uncomfortable, distressed, or like there’s something wrong with your eating then it doesn’t matter what the official definitions say.
If you feel like you need support in your eating, then you do. No questions asked. We work with all types of relationships to food. We help you make sense of your eating, no matter if that’s Binge Eating Disorder, binge eating, or overeating.
What causes Binge Eating Disorder?
Like all eating disorders, binge eating disorder is multi-factorial. There is no single cause, however many different factors go into the development.
These can include:
- Cultural aspects such as diet culture, fat phobia, healthism, and health beliefs that centre around restriction.
- Beliefs about food such as food rules, and health perfectionism.
- Past life events where your relationship to food is serving a purpose. Like control, giving an identity, or protecting you in some way. This includes trauma related to bullying, abuse, or adverse childhood events (ACE’s).
- Genetics and upbringing. Genetics plays a big role in the development of Binge Eating Disorder and binge eating. It’s more common to struggle with binging if your parents did. This is due to the literal genetics, but also the environment you are raised in with food.
- Dieting, restriction, trying to lose weight can all cause binge eating and binge eating disorder to develop. One of the biggest causes of binge eating is restriction. This might be physical or mental restriction.
What are the harms of Binge Eating Disorder and binge eating?
The biggest impact that Binge Eating Disorder can have is on one’s mental health. The shame, guilt, low self-worth, poor body image, and “swings” of living with binge eating can be psychologically draining. It’s really common for those living with Binge Eating Disorder to also be living with other mental health conditions. Such as depression, anxiety, and mood disturbances.
There are numerous websites online filled with information about the dangers of Binge Eating Disorder. Most of these are centred around weight. And the so-called impact that being in a larger body has on health. We are Weight-Inclusive clinicians. We do not conform to the rhetoric that being in a larger body poses health risks.
Let us be clear: Anyone in any size body can struggle with binge eating. And we do not assume that those in larger bodies binge eat or overeat. In fact, research shows that those in larger bodies (i.e. the arbitrary higher BMI categories) do not eat more on average than those in smaller bodies.
We do know that binge eating can increase your health risk, regardless of weight.
As binge eating specialists, we want you to know that Binge Eating Disorder has the lowest long-term impact of all eating disorders. This isn’t to say that your eating disorder or disordered eating isn’t “severe enough.” It’s to reassure you that you can overcome binge eating and live a healthy, happy life with food.
Some of the “consequences” of Binge Eating Disorder and binge eating include:
- Digestive troubles such as bloating, constipation, indigestion, acid reflux, and diarrhoea.
- Poor body image and feeling like you need to change your body (please note: trying to lose weight while recovering from binge eating will likely make things worse. See this article by Shannon to find out more.)
- Long-term Binge Eating Disorder and binge eating is linked to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Note that all of these are “reversible” with the right support.
We have an entire blog dedicated to the impact of binge eating here.
What is the treatment for Binge Eating Disorder?
The treatment of Binge Eating Disorder can includes therapy, Nutrition Counselling, and medications if needed.
The most popular therapy for Binge Eating Disorder is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy.) This is usually the route taken in the NHS. CBT can be helpful for some, but it isn’t effective for everyone. The clinicians at Ease Nutrition Therapy are trained in CBT for eating disorders (although not all are trained therapists) which means we can weave CBT support in with other effective treatments.
It’s important to be aware that the “root” of your binge eating is important. If your root of binge eating is due to trauma or traumatic events, it’s important to work with a trauma-trained therapist or clinician.
Nutrition Counselling can be an effective treatment for Binge Eating Disorder, depending on your needs. At Ease Nutrition Therapy, we specialise in Nutrition Counselling for binge eating. We have been supporting people for the last 3+ years. You can see kind words from some of our past clients here.
A Non-Diet, Weight-Inclusive treatment to Binge Eating Disorder
Many people, especially those in larger bodies, have been subject to harmful treatment for their binge eating. You might have been told to simply try harder to eat “healthy”, you might have been given a leaflet about Weight Watchers.
It’s very common for professionals to sadly recommend weight loss surgery, weight loss medication, anti-depressants, and dieting to those struggling with binge eating. Let us be clear: none of these will get to the root of your binging. They will likely make it much worse and convoluted.
It’s not uncommon for people who do not struggle with binge eating to be labelled as a binge eater. If that’s ok, it’s really not ok. But it happens. We have clients who come to us with a diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder, who do not actually binge eat or overeat. This is because someone has judged their body size and decided what their realtionship to food is.
Ease Nutrition Therapy, we are weight-inclusive and Non-Diet. All of our clinicians are trained and embody an Anti-Diet and Intuitive Eating way of eating. We work to challenge bias, stand up to medical weight stigma, and build a safe space for our clients.
Your binge eating support will never be about changing your body – you might want it too. But your relationship to food is separate from your body size.
How to recover from Binge Eating Disorder
The million pound question is: how do I stop binge eating!?
We hear you.
The annoying answer is that there is no one way to stop binging or to recover from Binge Eating Disorder.
This podcast episode will give you nine tips to stop binge eating, forever.
We so hope it’s helpful.
Team Ease Nutrition Therapy x