Demystifying What is Binge Eating?

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What is binge eating and how do I stop bingeing?

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Have you heard the term “binge eating” but don't understand it completely?

The word “binge” is used so often that you might question your own eating habits.  

In this blog, I will cover what binge eating really is, why you binge eat, and what to do about it.

But first, does any of this sound familiar?

You promise yourself you won't eat more cookies, chips, or brownies (you get the gist)… 

Maybe your willpower lasts for a while. A day. A week. 

Then, your control fails. The urge to eat those cookies is too much to resist. You give in, vowing to only have one.

Before you can talk yourself out of it, the box of cookies is empty and you’re left staring at the crumbs.

You spend the rest of the day or night regretting your actions and feeling terrible about yourself.

If this happens regularly, you are likely struggling with binge eating.

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is an eating disorder in which you feel an uncontrollable urge to eat even when you're beyond full, and you find yourself unable to stop, sometimes without tasting or enjoying what you're eating. Afterwards, you feel intense shame and guilt about your behavior. 

People often confuse overeating with binge eating. It’s important to know the difference.

Am I binge eating or overeating?

Overeating means “eating to excess” and that’s different from bingeing. Almost everyone overeats during holidays — in the United States, Thanksgiving is a holiday known for eating to excess. But when this excessive eating becomes a regular occurrence, it turns into binge eating.

Unlike overeating, bingeing means eating large quantities of food at one time, often in a compulsive way, and feeling completely out of control. Usually, it involves remorse, guilt, and shame; afterward, you might think, “What's wrong with me?” 

Not only do you feel terrible for losing control with food, you feel bad about yourself.

Why do I binge eat?

Bingeing is not about willpower. It’s not about control. It’s not even about food.

Bingeing is a way of using food for comfort, distraction, or to numb or express pain, anger, anxiety, or anything uncomfortable. 

When life is difficult, we try to distract ourselves from what’s painful or upsetting. That’s where bingeing comes in. Bingeing is what I call a “frenemy” in that it’s a friend because it comforts and distracts us from what’s bothering us, but it’s also an enemy in that it hurts our bodies and self-esteem. Ultimately it’s a way of coping that backfires and ends up hurting us more than it helps.

Listen to my discussion of it here.

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What are the signs to know if I'm binge eating?

To create lasting change, you first need to identify the problem. Here’s what binge eating looks like: 

1) You eat way past feeling full.

You eat even when you're full so much that it hurts your stomach. Sometimes, you eat food that you don't even like. You want to stop but you’re unable to do so.

2) You just can't stop thinking about food.

When you're feeling an emotion that you don't want to deal with, your mind turns to food. You're always thinking about what to eat next, even after a meal or when you’re not hungry.

3) You feel shame and remorse afterward.

Each binge ends with you feeling terrible about yourself. You think you’re a food addict, that you have no control, and you hate yourself. Bingeing impacts your sense of self as well as your body.

4) You avoid public gatherings.

You feel bad about yourself and don't want to be in the presence of other people, thinking they’ll judge you for your weight or for what you’re eating. You'd rather sneak food than eat in front of others. You worry about what people would think of you if they knew the truth.

5) You're harsh to yourself.

You have a negative talk with yourself and take actions that hurt you physically or emotionally, such as restricting foods, calling yourself names, and degrading your worth. You say things like:

You often say to yourself:

“You're never going to lose weight.”

“You're a complete failure.”

“You have no control.”

“You are so gross!”

This makes you feel so terrible you might end up bingeing to avoid your own mean voice.

Binge eating can crumble your confidence and self-esteem. But the good news is that with @the right knowledge it is curable.

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If you’re struggling with binge eating and want to learn about it, connect with me on Instagram or join my Facebook group, Dr. Nina’s Food for Thought Community: Outsmart Emotional Eating, where we support and encourage each other to become binge free. You’ll learn tips to banish binge eating and create a life of freedom, liberation and self-love.

FAQs

How common is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorders are extremely common in Western society and are becoming increasingly common in Asia too. More than 30 million men and women suffer from binge eating in the United States. Unfortunately, the reports and statistics about men are under-reported, as they often suffer in silence.

How is binge eating disorder different from bulimia nervosa?

Binge eating disorder is different from bulimia in that with bulimia, some kind of effort to get rid of the food follows each binge. People with bulimia will purge the food they binged on by vomiting, taking laxatives, exercising to excess, or restricting food afterward.

Can I get rid of binge eating?

Binge-eating is treatable. It’s something you learned to do and the good news is, you can unlearn that and cultivate a new way of being in relationship with food.

If you take the right steps, you can become binge-free and eat anything you want without worrying about a single calorie or macro. The first step to binge-free life is to accept that food is not the real problem. You must dig deeper to identify your emotions and respond to the underlying reasons for why you’re eating. When you create new ways or responding to yourself, everything with food changes, too.

 The Author



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Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a psychoanalyst, author and radio host specializing in binge eating disorder. She is the author of The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating and Food for Thought: Perspectives on Eating Disorders, and co-editor of Beyond the Primal Addiction. She hosts The Dr. Nina Show radio program on LA Talk Radio. Her recent TEDx talk is Why Binge Eating is NOT about Food.