binge eater

Binge Eating – what is it, and why do we do it.

So imagine the scenario:


You are winning at life – your eating is on point, your exercise routine is flawless, you’re drinking all your water and suddenly you find yourself wiping the crumbs off your shirt, chocolate smears off your face and you’re surrounded by packets that you’ve now got to dispose of before anyone sees how much you’ve just consumed, or (in my usual case) to hide the evidence and feelings of shame that follow a binge episode.


Sound familiar? You’re not alone. 

As defined by Web MD – Binge Eating is “the consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time, typically as part of an eating disorder.”  Contrary to popular belief, body weight is not necessarily a sign that one suffers from an eating disorder. A person with a binge eating disorder is just as likely to be a normal weight. In fact, most obese people don’t have binge eating disorder. Surprisingly, there are often no obvious physical signs or symptoms that someone is suffering with binge eating disorder. However, when a woman has binge eating disorder she often has certain behavioural signs and symptoms. These may include:


  • Eating large amounts of food

  • Eating even when full

  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes

  • Frequent dieting without weight loss

  • Frequently eating alone

  • Hoarding food

  • Hiding empty food containers

Ok, so we know what it is now, but why do we do it? Binge eating is normally triggered by EMOTIONS.


  • Lack of control once one begins to eat

  • Depression

  • Grief

  • Anxiety

  • Shame

  • Disgust or self-hatred about eating behaviours

After a binge, one may more than likely go straight back to eating normal meals. However, some binges may go on for days, weeks or even months. Unlike bulimia, who habitually purge themselves with vomiting or over-exercising following eating binges, for a binge eater attempting to restrict food intake (starving/fasting) or punish themselves with self-hate speech, may simply trigger more binge eating, creating a vicious cycle



Overeating vs Binging


Overeating on certain occasions is common. Overeating is not binge eating – that is one thing we need to make clear – just because you ate too much of your mom’s favourite pudding on Sunday, doesn’t mean you have binged. Binge eating is where you eat large amounts of food while feeling powerless to stop and extremely distressed during or after eating. Binge eating disorder typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood, often after a major extreme diet. During a binge, you may eat even when you’re not hungry and continue eating long after you’re full. You may also binge so fast you barely register what you’re eating or tasting, leaving the binger feeling physically bloated, nauseated and filled with shame.


Binge eating disorder has a profound impact on a person. A woman may lose confidence in her ability to control the amount of food consumed once a binge begins. This lack of control quickly spills over to other areas of her life and can have dramatic effect on her mood, motivation, career, and relationships with family and friends.


The symptoms and effects of binge eating disorder are often more extreme in the case of women also suffering with co-occurring disorders, for example, depression, anxiety or substance abuse. Co-occurring disorders can make it even harder to understand and respond to emotions, and trigger more frequent and more severe binges.  I’ve learned that are important pieces that could trigger a binge, at least for me:

  • A lot of the components of binge eating disorder are biological. Both my father and my mother have tendencies toward binging.

  • My brain might react differently than others in response to food marketing, the mere mention of a cupcake, makes me feel I need a
    cupcake and I struggle to let it go. Denying myself said cupcake can often lead to a binge.

  • Extremely restricted eating

  • Sleep deprivation affects my appetite, hunger and hormones — leading to increased binges.

Binge eating isn’t a cop out. It isn’t about willpower. It isn’t about weight. Binge eating is an emotional disease. But the good news is – it can be beaten.


Our next article will talk about overcoming binge eating...

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