Binge Eating

Binge eating, also known as compulsive overeating or binge eating disorder is the most prevalent eating issue I help with in my Vancouver counselling office. Sometimes binge eating is also referred to, but confused with, emotional eating, which may be related to the fact that certain emotional states can trigger folks to binge eat. Bingeing then becomes a form of self-soothing. It is important to distinguish, however, that not all emotional eating results in binge eating and that the two terms are not synonymous.

I define binge eating as an episode of rapid, uncontrolled consumption of an excessive amount of food, often with the purpose (conscious or not) of dealing with difficult feelings, or avoiding particular emotions. Emotions may include anxiety, overwhelm, guilt, shame, anger, fear, or self-loathing. Sometimes binging also becomes a form of punishment or self-harm. Occasionally it is seen as a reward. Sometimes it is related to a history of trauma. There can also be physiological triggers such as food restriction or an underlying medical condition.

Bingeing should not be confused with other acts of overeating that do not appear to meet an emotional need such as unintentionally taking too much food and feeling over-full. People who binge eat may be overweight or at a normal weight.

Other signs that you may have a problem with bingeing:

  • You only binge when you are alone
  • You eat rapidly when you binge
  • You do not disclose to others, or to very few people, that you binge eat
  • You hide food or evidence of binges (packaging, receipts, details of your day etc.)
  • You are preoccupied with planning binges or you think almost constantly about food
  • You feel a loss of control around your eating
  • You feel physically ill after a binge
  • You eat when you are not hungry or when you feel full
  • You eat food that is questionable (for example, stale, thrown away)
  • You are overwhelmed with feelings of shame or depression after a binge

If you are committed to stopping bingeing, therapy can help. It is often difficult to recover from binge eating without support. Success in treatment is maximized when your therapy is supplemented by a physician’s and dietician’s care; therapy alone is not a substitute for medical treatment. If you are interested in getting started in counselling, I welcome the opportunity to hear from you.