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.

Recommended Books

Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Wellbeing and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating by Christy Harrison (2019)

Hard-hitting look at the diet orthodoxy and strategies for living in a fat phobic world. Author is a journalist and anti-diet registered dietician.

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by E. Tribole & E. Resch (2012)

From the authors that coined the term intuitive eating, and then went on to write about it in this book, introduces the reader to intuitive eating and how to make it real.

If Not Dieting, Then What? By Rick Kaufman (2005)

Sensible discussion of the practice of person-centred intuitive eating. Realistic, not idealistic take on eating mindfully.

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh (2011).

How to eat mindfully and intentionally. Because the primary author is a Buddhist monk, this book may have more appeal to those with Buddhist leanings.

Breaking Free From Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth (2003)

Practical tips and strategies, mostly contained in the first part of the book.


Vancouver Low-Cost Counselling List

List of private master’s-level counsellors, or their interns, offering subsidized counselling. Updated quarterly.

Wellness Together Canada

Canada-wide, 24/7 professional phone counselling and other support options.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Web-based learning of DBT skills. Particularly useful for those without access to individualized programming, or to supplement an existing group DBT program.

Crisis Services and Hotlines in Vancouver

Resource list, updated quarterly.

Looking Glass Foundation For Eating Disorders

BC-based organization offering prevention initiatives and intervention programs for those suffering from eating disorders and their families.

Reduced-Cost Counselling [PDF]

A resource list of lower-cost professional counselling options in Vancouver. Corrections and suggestions welcome.

Find A Dietitian

National database for help in locating a registered dietician in your area.

National Eating Disorder Information Centre

Provides extensive information on eating disorders and food/weight preoccupation. Offers a telephone helpline: 1-866-633-4220