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 and virtual counselling offices. 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, or conversely, a reward or an act of emotional soothing. 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 can be of any body size.

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 interested in reducing or 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 registered 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

The book links on this page are Amazon Associate links; if you choose to make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission which I use to fund my low-cost counselling resource lists. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Reclaiming Body Trust: A Path to Healing & Liberation by by Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant (2022)

The title describes the book perfectly. Understanding body liberation and the practices that free us from the tyranny of dieting. My favourite book on the topic.

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 late author was 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.

Resources

9-8-8 Suicide Crisis Helpline

Call or text 9-8-8, from anywhere in Canada, 24/7.

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