What Is Binge Eating & Can You Control It?

Binge eating can affect people of all ages and sizes. It can be an unfortunate habit that wreaks havoc on your well-being. Many people who consider themselves binge eaters consider it a problem they need help fixing.

Not only can it lead to issues with your weight, but it can also affect your mental health. After a binge, people are often left with guilt and shame, leading them to a perpetual cycle of binging and feeling bad about themselves.

In this blog, we will define binge eating, talk about possible reasons why binge eating occurs, and give a few tips for how to control binge eating.
What Is Binge Eating?

Binge eating is commonly used as a turn of phrase, but often times people don’t have a full understanding of the clinical meaning. Most of the time when people think of binge eating, they think of sitting in front of the TV and finishing a bag of chips. In other words, they think of it as mindlessly eating a large amount of food that leaves you feeling uncomfortably full.

However, clinically, there are two events that must occur in order to define a binge eating episode:

  1. In a short period of time, eating more food than most people would in a similar situation under similar circumstances
  2. The sense of lack of control over eating (you cannot stop even when your brain tells you your body is done eating)

Binge-eating episodes should also include one of the following:

  • Eating faster than normal
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Eating in large amounts when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment of how much you want to consume
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after eating too much

Possible Causes Of Binge Eating

Binge eating and food restriction often go hand in hand. In other words, food restriction can often be the cause of binge eating. Are you familiar with the binge-restrict cycle?

This cycle occurs when one restricts their food intake, likely due to a dieting tactic in order to lose weight, then, because the body is deprived of food, food becomes an obsession. In response to feeling deprived of food, binging begins leading to feelings of guilt which can lead to the desire to restrict again. Thus, the cycle perpetuates.

Binge eating can also be caused by trauma or intense stress. Sometimes people binge in response to a stressful situation, for example, a divorce or a strict deadline at work. An overwhelming experience can lead to a loss of control when it comes to eating, allowing in foods that may have previously been restricted from your healthy diet, and then some.

Finally, binging may occur as a learned behavior. You may have seen an adult or a peer use binge eating as comfort at one point in time and develop the same habit. Just like anything else, binge eating can be a behavior we are influenced by.

Read on to learn more about ways to overcome binge eating...

Can You Control Binge Eating?

Controlling binge eating is possible, but it takes work – especially because a lot of what causes binge eating is psychological. Do you identify with one of the possible causes above?

The first step to overcoming binge eating, especially if you tend to fall into the restrict-binge cycle, is to make sure you’re providing your body with enough nutrients throughout the day. Learn to develop an adequate eating plan that doesn’t require periods of starvation. Intense feelings of hunger may lead to a binge later in the day, so finding a balanced diet that keeps you full throughout the day is key.

Second, you may want to consult a professional. Either a mental health provider or a nutritionist are great options for resourceful help. A mental health professional may be able to help you work through trauma or stressful events that might be the culprit of your binge eating, and a nutritionist can teach you how to properly manage your portions and make healthier choices.
A common misconception…

Many people think that binge eating is only prevalent in people with larger bodies. However, binge eating can affect anyone at any size. You simply can’t tell someone’s eating patterns just by looking at them.

Additionally, binge eating is often accompanied by food restriction which may lead to other eating disorders seen in people underweight.