All About Binge Eating 

Is Binge Eating Disorder Common?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder there is, but it is still very under-recognised by both professionals AND sufferers.

Up to one in five adults struggle with Binge Eating Disorder; It is the most gender-equal form of disordered eating - 60% of sufferers are women, and 40% are men.

30% of adults seeking help with weight loss meet the criteria for Binge Eating Disorder... but no weight loss program will ever solve the problem of binge eating. That's because it is not actually food or weight issue, it is an emotional, psychological issue.

Many sufferers tend to be be 'yo-yo dieters', and can believe that the problem is their willpower or inability to stick to a diet in order to lose weight. In fact, yo-yo dieting and repeated dieting can often be a trigger for binge eating, along with other factors.

Adults with Binge Eating Disorder need specialist help.  The great news is that a) we provide that specialist help and b) it doesn't take that long.  By providing the specialist combination of food/eating support AND psychological support, you CAN make Binge Eating a thing of the past.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

If you tick three or more of these boxes, it is likely you are currently struggling with Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Eating much more rapidly than normal in a short period of time;
  • Eating until uncomfortably full;
  • Eating large amounts of food when you are not physically hungry;
  • Eating alone or secretly;
  • Binge eating like this at least once a week for at least three months;
  • Feeling shame, guilt, disgust and embarrassment about your eating.
  • Strong feelings of dislike or even hatred towards you own body, and/or about your weight.

Overeating happens, like at Christmas or at a party - all those 'treat foods' that we don't normally have - yum.

Emotional eating happens, like when we have a bad day, or a fight with our partner - a family size bar of chocolate or a tub of icecream, maybe a bottle of wine.

This is not binge eating disorder, this is normal, because it happens very infrequently.

Binge Eating Disorder clients tell us that they can eat very normally during the day, three healthy meals plus a snack or two. but at night, the wheels fall off the bus and it can be a Food Free-For-All, and this is happening anything from once a week to once a day.

Or it might be happening throughout the day - once one of those 'forbidden foods' get tasted, that's it, game over.

Part of the problem is Historical - a learned response to stress/emotional discomfort;

Part of the problem is Habit - your brain has made a connection between feeling stress, and eating to calm down;

and part of the problem is Dieting - and this is a far bigger trigger than people realise. There's two main reasons for this:

1. when you are constantly depriving yourself of 'nice' food - because "you don't deserve it because you are so fat" and need to punish yourself - if you allow one bite of something 'nice' to pass your lips, then the punishment script kicks in. Binge eating is NOT a treat, it is a punishing behaviour that makes you feel bad, physically and emotionally.

2. When you are constantly on a calorie controlled diet, you are eating poor quality food from a nutritional perspective - no/low sugar, low/no fat, highly processed ready meals full of fillers, salt and chemicals... your body is nutritionally starving! It craves good fat, good salt and of course, sugar.  Dieting is a TRIGGER for bingeing.

Did you know that most well recognised dieting organisations make their money from a)  recurring revenue - ie members coming back again and again (think about that), and b) food sales? For example, Weight Watchers has been owned by both Kraft Foods and Heinz in the past, and Slimming World has a very lucrative contract with Iceland.  Do you really think you going on one diet, losing your weight permanently and keeping it off is in their shareholders' best interest?


What Causes Binge Eating Disorder?


The most common root cause of Binge Eating Disorder is an emotional trauma or past event.

Clients with Binge Eating Disorder have struggled with food and/or their body image for many years, often since childhood.

When something traumatic or difficult to cope with happens in a child's life, we can turn to food to 'self-soothe', especially when it was hard to go to our mother or father for help.  That might be because the problem was with a parent - alcohol, depression, violence, or an absent parent.  Children often think they cannot burden their already stressed parents with their problems too... and that is one way the cycle can begin.

Or, maybe as a child you were bigger, or just TOLD you were bigger, maybe you were bullied about that, or maybe you just got some sort of validation or praise for losing weight, and that's another way the cycle can begin.

Either way, as an adult today you'll be aware that you are 'emotional eating' - using food to self-soothe, or to distract yourself from difficult feelings/stressful experiences - and that is just because you were never taught how to cope with feelings.

The majority of clients are 'Serial Dieters', and have spent years trying to lose weight through weight loss clubs such as Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Jenny Craig, Light and Easy etc.

Dieting alone will never resolve Binge Eating Disorder, as the underlying emotional issues are not being addressed. In fact, dieting is itself a trigger for binge eating, as one of the triggers is hunger / lack of adequate nutritionally dense food.

Anxiety and Depression: Most of our clients experience anxiety, or low mood, or both.  And most clients think they are anxious because of how they look or are being perceived by others, and feel low because of their weight.

But this is only half the picture.  Anxiety and low mood happen because of HOW you are eating.  the Yo Yo dieting, and the cycle of Restricting/Bingeing causes your body to get very stressed. This increases your cortisol and adrenaline levels (stress hormones), and stops your serotonin production (feel good hormone).

It's also very common for clients to drink a bit too much, and/or be taking prescribed medications for anxiety/depression, and/or be using recreational drugs to relax, and/or be abusing over the counter medications like pain killers, 'diet pills' and various other coping strategies.  We have seen and heard it all, and it is all very normal for someone with Binge Eating Disorder.  You are FAR from alone.

A smaller percentage of clients will have had Anorexia Nervosa in the past, but if the underlying emotional issues were not dealt with, then at a basic level you have just swapped one eating disorder for another.

Physical and Health Conditions: Due to the impact of Binge Eating over a long period of time, it is very common for clients with Binge Eating Disorder to have IBS, leaky gut, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, nausea, headaches, colitis, gall bladder removal, constant tiredness, lack of concentration/poor memory and poor skin, hair and/or nails.

It is also very common for clients with BED to have other health issues, the most common of which are underactive thyroid, PCOS, endometriosis, migraine headaches, and inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia, ME or arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis.

Binge Eating Disorder sufferers will often engage in secret eating and/or night eating - ie coming back downstairs at night to eat when everyone else is asleep.  Eating in secret may happen in the house, for example eating in the bathroom, or standing in front of the fridge or cupboard and eating quickly when nobody else is in the kitchen; or often in the car or car park of a shop or service station.

For us as specialists in Binge Eating Disorder all of this is normal, and we can help.  There is no judgement, no shaming, no weigh-ins.... just calm, professional, caring support that tackles the problem from both a food and eating perspective, and an emotional perspective.

Who struggles with Binge Eating Disorder?

The short answer to this question is - anyone can be affected.  Here is a small sample of feedback we have received over the years from clients:

Age        How long have you been struggling with food and/or your body image?

38           "As long as I can remember. Became aware of it in my teenage years.".

47            "As long as I can remember".

34            “All my life but mostly from 16, remember having negative feelings at 13"

51            "Since Childhood"

58            "38 years"

35            "For as long as I can remember. It's been a battle my whole life".

36            "Since I was a teenager"

42            "At least 10 years"

39            "31 Years"

49            "Oh dear, since I was a pre-teen"

40            "Since the age of 8"

The most important part of this feedback to note is how long the problem has been going on. Because if it is that 'old', how on earth can a 'Quick Fix' diet/weight loss program be the solution? The simple answer is, it can't.

This is because the real problem is not food, or weight. The real problem is what started the pattern of emotional eating or comfort eating as a way of coping.

Many of our clients share old experiences - common examples are:

  • a parent or partner who was/is an alcoholic;
  • a parent, who was/is narcissistic;
  • a trauma in the family - an unexpected or unusual death, an accident, a severe illness - you or another family member);
  • Physical, emotional or sexual abuse;
  • A parent with chronic depression, anxiety or their own eating disorder;
  • Parents in conflict - violence, emotional or psychological conflict/abuse between parents;
  • An experience of bullying at any age.

So the true solution to freedom from binge eating and emotional eating is a combination of supportive therapy AND nutritional therapy & gut rehabilitation - addressing the problem from BOTH angles. This is where true freedom lies.

Is there a Personality Type for Binge Eating?

Clients who struggle with binge eating almost always share a common personality type:

  • They are 'all or nothing', black and white thinking, perfectionistic people - either doing everything right, or everything wrong, especiallywhen it comes to eating!
  • They tend to be 'People Pleasers', very concerned about keeping other people happy at their own expense;
  • They have a very strong 'Inner Critical Voice', constantly criticising and putting themselves down in their heads;
  • They strive to appear very confident and worry free - often being the one everyone else turns to for support, but would never dream of asking for support for themselves;
  • There is a very deep rooted fear of being rejected for being needy and a deep horror of ever appearing vulnerable - even though they would never judge anybody else badly for needing support from them.

Phew!  That's a lot to take in.

If you feel you need our specialist support in resolving a long standing battle with food and your weight;

If you suspect or know you have Binge Eating Disorder;

If you are READY to do the work - both changing how you relate to and eat food, AND going deeper into how you feel about yourself (In order to feel better!) then please book a complimentary online consultation with us to see if our Eating Freely program is the right option for you.

We look forward to meeting you.

Book Your Free Consultation

© 2020 Eating Freely 

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