Binge Eating Disorder: Three Things You Might Not Know

Binge Eating Disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, impacting approximately 2.8% of American adults (Eating Disorder Hope). Binge eating disorder (BED) is largely misunderstood by society. Let's set some things straight.

1. Binge eating disorder has absolutely nothing to do with weight

A common misconception exists that a person who struggles with BED must be overweight. This is simply not true. There is no weight requirement for a person to be diagnosed with BED. People who struggle with BED come in all shapes and sizes. Assuming that a person who appears to be overweight might have BED and discounting a person who appears to be of a normal weight who tells you that they have BED is potentially harmful to the person. 

2. Binge eating disorder is characterized by periods of binge eating, followed by feelings of guilt or shame

In order for a person to be diagnosed with BED, they must engage in periods of eating a large amount of food (what is considered a larger amount than what most people would eat) in a discrete amount of time (within a two-hour period) in which they feel a loss of control over how much they are eating. During the episode, the person may eat until they are uncomfortably full, eat when they aren't physically hungry, and eat more rapidly than normal. After the binge episode, the person might feel shame or guilt about the binge eating.

If a person engages in food restriction (fasting or not eating) or purging behaviors (using laxatives, self-induced vomiting, compulsive exercise, etc) than a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa would be more appropriate than a diagnosis of BED. 

3. Binge eating disorder is treatable

When I work with folks struggling with binge eating, I work with them on examining the chian of events that leads to the binge. We talk about their thoughts and feelings around food and I work with them to alter their thoughts to ultimately change their behaviors. Individuals who are diagnosed with BED may also benefit from working with a registered dietitian, who can provide them with specific feedback on the nutritional aspects of their disordered eating patterns.

Emily Teegarden