Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness where a person eats large quantities of food over a short period of time, without feeling like they are in control of what they are doing. It is an eating disorder that can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, weight or background.
September 7, 2021
Founder and Lead Clinician, Eating Disorder Recovery Coach, Registered Nutritional Therapist, and Master Practitioner of Eating Disorders.
After years of study and working with clients, I founded Natural Food Therapy to provide a multidisciplinary approach to eating disorders that centres around you. At Natural Food Therapy, we focus on the individual, as each person’s experience is completely unique.
Recovery is possible. And you deserve it.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness where a person eats large quantities of food over a short period of time, without feeling like they are in control of what they are doing. It is an eating disorder that can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, weight or background. Research suggests that it is more common than other eating disorders, affecting three times the number of people diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia combined. Furthermore, the NHS suggests as many as 1 in 50 people develop binge eating disorder at some point during their life.
Binge eating is not a choice for the sufferer and can be incredibly distressing. It can also lead to strong feelings of shame and guilt. Sufferers tend to describe a sense of disconnection through a binge; it may even be difficult to recall what was eaten afterwards. Many people find it difficult to stop during a binge even if they try to.
A binge eating episode may include some of the following:
Usually a person suffering with Binge Eating Disorder will experience at least one of these episodes a week. However at Natural Food Therapy we understand that every person’s experience of an eating disorder is completely unique. We offer support to anyone who is struggling with their relationship with food and who have noticed binge eating to be part of the problem.
There is no single cause of Binge Eating Disorder, however below we explore some potential factors that can lie behind the illness:
1) Does binge eating serve as an attempt to self-soothe?
Some people find themselves turning to food in order to cope with strong thoughts, feelings or emotions that they are finding difficult to manage. This can happen because food is naturally comforting and many of us were raised with food being seen as a reward or a display of love. In addition, some foods release feel-good chemicals like serotonin, which can temporarily boost our mood.
As such, it may be understandable why food can so easily become a comfort blanket when difficult emotions arise. There is nothing innately wrong with food providing us some level of comfort, however when food becomes our primary or only way of coping, problems with binge eating can start to arise.
If this is something you have noticed in yourself, an important part of your healing journey will be to find new coping strategies and healthier ways to self-soothe. The first step is to reach out to an eating disorder specialist who can support you through your journey.
2) How can restrictive eating lead to binge eating?
Another route to binge eating disorder can be through restriction. Frequently, binge eating is triggered following an attempt to lose weight and undertake some sort of diet. When the body is not receiving the energy or nutrients that it needs, it tends to respond with intense hunger and food cravings, which can in turn trigger binge eating.
Sometimes restriction is not happening intentionally and restrictive behaviours may not be noticed by the sufferer. Some examples of food restriction may include opting for low fat or low calorie options, limiting certain foods or food groups, skipping meals, eating a certain amount of calories or macronutrients each day.
3) Is there a link between binge eating and food deprivation?
Limiting or avoiding foods that a person enjoys to eat, is an example of food deprivation. It is something that can lead to binge eating, even if the person is sufficiently eating enough food in terms of quantity. This is because part of feeling satisfied after eating is to have an element of enjoyment and pleasure attached to our food choices. Many people who are trapped in a binge eating pattern, are depriving themselves of the foods they truly want to eat, often due to fear of weight gain.
If you suspect you or a loved one might be suffering with Binge Eating Disorder, the following questionnaire might help you to decide whether your eating behaviours have become problematic:
During a binge do you:
If you answered yes to any of these, consider reaching out to an eating disorder specialist . A trained professional will be able to help you work towards creating a healthier relationship with food and overcome this problem. With the right recovery plan and support, you can take back control from Binge Eating Disorder and begin your journey towards healing and food freedom.
Author: Sasha Paul, eating disorder specialist.