I have worked with many clients who come to me nervous and embarrassed even to use the words "binge". They have a sense that their relationship with food is not helpful or healthy and they know that they are over-eating from time to time. Yet often they are not sure whether what they are doing would be categorised as binge-eating.
Now firstly, as a professional working in the field of nutrition and mental health - I have noticed that binge-eating is actually incredibly common. So if this is something that you are or have been struggling with - there is nothing to be embarrassed about at all. Even those who come to me for help with just weight loss or achieving a healthier lifestyle come to realise that they are binge-eating from time-to-time. Perhaps surprisingly many of those working in the same industry as I do - personal trainers, body builders, nutritionists, dieticians often also suffer with binge-eating. Why? - Well because binge-eating often begins after a period of dieting, being very disciplined with food or extreme food restriction and who is probably harsher on themselves with their food choices that those in the exercise and nutrition industry.
So what is binge-eating? Well for some it is something that they only experience from time-to-time and for others it becomes a habit that shows up more regularly. When it presents more regularly - it can cause someone to fall under the diagnosis of a condition called Binge Eating Disorder or BED. BED was only recognised as a condition in 2013 - so people haven't been talking about bingeing for very long.
Here are the diagnostic criteria for getting a diagnosis of BED:
Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following:
(i) Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
(ii) The sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
(i) Eating much more rapidly than normal
(ii) Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
(iii) Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
(iv) Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating
(v) Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
Marked distress regarding binge eating is present
The binge eating occurs, on average,
(i) at least 2 days a week for 6 months (DSM-IV frequency and duration criteria)
(ii) at least 1 day a week for 3 months (DSM-5 frequency and duration criteria)
The binge eating is not associated with the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviour (e.g., purging, fasting, excessive exercise) and does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. (If this criteria is not met and an individual is over-exercising, starving themselves or purging to compensate for the binges, then a diagnosis of bulimia would be more appropriate instead).
Now many of the clients that I work with satisfy all of the criteria above. However, many of them don't satisfy criteria 4 - so they only binge once every now and again or twice a month - and yet the psychological damage that this does to them is significant. When looking at criteria 1(i) many of my clients really over-eat substantial amounts of food but many of them are just going back for large seconds and then thirds or having 2 or 3 desserts after a meal that they don't want to eat. Yet they all tend to describe to me feeling strong impulses to eat and buy food that they can't control and a feeling of being on autopilot or like a robot - it is almost as though it isn't them making those food choices.
Nobody should have to suffer with the psychological torment of feeling guilty after eating - and nobody should have to struggle with feeling so out of control around food. If you have read through this list of criteria and felt that some or all of them may apply to you - then please know that this is something that can be treated and that you can feel much better and much more in control.
If you would like some support in managing your binge eating - please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in a free consultation to see how I can help. I have also created a 12-week online programme to treat binge-eating which you can work through yourself to learn how to stop the binge-eating from coming back (there is more information available on this here: www.thefoodtherapyclinic.com/online-binge-eating-treatment)