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How Do I Know if I have Binge Eating Disorder?

Many people seek out help for weight loss thinking that they just don't have the "willpower" to control their food-choices or that they are just too "weak" and "out of control" when it comes to food. However the reality is that many people who seek out weight-loss help are actually struggling with binge eating disorder, which is an eating disorder. It is absolutely possible to make a full recovery from binge eating disorder with appropriate psychological treatment. We have found at the clinic that an interdisciplinary approach is the most effective at treating this condition and allowing individuals to make a full recovery. The problem however is that many people struggling with binge eating disorder actually end up just turning to weight loss tools such as calorie counting, intermittent fasting, cutting out food groups or something similar and all of these weight-loss strategies can actually make binge-eating much worse long-term.

So how can you tell if you have binge eating disorder? The diagnostic criteria for the disorder (set out in the DSM-5) are as set out below. If you meet these criteria you would be diagnosed with the disorder:

Criterion 1: Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following:

a) 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.

b) 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).

Criterion 2: Binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

a) Eating much more rapidly than normal.

b) Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.

c) Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.

d) Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating.

e) Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating.

Criterion 3: Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.

Criterion 4: The binge eating occurs, on average at least 1 day a week for 3 months (DSM-5 frequency and duration criteria).

Criterion 5: 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.

Those who experience all of the factors listed above but binge less than once a week or that haven't been bingeing for over 3 months, would instead probably be diagnosed with “other specified or feeding disorder” (OSFED). OSFED includes disordered eating patterns that don't fall within the other eating disorder categories such as bulimia, anorexia or binge eating disorder. Those who binge but then try and "compensate" for the binge by fasting, over-exercising, making themselves sick or by using things like slimming pills or laxatives would probably be diagnosed with bulimia instead.

Many people struggling with binge eating disorder can feel a lot of shame around their binges and wonder why they are so in control of so many areas of their life but so out of control around food. Know however, that is bingeing is very common (in fact it is a common side-effect or after-effect of crash dieting) and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Most people tend to binge in secret or when they are alone and they won't often discuss their bingeing with others, so you wouldn't realise just how many people struggle with it, because people don't often talk about it.

We use several techniques and disciplines at The Food Therapy Clinic to treat binge eating disorder including hypnotherapy, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), nutrition principles, mindfulness techniques and behaviour change tools. CBT is one of the strategies that we use to help you to challenge your thoughts that can trigger a binge. Here are some examples of thinking patterns that can often trigger binges for individuals:

"I just ate that one biscuit - I've ruined it now - I might as well just go for it and then I can be good from tomorrow"

There are too many social events coming up - there is no point in even trying to be "good" right now... I will try once they are all over"

"I have so far to go and so much to change that there is no point in even trying"

"I have to be really "good" - I need to ban carbs, sugars, all processed foods etc"

Other thoughts that can trigger a binge can include:

- "We've just had this argument/ the day has been so stressful - I deserve a treat - let me just eat this all now then I can start again tomorrow"

- "We have so much of this food in the house right now - let me just finish it off and then I will be "good" once it is all gone"

- "This diet plan that I am following isn't working anyway - I am going to try a new one from tomorrow and I might as well have what I want today"

- "I just weighed myself/tried on my clothes and I am not making any/enough progress, what's the point in trying, I might as well just eat what I want".

These kinds of thoughts can get individuals trapped in the cycle of bingeing regularly. By helping someone to challenge and then gently shift these thoughts, together with the use of other strategies, binge-eating can be managed and then treated. If you believe that you may be struggling with binge eating disorder, bulimia or OFSED get in touch with us at to book in a free consultation.

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.” Brené Brown


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