Overeating vs binge eating | Balance

Do you feel like you overeat? Are you worried that you might be binge eating? It can be hard to tell the difference between overeating and binge eating, but it's important to understand the distinction.


Overeating is a normal part of life, but binge eating can be harmful if it becomes a regular occurrence. This blog post will help explain the differences between overeating and binge eating, so you can identify which one applies to you.


What is binge eating?


Binging can be defined as eating unusually large amounts of food within a relatively short period of time while feeling that one lacks self-control in regards to their behavior around food.

Binging is often secretive and done alone. Binge eaters often feel guilt and shame after binges, even if they cannot control these episodes. Binge eating disorder (BED) is further defined by the frequency of these episodes which, to meet clinical diagnosis, a person would need to have episodes of binge eating at least once a week for three months.




To quickly recap; binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following symptoms:

  • Eating much more quickly than normal

  • Eating until uncomfortably full

  • Eating large amounts of food even when not physically hungry

  • Eating alone because of embarrassment about how much one is eating

  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward


What is overeating?


Overeaters typically do not have an eating disorder diagnosis.


The primary distinction between overeating and binge eating is that overeating does not necessarily lead to extreme feelings of guilt, shame or other forms of negative / abusive self-talk . Overeating may include consuming too much food over a prolonged period without regard for physical hunger or fullness cues , but it does not necessarily entail a recurring pattern. In fact, in some instances overeating may be culturally appropriate (for instance, around Christmas or on one's birthday).


Studies suggest that overeating is most common among women, especially when the overeating behavior is triggered by emotional stressors . It is possible for anyone to overeat irrespective of age, socioeconomic status or culture. The act of overeating can include eating excessive food in one sitting (e.g., devouring an entire bag of chips or pint of ice cream), constantly snacking, constantly eating outside regular meal times and overeating in response to physical hunger cues (e.g., feeling hungry after starting breakfast).


Statistics indicate that both men and women suffer from binge eating / overeating but men are less likely than women to seek treatment for their overeating issues. This number may be greater because men are less likely than women to admit having any form of health related issue, especially those related to mental health.


Binge eating vs. Overeating


Binge eating and overeating, whilst on the surface appearing to be very similar, differ greatly. When we're really aiming to determine what we're experiencing we should actually look past the food consumed and instead focus on the experience and what follows. Ask yourself these questions next time you have one of these experiences and if you are concerned you are binge eating;

  • How was my emotional state prior, during and after?

  • Did I control the situation or was this out of control and more of an out-of-body experience?

  • How was my self-talk around the experience? Did I feel guilty? Ashamed? Resentful towards myself?

  • Did I hide the fact that I had done it and ate in secret?

  • Could I have stopped?

  • Does it feel like it will happen again?


Concluding remarks


Although overeating and binge eating are often used interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Overeating is simply eating too much, while binge eating is a specific type of overeating that involves consuming large amounts of food in a relatively short period of time and feeling out of control during the episode. Many people struggle with both overeating and binge eating, but there are some key differences between the two. If you’re trying to overcome an eating issue, it’s important to understand the difference between overeating and binge eating so you can address the problem correctly.


Do any of these points resonate with you? If so, reach out for help – there are plenty of resources available to get you on the right track!

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