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What does binge eating feel like? | Balance

Have you ever gone through a cycle of overeating, where one night you just couldn't stop yourself from eating until the point where you felt sick?

Have you ever eaten an entire family pack in secretive shame? Feeling immensely guilty afterwards leading you to turn to more food?

"What is binge eating supposed to feel like?"

It's one of the questions we get frequently both in practice and across our social platforms.

What is binge eating?

Before discussing what it feels like it's important to understand what binge eating is (and what it isn't).

Binge eating is defined by four key clinical criteria;
  1. A sense of loss / lack of control when eating.

  2. Eating a relatively large amount of food in a short period of time (several hours up to a whole twenty four hour period).

  3. Marked psychological distress and feelings of shame, guilt, anger and resentment during and after an episode.

  4. Having these episodes at least 2 days a week for 6 months or at least 1 day a week for 3 months

Binge eating is the most common form of eating disorder / disordered eating pattern.

Binge eating crosses over from normal behaviors to a disorder when it disrupts one's life due to shame about the behavior or feelings of guilt on the behavior itself.

Binge Eating Disorder usually begins around adolescence or young adulthood but can develop anytime from childhood through middle age.

Binge eating is three times more likely to occur in women (however men are much less likely to seek treatment)

Binge Eaters are often overweight or obese, but people of all different weights and sizes may also binge eat. It affects both men and women and may appear in people of all ages, races and backgrounds.

Binge eating has been shown to cause major health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and anxiety disorders. Binge eating can also lead to obesity which increases the risk for related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), hypertension, sleep apnea etc.

Very often those who present with obesity and binge eating face weight stigma when seeking help for binge eating. Often they are referred to potentially harmful fad diets or, arguably worse, are not believed when they describe their issues (as culturally we see obesity as a condition which develops due to lack of "willpower" and excessive "greed").

Weight stigma is universally harmful and, unfortunately, is experienced as much in healthcare environments for those seeking help as it is to those who are berated by immature and judgemental individuals online.

Overeating vs. binge eating

Many mistake or conflate overeating with binge eating. Overeating, in many instances, is a culturally appropriate behaviour (such as at Christmas or for one's birthday). It is, relatively speaking, a controlled choice and not met with the cruel introspective reflection that follows a binge eating episode.

They are not completely seperate though when you consider the volumes of food and time scales. Whilst it could be argued they both exist on the same spectrum in some sense, the defining factors with a binge are the lack of control aspect as well as the critical self-talk which follows.

What does binge eating feel like?

Many of us aren't even aware that we are struggling with binge eating and so continue a cycle of restriction, binge eating, guilt, shame and other negative forms of self-talk before reverting back to restriction again.

Understanding what binge eating feels like is important as it allows us to accept what we're going through which can then lead us to take that first step onto our journey of recovery.

One of the diagnostic criteria for binge eating is that binge episodes feel out of control. Almost as if it were an out-of-body experience. This out-of-body experience is one of the most commonly reported feelings which surround a binge eating experience.

Here are some of the other common feelings that surround a binge episode;

You may have turned to food for comfort when you were under stress, upset, or even bored.

You may have binged to help you cope with difficult emotions and feelings.

You may be binging whilst dealing with another emotional problem e.g., depression , anxiety , low self-esteem , substance abuse and or personality disorders. In fact, binge eating is often a symptom of an underlying mental health issue and roughly 9 / 10 cases of binge eating are found alongside another mental health condition comorbidity.

You may be binging if you feel out of control and this becomes your way of reclaiming control in a world that may not make that much sense any more.

You may find yourself in a binge cycle if you constantly feel the need to "escape" from your present environment.

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

Concluding remarks

The idea of binge eating may seem like a problem that only affects people who are overweight, but the truth is that anyone can struggle with overeating.

Binge eating disorder does not discriminate by body size, gender, race or background and it affects millions of people every year.

If you’ve ever felt out of control while indulging in food, this blog post was written for you to help you better understand what you're going through!

We hope to provide some insight into what bingeing feels like so that those struggling with binge eating know they aren't alone.

Do any of the feelings we brought up sound familiar?

If so you may want to reach out and talk to our team to see how we can help you beat binge eating for good in 2022!

Balance is Northern Ireland's leading nutritionist and dietician coaching team.We work with everyone from Olympians to office workers to help them achieve their nutrition and diet related goals.

Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you;

- Beat binge eating

- Lose weight and keep it off

- Take your sports performance to the next level and reach your full potential

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