A binge can look very different to many different people. Some people believe that eating two cookies is a binge. That’s definitely not a binge, however, it can feel like a binge to someone who exerts strict control over their eating. Although objectively, two cookies is not a binge, in that personality type, it can illicit the same feelings of guilt and shame that an all out binge does.

The criteria for binge eating disorder are:

1. Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a short period of time (within any two hour period)

2. Lack of control over eating during the binge episode (i.e. the feeling that one cannot stop eating).

B. Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:

1. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full

2. Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry

3. Eating much more rapidly than normal

4. Eating alone because you are embarrassed by how much you’re eating

5. Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating

C. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present

So, let’s look closely at that,

1.)Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a two hour time period.

I’m going to throw this one out. Because who knows what normal is. Some people eat much more or much less than others to make their bodies run efficiently. You can’t compare.You can’t even compare what you normally eat to different times. Perhaps you were hungrier, or menstruating, or exercised more and your body needed more calories for whatever reason. This one is difficult to measure.

2.)Lack of control over your eating, feeling like you cannot stop.

This is key. When someone is in the middle of a binge, they often feel as though they are not in charge, that the binge is actually in charge and that stopping or preventing the binge is not an option.

3.)Eating until you are uncomfortably full.

Your body will give you signals as to when it’s time to stop eating. In a binge, often you won’t listen to those signals, and continue to eat until you hurt.

4.)Eating large amounts of food when you are not physically hungry.

This doesn’t mean eating an ice cream cone after lunch when you’re not hungry, this means going for a good amount of food, like another full meal when your body just doesn’t need it. In this case, you are eating to satisfy a feeling that is not hunger, possibly to take care of another feeling like loneliness, sadness, anxiety or fear.

5.)Eating more rapidly than normal

Again, I’ll throw this one out. What is normal when it comes to eating? Sometimes you eat slow, other times you eat fast. You might be late, you might be hungrier than usual, you might be anxious. I don’t think that faster than usual has to consistently indicate a binge. However, binge episodes are often frenzied. It can feel like a race to get as much in as fast as possible.

6.)Eating Alone because you are embarrassed by how much you’re eating

Although this certainly a characteristic of a binge, this is also a characteristic of someone who who has other eating issues that are not necessarily BED.

7.)Feeling disgusted, guilty or depressed after overeating– marked distress after eating

I’m putting these two together because they are so similar. Yes, after a binge, most people do feel a sense of guilt, shame, depression, self anger, and anxiety. There are a lot of promises to self  that they’ll never do that again. However, as I stated earlier, there are people who feel the same way after eating a normal amount of food. I’ve worked with clients who have this anxiety about eating anything, even a small cup of yogurt.  Just because you feel guilty doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a binge.

Other things that are not included in the clinical criteria for Binge Eating Disorder that many clients report  are:

1.)Eating in Bed

2.)Eating standing up in front of the refrigerator

3.)Eating out of Boxes

4.)Eating in the Car and while driving

5.)Sneak Eating (grabbing snacks while no one is looking and eating them behind closed doors right out in the open)


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