In our series on binge eating, we’re diving deeper into what binge eating is, which symptoms to watch out for, and how to get the help you need if you struggle with it. In our previous blog post, we talked about how binge eating differs from an occasional episode of overeating, so today let’s dive into the official binge eating definition and long-term health risks.
Binge Eating Definition
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the binge eating definition is:
“Binge eating disorder is severe, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating.” [source]
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting around 2.8 million adults in the U.S. That’s three times the number of people diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia combined. [source] That being said, the number could even be much higher because the challenging part about binge eating — which is why I wanted to open up this series and discussion on the blog — is that it tends to be a very private struggle that people don’t readily volunteer dealing with. In fact, in one online survey, only 3 percent of adults in the U.S. who met criteria for binge eating disorder reported getting a diagnosis from their doctor, suggesting that many people with binge eating disorder are not receiving medical treatment.
However, I think the best part about the definition above is the word treatable. So let’s look at the risks of binge eating, and what to look for in treating and overcoming it.
Binge Eating Disorder Long-term Health Risks
Left untreated, binge eating can lead to:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- sleep apnea
- weight gain
Mentally, it’s also an extremely exhausting condition, putting people at a higher risk for:
- low self-esteem
That’s why it’s so important to get the help you need if you’re currently experiencing it.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatment
In order to treat binge eating, it’s important to work with someone who understands the mental and physical sides of binge eating. So many professionals are trained on one or the other. For example, many professionals are trained to focus on just the nuts and bolts of nutrition, which can help someone eat better, but doesn’t necessarily address the mental or emotional reasons why someone might binge eat. On the flip side, many other professionals are trained to focus purely on the mental and emotional reasons someone may binge eat, without understanding the way food impacts cravings, blood sugar, metabolism, hunger/fullness signals, and all the things that can cause someone to overeat from a physical perspective.
Being certified in eating psychology AND trained in holistic nutrition (and having gone through a period of binge eating in college) I’ve observed that successful treatment usually comes down to these three aspects:
1. Nutrition: Eating balanced meals at regular intervals. Focusing on real food over processed diet food that may disrupt natural hunger/fullness signals and make cravings more intense. Getting out of a rhythm of restricting/dieting followed by overeating, and instead establishing more consistent patterns with food.
2. Mindset and emotions: Binge eating often arises during periods of transition, stress, or emotion. So often, it’s helpful to find other ways that release stress or emotion that don’t require food as the outlet, and to notice what the binge eating may be asking you to pay closer attention to.
3. Lifestyle: Healthy eating is often the first thing to go out the door when life gets busy. Many people have certain routines, habits, or triggers that make binge eating more likely; for example, passing the same drive-thru, or skipping lunch, then being ravenous by the time they get home. By addressing the lifestyle elements that drive you to binge eat, you can engineer your life to better support overcoming binge eating — no longer having to avoid your triggers, but feel confident navigating them.
Steps to Get Started Today Overcoming Binge Eating
If you struggle with binge eating, there are a few free ways you can get started breaking the cycle today:
Free breakthrough call: If you want to talk with someone personally, I’ll help you get clear on what your challenges are, where you want to go, and what will help you get there. Schedule here.
If you’re looking for more intensive help or a coaching program, check out The Binge Breakthrough, an intimate group coaching program that walks you step-by-step through overcoming binge eating with weekly calls, a private community, and custom support from me. Perfect for anyone looking for a more budget-friendly alternative to private coaching. Learn more here.
I hope this conversation helps shed some light on binge eating, helping you realize you’re not the only one if it’s something you’re going through in private. You’re not alone, and help is available! Even today.