In our series on binge eating disorder, we’re taking a closer look at what constitutes binge eating disorder symptoms (versus just overdoing the brie cheese once in a while 🙋🏼♀️) and how to break the binge eating cycle. I’m passionate about getting this out in the open because in college, I got caught in a cycle of binge eating, and it took me years to understand it or even to talk about. If you’re binge eating, it can feel like there’s something wrong with you, and that’s generally the cultural message when it comes to overeating: just try harder or have more will power. But anyone who’s ever experienced binge eating knows that they couldn’t want more or try harder to break the cycle.
Usually, they’re just being hurled with so much poor advice that it feels like no matter what they try, it doesn’t work. They’re often given another diet, when that only makes the cycle worse. And THAT makes them feel like there’s something wrong with them, so it becomes a very private struggle.
So let’s get it out in the open. Binge eating disorder affects 2.8 million women in the United States. [source] By getting clear on what it is and creating a space to talk about the symptoms and treatment, I’m hopeful millions of women won’t have to suffer alone. And with that, they can break the cycle faster — giving them back their energy, confidence, health, and mental freedom.
Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms: What Are They?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, binge eating disorder symptoms include:
- Eating much more rapidly than normal.
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
- Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward.
A binge eating episode occurs when at least three of the above are present. [source]
However, a binge doesn’t necessarily traverse into binge eating disorder territory without a few more characteristics. I personally believe that it’s human nature to overeat once in a while, and it CAN be a non-ordeal. Personally, I know that I occasionally overeat if I’m out with my best friends and lose track of eating in conversation, if I’m eating a bowl of my all-time favorite cacio e pepe, or sometimes if I come home hungrier than usual and come in too hot to the kitchen. None of those things are big deals to me, because they’re super infrequent, don’t cause me any emotional distress, and don’t feel like a cycle I can’t break.
However, those feel and are very different from my college days, when food became all I could think about, and my cravings were so intense, overpowering, and all-consuming that I found myself eating so much more than I wanted to on a daily basis, even when it made me physically uncomfortable and was more than my body needed. I was going through several big transitions — a major heartbreak, a move across the country, a crisis of faith (oh bless one’s 20s) — and it all felt overwhelming to my young self. Looking back now, I can see that the binge eating was tied to not being sure how to handle, or where to go, in several major life transitions, as well as misplacing the solution on trying harder and dieting — all of which only exacerbated the cycle.
So for something more serious — something that qualifies as true binge eating disorder symptoms versus a once-in-a-while oops — there’s usually the following behaviors.
- Recurrent episodes of eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
- A 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).
- Marked distress regarding binge eating.
- The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatment
If the above binge eating disorder symptoms sound like you, I want you to know that it IS possible to break the cycle. So, so possible. Usually, by the time women find me, they have tried so many things for so long that they have lost hope that something can really help them. But I studied binge eating treatment in particular, and have worked with enough women to know it IS absolutely possible with the right approach. (And hint: it’s not another diet, which will only make things worse.)
To get help:
Book a free breakthrough call with me if you’d like to talk with someone about what you’re experiencing, what your challenges and goals are, and get custom feedback on what will finally help YOU break the cycle.
Or, watch this free masterclass where I share the 5-step strategy my clients use to break free from binge eating.
Lastly, if you’re ready for help today, you can join my self-paced program The Binge Breakthrough, which focuses especially on binge eating and is a hands-on, intimate group coaching program to help you break the cycle and find a more consistent, sustainable, and truly healthy way of relating to food. (No dieting required.)
I know how disorienting, frustrating, and maddening the cycle can be. I also know it can be broken. I’m so glad we found our way to each other.