• Bari Stricoff, MSc, RDN

What is a Binge and Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a topic I feel quite passionate about for several reasons. I think it is often unrecognized by the public, as it may not look like your stereotypical eating disorder. When people hear “eating disorder” they usually think Anorexia or Bulimia, associating the disorder with someone who may look underweight or malnourished. Meanwhile, BED presents as the exact opposite, and those that suffer with BED may be overweight or even obese. Unfortunately, the public has been conditioned to view overweight individuals as “lazy” or “lacking willpower” or even generally “unhealthy”. The truth is, Binge Eating Disorder is a Mental Health Disease. It would be completely disrespectful to mock someone for having OCD or Anxiety (also mental health diseases), yet the severity of Binge Eating Disorder, as a matter of mental health, is not publically recognized.

Additionally, the word “binge” has become such a common phrase, that it has been stripped of its original meaning. Have you ever sat in front of the television and accidently polished off a whole bag of potato chips? Or, have you and your friends gotten together for a celebration and consumed enough food to feed a small village? In both instances, you may walk away feeling “overly-full”, need to unbutton your jeans, or think you have just binged. However, neither of those scenarios indicate a binge! It is incorrect to replace the words “overeating” or “over-indulging” with the word “binge”.

The phrase “binge” has also become quite subjective. For example, what one individual considers as a binge, may be another’s average dinner portion. So, what actually is a binge?

Clinically defined, a binge is the consumption of an excessive amount of food in a short period of time, regardless of actual hunger. It is associated with a complete loss of control and is tremendously distressing for the individual. Extreme guilt and shame is often associated with the binge, and the evidence is often concealed.

So, if I ever experience a clinical binge, does that mean I have Binge Eating Disorder?

The answer is no. Here is the definition of Binge Eating Disorder?

Per the DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders), a clinical diagnosis requires the following features:

1. Recurrent and persistent episodes of binge eating

2. Binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:

a. Eating much more rapidly than normal

b. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full

c. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

d. Eating alone because of being embarrassed by how much one is eating

e. Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after the binge

3. Marked distress regarding the binge

4. Absence of compensatory behaviours (purging, laxative, over-exercise, etc.)

5. Bingeing for at least 1x/week for at least 3 months

So, if you have the one-off binge, that does not mean you have BED. Binges can be brought on by many different factors. However, it is the frequency of the binges that defines BED.

BED is a serious disorder, whose sufferers experience a decreased quality of life, compared to those without BED. Those with BED often have psychiatric comorbidities (depression and anxiety), medical issues linked to obesity (Diabetes & cardiovascular disease) and socioeconomic issues due to the cost of health care, as well as the cost of food. A 2015 study estimated that cost of BED is about $30.00/week. That’s more than $1,500 per year!

So, I hope you guys have learned a bit about what Binge Eating Disorder is! If you believe to be struggling with BED, please reach out or seek professional help!

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