top of page
  • Writer's pictureKelly Neilson, MDA RD LD

BED and Binge Eating Recovery: 5 of the Most Common Questions Answered

Binge eating disorder (BED) and binge eating recovery are not talked about nearly enough. Why is that when BED is the most common eating disorder? BED is three times more common than anorexia or bulimia and not only is it the most prevalent eating disorder, it’s also the most underdiagnosed.

If you feel like you can’t openly talk about bingeing out of embarrassment, shame, or confusion, how are you supposed to seek help for binge eating recovery?

Being informed, educated, and encouraged with answers to the most common questions people have will give you greater confidence in reaching out for support and making sure that you receive adequate care! Here’s an in depth post on what so many wonder regarding the ins and outs of BED and binge eating recovery.


1) What is the Diagnostic Criteria for Binge Eating Disorder?

BED is diagnosed when a person is repeatedly binge eating, generally at least once a week for 3 months and is distressed by their behaviors. Binge eating is defined as eating large amounts of food, larger when compared to food eaten during similar conditions, in a relatively short period of time (within 2 hours or so). Someone with BED feels they don’t have control over their eating. They describe it as not being able to stop and not having power over what or how much food is eaten.

These episodes correspond with 3 or more of the following:

  • Eating faster than usual

  • Eating to the point of being painfully full and in discomfort

  • Eating while not necessarily feeling physical hungry

  • Eating alone or in secret due to embarrassment

  • Suffering from disgust, guilt, and depression with oneself after the episode

With BED, there is no continual or repeated attempt in trying to compensate or make up for what one eats, as is the case with bulimia. Clinically diagnosed BED means that the binge eating episodes happen outside of a direct influence of bulimia and anorexia.

2) If I Binge Eat or Overeat, Does That Mean I Have BED?

Many in recovery from an eating disorder or struggling with disordered eating worry they have BED if they binge or overeat. The short answer is, no, binge eating and overeating does NOT mean you automatically have BED. People often use the terms “overeating” and “binge eating” interchangeably, when there is in fact a difference between the two. Consider the definitions of binge eating and overeating.

As stated above, binge eating is when you consume a significantly large amount of food in one sitting with an inability to stop eating only until your stomach physically reaches the point where it’s painfully full. A binge can seem like you’ve been taken over and don’t have a say in what’s happening. Some reference it to an out of body experience or being put on auto pilot.

Overeating is a tendency for many and is a part of life occurring from time to time in which you eat beyond fullness. This could be having an extra serving at dinner or choosing to eat dessert when you know you’re already physically full. Overeating can take place unintentionally or intentionally depending on the situation. Everyone has experienced overeating because there’s no such thing as perfect eating.

Binge eating and overeating can occur separately from BED. You can binge and not be diagnosed with BED, just like you can overeat and eat to an uncomfortable point of fullness without it being defined as a binge. Sometimes the reality is that you did neither and were just eating what your body needed at the time.

3) What Should I Do Right After a Binge?

  • Slow Down and Be Kind to Yourself

It’s likely that you feel stuffed, bloated, and sick directly following a binge. It might be tempting to treat yourself worse and mentally get down given that you’re upset you “messed up.” Slow down, sit in the uncomfortable feelings, and be kind to yourself. Change your clothes to something breathable, take a walk around the block if you need to decompress, and listen to music or watch a movie to put your thoughts to the side for a moment.

  • Eat Meals and Snacks as Usual

You’ll have the urge to forgo eating after a binge, but this will only perpetuate the bingeing, keeping you stuck. Consistently feeding your body enough is the best answer. Let your body digest and then resume with your meals and snacks once you’re able to. Digestion may take time, but don’t let your mind trick you into waiting too long, because that can be just as damaging. Going back to your regular meals and snacks shows your body that you respect it, which means it will continue to work on your side.

4) Does BED Only Affect People in Larger Bodies?

Thinking that BED only occurs in those living in larger bodies is 100% a myth. There isn’t a specific body type for ANY eating disorder. Weight stigma and bias are huge factors contributing to this myth, which causes a lot of harm.

People who need help are often left untreated because of the preconceived notions society has regarding weight. Those in larger bodies may be treated poorly by doctors and that leaves them hesitant, not wanting to seek support. If they do go to the doctor, the doctor usually recommends weight loss advice, completely disregarding their reason for coming. They end up not being screened for BED and are told to eat less or have more “control,” only worsening the problem.

On the other hand, people in thin bodies dealing with bingeing don’t get taken seriously either by doctors or others in their life. There’s a false assumption that thin people don’t binge eat because they don’t “look” like they “eat too much.” This leaves people with thin bodies left out of receiving proper treatment as well.

There’s a lot of misconceptions floating around and the stereotypical picture people have in their mind of what an eating disorder looks like is just not the truth.

5) Can I Fully Recover From Binge Eating?

It’s easy to lose hope when you’re unsure if the bingeing will ever end. Know that it’s not because you don’t have any willpower. Biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors can all play a part in what causes eating disorders and disordered eating.

Binge eating is very treatable and full recovery is possible. There are registered dietitians, therapists, and psychiatrists that are experts in eating disorders and trained to lead you in recovery. The path looks different for everyone, but typically it includes therapy, nutrition counseling, support groups, and putting what you learn into action.

Learning about different aspects of your binge eating, practicing mindfulness, cognitive restructuring, and regaining normalcy with food, working towards intuitive eating are just some of the fundamentals behind recovery. Focusing on the way your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors interact along with discovering other methods to cope and handle emotions is essential. It’s worth noting that the primary goal is behavior change, not weight loss.

“Sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make. You don’t have to do it alone.”

Binge eating is more common than you think. You’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with you. That’s why I’m seeking to bring awareness about it’s prevalence in our society, because I know that binge eatingdoesn’t have to rule your life forever! As a virtual anti-diet dietitian, I work with people just like you to help them find freedom from bingeing. Reach out to me when you’re ready!

92 views0 comments


bottom of page