Many people tend to eat a lot from time to time. Recently, health care professionals and researchers have acknowledged that binge-eating can be an eating disorder. The big difference of the binge eating disorder, in comparison with the widely known Bulimia Nervosa, is that if you have eaten too much, you will not try to counter all the binging through purging, exercise or any other methods (Binge Eating: Breaking the Cycle. A self-help guide towards recovery, 2015).

Looking out for patterns

Some people may not fit in the diagnostic criteria, but they may recognise some patterns while reading this. The official diagnostic criteria according to DSM-V are “recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances, with episodes marked by feelings of lack of control. This person may have feelings of guilt, disgust or embarrassment and may binge eat alone to hide this behaviour”. 

If you see yourself in the description, it may be worth keeping a food diary as a first step of improving your eating habits. A food diary usually has 5 columns: time of the day, description, and quantity of food, where you ate, what made you eat (if it was hunger, boredom etc.), if you consider this as binging and what you were feeling. 

Tracking patterns down

Keeping a diary can be a big help in finding your patterns and having some accurate info that you can present if you choose to work with a professional, whether it is a dietician or a therapist. Apart from discovering your patterns, the diary can also provide indirect information: you may notice that you changed some of your diary entries, or you feel like changing them. 

What is the most usual trigger for the onset of binge eating? 

Dieting seems to be the biggest precipitating factor, but also the factor that maintains the diet-binge cycle. If you continuously try to be on a diet, it may be worth trying to let go of this and attempt to eat as you would normally. Chances are that your body weight will not change drastically. As when you are not restricting your access to food, there are less chances of binge-eating, which can balance-out your overall food intake. 

In any case, it is important to seek professional help if you feel that you have no control over your binge eating, after you have tried these simple strategies. 

If you or someone in your family is struggling with binge-eating this is affecting their everyday life, it may be a good idea to seek professional help.  You can book an appointment here

Elena Marinopoulou is a Behaviour Analyst with Willingness Team. She works with children and adults and has a strong interest in parent training, sleep and feeding issues, as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  

References: BODYWHYS The Eating Disorders Association of Ireland. (2015). Binge Eating: Breaking the Cycle. A self-help guide towards recovery [Ebook] (2nd ed.). Retrieved 30 September 2022, from.