Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating: the unseen eating disorder

This is the first in a series of posts exploring Binge Eating Disorder

When we hear the words ‘eating disorder’ our minds often conjure an image of anorexia. We all understand that anorexia is a serious, potentially life-threatening issue, necessitating immediate treatment and support. Despite the increased awareness of anorexia, it is actually the least common eating disorder (ED), accounting for just 10% of diagnosed eating disorders. Binge Eating disorder (BED) is three times more common than anorexia, but sadly often goes unnoticed and untreated. As a result, many people are suffering silence with BED and are not receiving diagnosis or treatment. Studies have suggested that half of all people trying to control their weight, could be affected by BED.

Binge Eating Disorder

Often what prevents people struggling with BED from seeking help is the shame and stigma attached to ‘overeating’, feeling out of control around food and weight gain. Due to the lack of awareness around this ED, sufferers can often feel it’s their own lack of willpower which is to blame and may be unaware that their symptoms indicate an ED. Worryingly, many health professionals do not recognise and therefore under-diagnose BED, often leading to inappropriate and ineffective advice and treatment. Many people reporting BED symptoms will be advised to follow a restrictive weight loss diet, which will almost certainly trigger increased bingeing and worsening of the ED. Anyone struggling with bingeing and a difficult relationship to food deserves help and support and their condition taken seriously

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

‘Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness where people experience a loss of control around food and eat large quantities of food on a regular basis. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, or background’  Beat Eating Disorders UK

What are the signs of BED?

Behavioural signs

  • Buying lots of food
  • Organising life around bingeing episodes
  • Hoarding food
  • Eating very rapidly
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Avoiding eating around others
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

Psychological signs

  • Spending a lot or most of their time thinking about food
  • A sense of being out of control around food, or a loss of control over eating
  • Feeling anxious and tense, especially about eating in front of others
  • Low confidence and self-esteem
  • Feelings of shame and guilt after bingeing
  • Other mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety

Physical signs

  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Other stomach problems
  • Poor skin condition

Finding out more about BED

If you recognise many of the signs above, in yourself or someone else, reading about and researching BED is a good place to start. There are some helpful guides available online:

BEAT Eating Disorders

NHS guide to BED

National Centre for Eating Disorders (NCFED)


If you’d like help with overcoming BED, please get in touch to book a consultation

Mindful eating

How can mindful eating change our relationship with food?

I used to be a serial dieter. If I wasn’t actually on a diet, I’d be planning to start my next weight loss or healthy eating plan, probably on Monday morning! But somehow, after a few months, weeks or sometimes days, I’d lose my way and the weight would creep back on and so called ‘bad’ foods would find their way back into my life. Does this sound familiar?  We start each new diet or healthy lifestyle change feeling so full of motivation and determination to succeed, but after a while, the novelty and enthusiasm wears off and old habits creep back in.

Sadly, this dieting cycle leaves so many of us feeling like failures, if we just had more willpower to resist eating the ‘wrong’ foods and stick to the diet rules, then we could succeed once and for all. This idea that we are at fault keeps us trying, and failing over and over. The truth is, that research into the long-term effects of dieting show that we are not alone in finding it difficult to stick to a diet. While almost any type of weight loss diet or eating plan will work in the short term, in the long term, the vast majority of dieters will regain the weight they lost.

This can all feel somewhat depressing, to recognise ourselves in these repeated cycles of hope and failure, weight loss and gain. But the thought of giving up on diets and weight loss for good can feel worryingly like ‘letting ourselves go’ and giving in to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and ill health.

What if there is another way? What all diets and healthy eating plans have in common is that they all impose change from the outside. All we have to do is follow a set of rules about what to eat and the excess weight melts away and we become fit and healthy. It sounds simple, and we can all follow the rules for a while, but if we are people who struggle with binge eating, or disordered eating due to stress, or emotional reasons, then the diet model often doesn’t work for us as there are so many other factors at play in our food choices.

So how can Mindful Eating help us address issues with overeating, get off the diet cycle for good and re-establish a healthy relationship with food? A clue to the benefits of Mindful eating can be found in this definition of mindfulness-

Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself- in your body, heart and mind- and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness, without judgement or criticism.

We can let go of the external rules and instead begin to shine the light of enquiry and curiosity onto what really drives our eating behaviours. That’s where the magic happens, from understanding our own needs and desires comes lasting change.

By paying attention, with kindness, patience and compassion, we begin to hear what our body, heart and mind are really hungry for. We learn how to take a mindful pause, within which we can begin to hear the truth behind our desire to eat. When eating stops being a mindless, automatic response, the opportunity arises to explore our true needs rather than stuffing them down with food.

Over time, the practice of Mindful Eating allows us to relearn that joyful and simple relationship with food we once had, before we learned to count calories, fat grams and carbs. So, if you’ve just fallen off that diet cycle again or you are looking for a radical new solution to disordered eating, contact me to find out how to begin your own journey into Mindful Eating and rediscovering a healthy, joyful relationship with food.