What Is Binge Eating and What Is the Definition of Bingeing?​

Written by: Bianca Villanueva – BS (Psychology)

Last updated date : January 18, 2023

Most people love eating. While everyone eats to live, some of us live to eat! That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Food is one of the best ways to enjoy life. It can be fun to have on your own and meaningful when shared with friends. Good food, in particular, can boost almost anyone’s mood. However, as good as the food is, anything in excess is a problem. It can affect not only your physical health but also your social and mental well-being. This can come in the form of binge eating. What is binge eating? What is the definition of bingeing?

Before we get into these questions, let’s get into the topic of food. We eat when we’re happy, sad, or stressed. For some of us on diets, eating food can make us guilty or frustrated. Eating good food can raise our mood like nothing else. Meanwhile, eating bad food can ruin the rest of our day. There are many attitudes towards eating, and today we’re looking into bingeing.

The goal of this article is to help make a bingeing definition that’s easy to understand. Without a good answer to “What is binge eating,” people with this problem might find it harder to realize there’s a problem. Let’s make it clear that eating too much or too little is not a good thing, even if you’re dieting or trying to cope with problems. So let’s get into the definition of bingeing!

Girl with binge eating eating at regular intervals, using alarms and calendars

“Very interesting and relevant” John

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Chapter 1:

What Is Binge Eating?

Bingeing is eating large sums of food in a small amount of time. Almost everyone overeats now and then. Sometimes food is our coping mechanism for things that upset us. Other times, it’s our way of deepening bonds with others. What is the definition of bingeing? The word “binge” means to indulge in something excessively. Bingeing food is the act of indulging in too much food. The same way we “binge-watch” or “binge drink,” the definition of binge eating is more than just overeating. If not treated, it can become a full-blown disorder.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

This disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it’s frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food. People who binge eat, even when uncomfortable, continue to eat. For them, it can feel like they have little control over their actions. Sometimes, bingeing can even give them feelings of guilt and shame because of what they do. Even then, they find it hard to stop. As such, these episodes happen often. So, what symptoms are part of the definition of bingeing?

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

It can be hard to tell apart bingeing from simply overeating. What makes this a disorder is that it disrupts a person’s life. For people with this disorder, overeating has come to the point that they can no longer function the same as before. Their behavior also causes distress and a lot of frustration towards themselves. This may even lead to other serious disorders like depression or anxiety. In order to stop a problem in its tracks, you need to recognize what it looks like. So how do you know that you’re binge eating?

  • Eating a large amount of food in a short span of time
  • Having a hard time stopping
  • Feeling too full and still eating a lot
  • Eating faster than usual
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Dining alone due to guilt and shame
  • Feeling guilty and ashamed after bingeing

These symptoms need to both be present to really say it’s a binge eating disorder.

To get a better picture of what binge eating can do, here’s a case. As you read through, try to think about how the disorder can physically, mentally, and socially affect people. Hopefully, it will give you a little more perspective on the definition of bingeing.

A Case of Binge Eating

Becky is a 30-year-old female who is worried about her weight. She does clerical work in her office every day but doesn’t do any physical activity on the weekends. Instead, she eats a lot. She’s been through a lot of doctors and still can’t seem to find a way to lose weight. This is because she seems to eat, even when she’s not hungry. She feels frustrated and guilty that she knows this is why she can’t lose weight, and it’s unhealthy. However, she continues to binge eat when she’s particularly stressed.

She was told by her previous doctors that she has high cholesterol and blood pressure, two common problems in obesity. Because of this, she has always wanted to lose weight and live a “healthier” lifestyle. Now, she binges 3-4 times a week. Although, it increases to 5-6 times a week whenever she’s stressed at work about meeting deadlines and reaching quotas. Even when she’s bored at home, she will find herself munching on something and finishing the whole pack.

Ashamed of how she can’t stop overeating, she turns down invites with friends and family. She doesn’t want them to see her bad habits about food. She also doesn’t want them to say things that she already knows about herself. So, when she’s alone, she finds herself binge eating with no one to stop her. As days go by, she grows increasingly frustrated with herself to the point she rarely goes out unless it’s for work. When did things go wrong?

Chapter 2:

Why Do People Start Bingeing?

Like we can see in Becky’s case, she’s experiencing a lot. Yet, we can’t pin down the exact reason why she can’t stop her habits. Despite knowing she’s physically unhealthy, isolated, and feeling bad about herself, she continues her current cycle of coping with eating because she keeps eating. Why do people binge eat in the first place? Like many mental disorders, it’s a mix of several things.

Your Genes

It could be that this habit was inherited like many behaviors can be. No, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it. This simply means that you were more likely to have it compared to others whose parents never binge food. Studies show that there may be a gene linked to binge eating. These genes can affect brain development and make you more likely to have negative behaviors like binge eating.

Your Family Eating Habits

If you’ve been exposed to this kind of eating at a young age, it’s hard to kick the habit out. Some people may have watched their parents binge eat and thought it was the normal way to eat. When you’re a kid, you’re easy to mold, especially by your parents. Usually, their eating habits are what influence how you eat as you get older.

Your Low Self-Esteem

People who binge eat might seem happier since they’re always eating food as much as they want. In reality, some of them don’t like the way they look. In severe types of binge eating, these people tend to have a more negative self-image. It can be confusing to understand because most people with negative self-images tend to avoid food rather than binge. So how does that work?

In the process of avoiding food, many people can restrict what they eat. However, this can lead to binge eating because when these people try to eat again, they overeat. This can happen as often as every other day of the week. This can cause even more guilt and frustration. People with binge eating disorders already have a hard time with self-control, so keeping a strict diet regimen can be more difficult than normal.

Other Disorders

Having other mental disorders can also affect the development of binge eating disorders. That’s because conditions like depression and anxiety can cause bingeing habits. In fact, one of the symptoms of depression is either eating more or less than usual. For many, food is a way to cope with problems. So, when they feel unbearable as they do in depression and anxiety, bingeing can be a way they cope. This makes sense because people with mood or anxiety disorders have problems with controlling their emotions. So, their coping mechanisms are ways to make up for it.

Even people with substance use disorders tend to binge eat. That’s because people with substance abuse already have existing problems with self-control. So, it makes sense that they would also have a hard time controlling what they eat, which is the very definition of bingeing.

Chapter 3:

What Does Binge Eating Do?

From the case we read earlier, bingeing can affect many facets of your life. It can be okay to overeat from time to time, but when this is used as a coping mechanism, it can do more harm than good. So, what are the ways binge eating can be harmful to your health?

To Your Body

Like we mentioned, the definition of bingeing means taking anything in excess. In this case, it’s food. As such, binge eating can cause obesity. The problem with obesity is that it’s a risk factor for various diseases like heart attacks, diabetes, hypertension, and even some cancers. Another characteristic of binge eating is that it tends to be one type of food. This can be a problem because if you stick to one type of food (even if it’s “healthy”), your body misses out on very necessary nutrients. These nutrients are needed for different body processes and having the energy to get through the day. This also opens you up to more diseases.

This can even lead to sleep problems. As fat builds around your airways, you can get sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing pauses while you sleep. This can wake you up from sleep, preventing you from getting a good night’s rest. Obesity can also affect your chance of getting pregnant. For those of you who want kids in the future, it can be hard to track those fertile days. This is because fat creates the same hormone that helps control your menstrual cycle. As a result, it can mess with your cycle. Additionally, it can complicate the pregnancy. Obesity can increase your risk of hypertension and diabetes during pregnancy. This is dangerous for both you and the baby.

To Your Mind

Like we mentioned, this habit can easily make people feel guilty and frustrated. This can increase their stress levels and eventually even make them feel hopeless. Being unable to stop can be a huge hit to anyone’s self-esteem. It makes them feel like they can’t do it right even when they know it’s unhealthy.

The self-isolation that it causes can also lead them to feel depressed and even more hopeless because there’s no one around to help them. At its worst, binge eating disorder is linked with a higher risk of suicide, especially when with another mental problem. Many people with binge eating disorders develop suicidal thoughts and behaviors. That’s why if someone you care about has this disorder, make sure to stick with them. Help them through their struggle against their own behaviors and show them that it’s nothing to be ashamed about as long as they try to get better.

To Your Relationships

Self-isolation is a big factor in binge eating. It makes the people around them feel more distant and helpless. They tend to think people will think bad of them for having these habits. Despite people who may tell them otherwise, they project their self-views on others which can affect their relationships.

Another problem is the reality that people with obesity has their own social issues. People who are obese are often discriminated against in many cultures. This can make them feel socially isolated and feel uncomfortable with their own bodies. Apart from that, the medical problems obesity causes are expensive. The medications alone for high cholesterol and blood pressure are a lot, and it can be hard to comply with them because they’re taken every day.

Chapter 4:

What Can You Do About It?

It will take more than one person to help you overcome your bingeing habits. However, the most important step is up to you. Taking that first step to asking for help from others is hard to do, but you’ll find that bingeing can be fixed. The very definition of bingeing means that you have a hard time stopping, so don’t expect improvement within a day. Instead, you should take it a day at a time at your own pace.

You will have to get in touch with a therapist and a dietician since the condition involves both your physical and mental health. They may ask you to undergo therapy and a special diet, apart from medications they might give you. At the end of the day, you can rest assured that your treatment will be personalized for you and adjusted accordingly. Apart from that, it really goes a long way to have your friends and relatives help you. While you may feel the need to hide from them, if they truly care about you, they will have no problems being with you through this process.

In the meantime, here are some tips you can do for yourself at home:

  • Follow what your body says. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Learn and really feel for your hunger cues.
  • Keep yourself stimulated. Many people binge eat when they’re bored or idly doing something. Do something that takes your attention off these habits.
  • Focus on your food. Don’t just chow down on your food. Take the time to eat it and enjoy the flavor. It gives your stomach time to process if you’re full from eating or not.

"Very interesting and relevant" John

72 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount