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Binge Eating versus Overeating


A topic that always causes a lot of confusion is binge eating versus overeating...Is there a difference? In a word, yes!


From time to time most people overeat, for example maybe when at a barbeque, having a few drinks or just having that extra slice of pizza because its their favourite. Christmas is another example, your stomach is full but sure one mince pie is not going to make a massive difference. This is occasional, minimal and the purpose is simply enjoying yourself and enjoying the food you are eating.

Overeating can also occur when someone is tired but not really tuning into the needs of their body and they try to fix the tiredness with food, the same can be said for boredom. Not making an effort with nutrition can also lead to overeating, so picking instead of sitting down and eating a meal, generally you will end up eating more this way.


Binge eating is very different. Binge eating has huge amounts of emotional attachment or detachment to it, it's beyond not listening to the body and what it needs. It's completely going against what the body physically needs and trying to solve an emotional struggle with food. Binge eating is often fast...at times frenzied, it can feel like you have lost control, nothing else matters only the food in front of you, there can be silence around you. Everything stops, time, worries, feeling, it's just you...you and the food. The food brings a feeling of euphoria, peace, calm, satisfaction, numbing, a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine often referred to as the "feel good hormone" acting as a metaphorical hug, in that moment it soothes. There is no time for judgement or feelings of guilt or shame... that will come later.

Binge eating is essentially self medication with quantities of food which go beyond the needs of the body. There is no thinking, there is no time for cooking so usually it is just whatever foods are to hand, it can be things that you would never normally need, often you won't even really taste the food so its irrelevant. Binge eating can can come out of nowhere but it can also be planned, shopping for a binge. The anticipation of the binge sometimes feeling as good as the binge itself.


A binge isn't always sitting around with lots of food, it's about how you behave with the food not what you are having to eat. In a social setting you are present, you may be overdoing it but you are in the room, engaging in conversation, laughing, connecting and enjoying yourself.

With binge eating it couldn't be more opposite, even if you are with people, you will be disconnected, often even trying to drown everyone out, you are disengaged...nodding at the right times perhaps but not really taking in the conversation. However, most binges take place at home, in isolation, where there is no need to put up a front, there's no obstacles getting in your way.


Unfortunately, after the disconnection that comes from the binge comes the reconnection with your feelings and the awareness of how you have just treated your body.

We live in a world that places a huge amount of value on the size of your body and the quality of the foods we put into our mouth and you begin to judge yourself through the eyes of society bringing with it feelings of shame and guilt.


Unlike overeating where you can decide to be more mindful of how you eat, breaking the cycle of binge eating requires looking at the roots to the issue. There are thoughts and feelings behind this cycle and addressing them is a key requirement to overcoming it.


So, whether you find yourself overeating or binge eating, there is a solution. No distress around food has to be permanent.





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