Binge Eating Disorder & Bariatric Surgery or the Sleeve

Girl thinking about Bariatric SurgeryFor those who struggle with binge eating disorder (BED), the consequences can be unbearable as they impact a person in multiple ways: physically, emotionally, socially, and more. Binge eating disorder is a psychiatric illness that is characterized by the following criteria:

  • Feeling a lack of control over the amount of food consumed
  • Feeling anxious and distraught over bingeing episodes
  • Having bingeing episodes at least once per week for 3 months
  • Eating in isolation due to shame about amount of food eaten
  • Feeling embarrassment, disgust, or guilt after overeating
  • Eating food until uncomfortably full
  • Consuming substantial amounts of food, even when not physically hungry
  • Eating food quickly in a short time period

Suffering in Silence with Binge Eating Disorder

Countless individuals struggle with Binge Eating Disorder throughout our nation though many suffer in silence due to the fears and stigmas that surround this painful disorder.

Binge eating disorder is often thought to be nothing more than a lack of “self-control” when it comes to eating, however, there are much more complex factors involved with this psychiatric illness. Binge eating disorder can occur among individuals of any age, race, gender, or socioeconomic background.

Another misconception is that binge eating disorder only occurs among individuals who are obese, but the weight stigma associated with this eating disorder is also untrue.

A common physical effect that can result from binge eating disorder is obesity, which can result from consuming a greater amount of food than is needed over time.

While it is important to understand that obesity is not a criterion for binge eating disorder, nor do all individuals with obesity have BED, it can be a serious complication of this eating disorder.

Obesity can be a risk factor for a myriad of health issues, including:

  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Sleep conditions
  • Other problems

Dealing with the Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder, Not the Cause

If a person is suffering from obesity as a consequence of binge eating disorder, they may feel pressed to deal with the weight issue versus the eating disorder concerns. Bariatric surgery for weight loss has been utilized more frequently for the treatment of obesity and involves the surgical removal of parts of the stomach and small intestines to induce weight loss.

The most common types of Bariatric Surgeries performed today include the following [1]:

  • Sleeve Gastrectomy: This type of bariatric surgery involves the removal of about 75 percent of the stomach, leaving a narrow “sleeve”. This procedure permanently reduces the size of the stomach and does not involve the removal or bypass of intestines.
  • Adjustable Gastric Banding: This procedure involves the insertion of a Silastic “belt” around the upper part of the stomach, which functions to separate the stomach into a smaller upper pouch and a larger, lower pouch.
  • Biliopancreatic Diversion: This operation involves the resection of the stomach to create a smaller stomach and the rearrangement of the intestines. Due to high malabsorption that often results from this surgery, it is not as common as the other forms of bariatric surgery.
  • Roux en-Y Gastric Bypass: This surgery involves the creation of a small stomach pouch that reduces the volume of food that can be eaten as well as the bypass of a small amount of intestine.

Bariatric Surgery to Lose Weight

Girl in field thinking about Binge Eating DisorderBariatric surgeries essentially create a small gastric pouch, which will limit the amount of food a person can consume on a regular basis. The decreased amount of food consumed eventually leads to weight loss for the individual who has had bariatric surgery.

While bariatric surgery may be an effective option for individuals struggling with obesity, it is not without risks. Complications that may result include surgery difficulties, malnutrition, gastrointestinal disorders, weight regain, and nutritional deficiencies.

Avoiding the Underlying Problem

For the man or woman suffering from obesity as a result of binge eating disorder, bariatric surgery may seem like a viable option; however, it is important to realize that surgery does not address psychiatric concerns associated with binge eating disorder or eating disorder behaviors.

If surgery takes place without psychological and behavioral treatment, it may only be addressing the symptoms of BED and not dealing with root causes.  This can further exacerbate the complications of binge eating disorder, evening worsening the eating disorder following surgery. For the majority of individuals who receive bariatric surgery, there is a specialized diet that should be followed after surgery. Following these types of bariatric diets can be extremely triggering for a person with binge eating disorder.Any surgery options should be a part of a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the many facets involved in recovery from binge eating disorder, including:

For the majority of individuals who receive bariatric surgery, there is a specialized diet that should be followed after surgery. Following these types of bariatric diets can be extremely triggering for a person with binge eating disorder. Any surgery options should be a part of a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the many facets involved in recovery from binge eating disorder, including:

Any surgery options should be a part of a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the many facets involved in recovery from binge eating disorder, including:

  • Weight concerns
  • Food-related behaviors
  • Underlying issues or trauma that contributed to the development and maintenance of Binge Eating Disorder

If you or your loved one has been considering bariatric surgery and is struggling with binge eating disorder, be sure to discuss all options with your doctor and eating disorder treatment team. Many prerequisites to bariatric surgery now involve psychiatric counseling beforehand, and having a means for addressing food-related thoughts and behaviors can help ensure lasting outcomes from surgery.

Guidelines for Bariatric Surgery

It is also advisable that anyone seeking bariatric surgery follow these guidelines:

  • Obtain two or more medical opinions on the viability of the surgery for you
  • Explore the credentials and medical board status of the surgeon who may perform the surgery
  • Determine that you have exhausted all less invasive ways to improve your health through a nutritious diet and exercise.
  • Have an aftercare team of a nutritionist, physician, and therapist to work with you as you adjust to the changes in your body and related physical and emotional complications
  • Have a strong support team of friends and family that will help you to determine if this is the right choice for you

The decision to undergo bariatric surgery is a monumental decision, and all the pros and cons should be considered, especially for an individual who has struggled with binge eating disorder.

It is advisable to seek out and prioritize binge eating disorder treatment rather than focusing on weight loss, particularly as the consequences of untreated binge eating disorder can be more detrimental. Eating disorder treatment programs for binge eating disorder often comprehensive approaches that can help address your unique needs and concerns.


  1. Obesity Action Coaltion, “Bariatric Surgery”,

Jacquelyn EkernAbout the author: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website. In addition, she is a fully licensed therapist with a closed private counseling practice specializing in the treatment of eating disorders.

Jacquelyn has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree from The University of Phoenix and a Masters degree in Counseling/Psychology, from Capella University. She has extensive experience in the eating disorder field including advanced education in psychology, participation and contributions to additional eating disorder groups, symposiums, and professional associations. She is a member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Academy of Eating Disorders (AED), the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp).

Jacquelyn enjoys art, working out, walking her golden retriever “Cowgirl”, reading, painting and time with family.
Although Eating Disorder Hope was founded by Jacquelyn Ekern, this organization would not be possible without support from our generous sponsors.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Page Last Reviewed and Updated By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 30, 2017
Published on, Eating Disorder Information Help & Resources