Dealing With the Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating is not what families do at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner; it is not having a second dish of ice cream because it’s your favorite flavor; it’s not overindulging in fried chicken while visiting someone down South.

Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating is a serious disorder that affects 3-5% of American men and women, making this eating disorder three times more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa combined [1].

Binge eating involves consuming a great deal of food, in an uncontrolled and/or rapid manner, and eating beyond the point of fullness. Binge eating is not motivated by physiological hunger.

It is driven by psychological issues, such as fear of failure or rejection, unmet expectations, or feeling inadequate.  Binges may be spontaneous or planned. No purging is involved, but there may be sporadic fasting or repeat dieting.

Binges may be spontaneous or planned. No purging is involved, but there may be sporadic fasting or repeat dieting. Binge eating disorder is typically diagnosed when binge eating episodes occur, on average, at least once a week for three months [2]. But even with less frequency, binge eating can be a serious problem.

Side Effects of Binge Eating Disorder

There are many emotional and physical consequences associated with bingeing. Immediately after a binge, feelings of shame, self-hatred, anxiety, and depression are common. Physical discomfort and gastrointestinal distress frequently occur due to the high volume of food ingested.

The person may experience lethargy and fatigue.  Continuing in the behavior for months or years intensifies feelings of depression, anger, sadness, and loneliness.

Social isolation occurs from the amount of time required to execute and recover from bingeing.  Extreme shame usually surrounds this disorder, meaning it must be done in private. Perhaps the most critical consequence of binge eating is unwanted weight gain.

While some maintain a normal weight, most individuals who routinely binge eat become overweight or obese, which often results in medical complications. These include cardiovascular disease; high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides; and adult-onset diabetes. If the food consumed is high in fat, individuals may also develop gout.

However, even at a normal weight, a person with binge eating disorder can suffer from many health consequences. There is often tremendous weight stigma surrounding this disease, where a person with binge eating disorder may not seek out help due to feeling they are not underweight, or “sick enough” for eating disorder treatment. Stereotypes like this often cause a person to suffer in silence unnecessarily for long periods of time before seeking help.

A person’s relationships, career, finances, and social life will also be impacted by binge eating. An individual struggling with binge eating disorder may find it difficult to function in normal daily activities due to the severity of the illness.

Seeking Help and Treatment For Binge Eating Disorder

In dealing with this disorder, the Binge Eating Disorder Program at Remuda Ranch suggests the following:

Evaluate your beliefs about the purpose of eating.  There are two reasons to eat: nourishment and enjoyment. Food meets the body’s requirements and provides enjoyment. Both need to be present in balance. With binge eating, the potential exists for neither to be present. Often, the type of food ingested is not beneficial to the body and is not enjoyed.

Acknowledge that there may be a problem. Look closely at the behavior and ask: “Am I eating for reasons other than nourishing my body or enjoyment?” Then, consider what needs you are trying to meet through food.

Don’t diet. Especially if overweight, individuals with binge eating may turn to dieting. This is a mistake since dieting involves restriction, which leads to feelings of deprivation, which in turn leads to bingeing.

Instead, try to reconnect with your body’s signals of hunger and fullness. If a desire to eat is present, ask yourself: “Am I really hungry?”

If not, try to gain understanding about why you want to eat when not hungry. Could it be loneliness, anger, frustration, or depression?

Seek help. A therapist or counselor can help you get to the “whys” of your eating behavior and find new ways of dealing with the emotions that underlie the behavior. Therapists who use cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques are usually the most successful.  If medical complications exist, consult a physician.

To learn about or return to healthy eating and to plan appropriate and enjoyable exercise, you might want to see a dietician.

Finally, if counseling is going slowly, it may be useful to consult a psychiatrist, since there are newer medication combinations that appear promising in reducing binge eating. More serious cases may require clinic for eating disorders.

Recent studies suggest that binge eating patients respond well if treated. In follow-up studies at 5 years, 70% of individuals with binge eating disorder who sought treatment were determined to have improved prognosis [3].

There is therefore much hope for people who are struggling with this problem. If you or someone you know is struggling with binge eating disorder, please contact The Meadows Ranch Programs for Eating and  Anxiety Disorders at 1-888-496-5498.

[1]: Hudson JI, Hiripi E, Pope HG Jr, and Kessler RC. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3):348-58. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.03.040.
[2]: Westerberg, D. P., & Waitz, M. (2013). Binge-eating disorder. Osteopathic Family Physician, 5(6), 230-233.
[3]: Clinical Practice Guidelines for Eating Disorders, “Prognosis of Eating Disorders”, Accessed 20 May 2017

Contributed by Staff of The Meadows Ranch

Article Contributed by Staff of The Meadows Ranch:

For over 25 years, The Meadows Ranch has offered an unparalleled depth of care through its unique, comprehensive, and individualized program for treating eating disorders and co-occurring conditions affecting adolescent girls and women. Set on scenic ranch property in the healing landscape of Wickenburg, Arizona, The Meadows Ranch allows for seamless transitions between its structured multi-phase treatment. A world-class clinical team of industry experts leads the treatment approach designed to uncover and understand the “whys” of the eating disorder through a host of proven modalities. Providing individuals with tools to re-engage in a healthy relationship with food – and with themselves – disempowers eating disorders and empowers individuals with a renewed enthusiasm for life. Contact us today at 888-496-5498 and find out why The Meadows Ranch is the best choice for eating disorder treatment and recovery. For more information call 1-888-496-5498.. or visit

Edited & Published: June 6, 2017
Recently Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 2, 2018

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