The Cost of Bingeing: Getting Help and Starting Over

Contributor: Carolyn Labrie, MPH, PhD(c), for Center for Discovery

Happy Family On Beach Vacation Looking at OceanEating disorders are costly. Certainly the physical and emotional tolls are high, and treatment costs are staggering, but there is another concerning price sufferers and their families pay: the money spent on binge food.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has recently been added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Eating Disorders (DSM-V) as a recognized eating disorder, and we are just learning of the staggering numbers of people who suffer from BED.

Identifying Binge Eating Disorder

Marked by episodes of binge eating that are not mitigated by compensatory behaviors like purging or compulsive exercise, people with BED often find themselves feeling out of control in a cycle of overeating. Similarly, people with Bulimia Nervosa (BN) also suffer from episodes of overeating, but follow them with purging, restricting, or over-exercising to compensate.

Symptoms from both BED and bulimia torture sufferers with feelings of shame, guilt, and significant body image issues, all of which serve to perpetuate the vicious cycle of eating disordered behavior.

The Costs of Binge Eating Disorder

Back view of a teen girl walking towards the schoolThe costs of bingeing and compensatory behaviors add up over time. According to the Science of Eating Disorders (, the average cost for binge food was $30.50 per week (almost $1,600 per year), with some individuals spending at least twice that amount to the tune of almost $3,500 annually.

For those individuals using diet pills and laxatives in compensatory behaviors, the added cost ranges from $4.50 to $28 per week ($1,468 per year). If bulimia symptoms were severe from the onset, accumulated costs for the lifetime of the illness prior to seeking treatment could range from $7,000-$13,000 annually.

These are significant costs that may represent the choice between bingeing or paying rent, bingeing or making the car payment, bingeing or buying new clothes for the family…..choices a person may be unable to make in the throes of the illness.

Stories of Binge Eating

Jane Brody, writing for the New York Times, shares her feelings of helplessness as her personal and work life fell apart and she turned to food for comfort:

I learned where the few all-night-mom-and-pop shops
were located so I could pick up the evening’s supply
on my way home from work. Then I would spend all night
eating nonstop, first something sweet, then something
salty, then back to sweet, and so on.

There has even been a connection discovered between binge eating and binge shopping. Some clients present with one and it is discovered in the course of treatment that in addition to binge foods, the client is struggling to make ends meet in the face of debt incurred by compulsive shopping.

Psychology Today ( explains that these behaviors develop out of a need to deal with feelings that seem overwhelming. Left with a feeling of physical emptiness, the solution is to attempt to fill that hole with food or things.

The Inner Struggle of Binge Eating

Multiethnic Group of Teenagers Walking at ParkOn Loving Yourself to Health, Leanne Marie writes poignantly about the inner struggle of people who find themselves in the cycle of bingeing, purging, and financial distress:

Not wanting to be alone with ourselves, not wanting to look
at what’s really going on, not being more than vaguely interested
in what really caused the issue, only intent on feeling happy and
buying “things” to brighten up our day….Our beliefs that we aren’t
worthy of love, are too screwed up, too lost, too weird, too fat,
too thin, too ugly, too sensitive, too needy, too jealous, too
competitive….all keep us chasing after a different kind of us…
A different version of us that doesn’t exist yet.

Seeking help is the first step toward breaking this cycle that leaves us feeling helpless, hopeless, and out of control. People suffering from binge eating and bulimia, as well as associated issues with anxiety, depression, compensatory behaviors, or compulsive shopping, can benefit from medical evaluation, nutrition counseling, and traditional therapy.

Therapy should focus on cognitive restructuring to mitigate behaviors and techniques to deal with emotions and learn to grow comfortable expressing them.


  1. Science of Eating Disorders (2002). Financial Burden of Bulimia Nervosa: Cost of Food, Laxatives, Diuretics, and Diet Pills Adds Up.
  2. Brody, J. (2007). Out of Control: A True Story of Binge Eating. New York Times,
  3. Barth, FD. (2011). Binge Eating and Binge Shopping Disorders: Are They Connected?
    Psychology Today,
  4. Leanne Marie (2015). Are Money and Eating Challenges Linked? Loving Yourself to Health,
  • 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 discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 22nd, 2015
Published on