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Facts About Binge Eating

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Overeating is Embedded in American Culture

Overeating is Embedded in American Culture

Binge Eating Facts

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious, life-threatening eating disorder that is characterized by frequent consumption of large quantities of food, and 2.8% of Americans are affected. People with BED regularly consume large quantities of food often to the point of discomfort, while feeling a loss of control during these binges. They typically experience distress, shame, and guilt following the binge episode.

Binge eating is three times more common than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. All races and income levels are affected. Worldwide 70 million people suffer from this disorder. After the 1990s, binge eating has become common in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and India, probably due to fast-food franchises and Western values spreading across Asia and Europe. Latinos have this problem when they are young, but they tend to go on diets more often. Statistics are very limited worldwide, except to report very limited treatment for those affected by this disorder.

In the United States BED is the most common eating disorder, affecting 2.8 million people. More women than men get BED. Women tend to be affected in young adulthood, but it is more common in men during middle age.

Signs and Symptoms

There are numerous signs and symptoms of BED. This disorder is characterized by:

  • Eating during a specific period of time (generally within a 2 hour period of time)
  • Eating a large amount of food
  • Lack of self-control overeating during this time period as the person feels they cannot stop eating or control the amount of food they consume
  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Eating when you are uncomfortably full
  • Eating a large amount when they are not hungry
  • Eating alone or in secret due to embarrassment because of the amount consumed
  • Being disgusted with the amount they consume or feeling guilty afterward
  • Binge eating occurs a minimum of once a week for 3 months
  • They think their eating behavior is out of control
  • Feeling disgusted, ashamed, depressed, guilty, or upset about your eating
  • The individual may diet often but may not lose weight

Binge eating is very different from other eating disorders as restricting their diet may lead to even more binge eating. They do not regularly compensate for the extra calories by vomiting, using laxatives, or exercising excessively, such as other dietary disorders.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) Symptoms & Signs

Behavioral and Emotional Signs and Symptoms

There are a large number of emotional and behavioral signs for BED, including:

  • The person may hide food in unusual areas, or they may steal food.
  • The person appears to be uncomfortable when they eat around other people.
  • They may withdraw from friends or activities.
  • They often try many different diets that do not work, although their weight fluctuates.
  • This person may develop food rituals, such as excessive chewing.
  • The person has a fear of eating in a public place.
  • They may have extreme concern over their shape and body weight, while often looking in the mirror.
  • This person creates a lifestyle that allows scheduled binge sessions.
  • They often have secret episodes of binge eating, and they feel like they do not have the ability to stop eating.
  • They may have disgust, guilt, or depression due to their binge eating behavior.
Many Americans struggle with food intake.

Many Americans struggle with food intake.


Your doctor will complete a physical exam, do blood work, and a urine test. The doctor will be concerned if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart problems, gallbladder disease, diabetes, GERD or sleep-related breathing disorders, as these diseases may be co-morbidities of BET.


  • Unfortunately, the people who suffer from BED tend to have comorbidities, such as: Major depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Kleptomania
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Fibromyalgia.

Some people also suffer from panic attacks and have a history of attempted suicide.

BED causes a poor quality of life. Functioning on a job is difficult, as are the activities of daily life. Obesity and social isolation will also occur. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and sleep-related breathing disorders are other possible disorders with BED.

Alternative Medicine

There are OTC dietary supplements and herbal products that suppress the appetite. They will aid in weight loss, but it is important to discuss the risks with your physician. Even a natural product is not always safe.


Living with BET is not easy since we have to eat each day to live. There are some behaviors that may help to combat this disease, and they include:

  • Do not buy into your own self-criticism.
  • Look for positive role models that lift your self esteem.
  • Identify any situation that triggers destructive eating behaviors to develop a plan of action to deal with those tough situations.
  • Find a trusted friend or relative to talk with about your situation.
  • Find a partner in this BET battle to have someone to call on for support.
  • Find healthy ways to nurture yourself, by walking, yoga, meditation or just relaxation.
  • Try journaling about your behaviors and feelings, as this may help you understand your actions as they relate to your feelings.
Strength in Numbers and Solidarity

Strength in Numbers and Solidarity

More Tips to Overcome BED

It is possible to control or even prevent binge eating. Recognize your own hunger cues, such as your stomach growling, irritability, low blood sugar, or light-headedness.

Other ways to help overcome BED include:

  • Use a 1–5 scale with 1 being a lack of hunger and 5 is starving. Respond to hunger with a number to decide what and when to eat.
  • Do not keep any of your favorite binge foods in your home.
  • Attempt to identify any triggers, so you do not have any of these foods readily available.
  • Keep eating as a singular activity, so you avoid trying multiple activities, such as watching TV while eating or eating while working on the computer.
  • Keep a food diary where you write down everything you eat and drink as this will help you be accountable to yourself.

Final Thoughts

Avoid boredom or idle time, as this is a reason to eat. Sugar and sodium are dehydrating, so drink plenty of water. Plan a healthy menu where you have plenty of vegetables and fruits. Proteins are also good to meet your hunger in a healthy fashion.

Individuals suffering from BED often have a lower overall quality of life and commonly experience social difficulties. Ideally, their personal suffering from BED will seek out some treatment to overcome this disorder.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 05, 2021:

Hi Alyssa,

I agree that it is not talked about very much, but it is important to recognize the symptoms. I am glad you found this article informative.

I appreciate your comments, as always. Stay safe and healthy.

Alyssa from Ohio on March 04, 2021:

What a fascinating and informative article, Pamela! I think this is one of the lesser talked about eating disorders, but it's important to recognize the signs and seek help if necessary.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

You make several good points about this terrible disorder. I do't think a cup of coffee with a piece of cake ranks up there with binge eating. Haha!

The psycholoical components of this disease are very addictive. Thank you so much for your lovely comments.

manatita44 from london on March 04, 2021:

I know I had read this one! Seemed all to familiar. Well, I'll leave another comment. Great insight into the reasons here and yes, it is a huge or ginormous problem. Health authorities and the NHS are constantly counting the costs, due to certain ailments and longer hospital stays. Life!

I'm still of to my coffee and cake in a minute. Lol.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

That is so sad. I have heard this type of story before. The emotional component is a big deal for binge eating.

I appreciate your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 04, 2021:

I was trying to get back to this article to comment on it. My daughter had a friend whose mother was a binge eater and went through McDonald's drive thrus, ordering many meals for herself or downing whole pizzas and hating herself. Very sad.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 26, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

You described the sequence of events that happen to people perfectly. They have to really want to change in order to stop binge eating.

I think the types of food they eat is very important as junk food obviously causes obesity.

I hope this article helps some people. I appreciate your generous comments, as always. Stay safe and healthy!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 26, 2021:

An important article about binge eating disorder.

I have seen such people, who eat without feeling hungry, or when they are stressed out. Obviously, they become obese, and self conscious. Rather than trying to get out of this habit, they become more and more trapped into it.

A sincere effort might help, especially the food choices. For example, more of fruits, greens, nuts etc. which are filling, and curb the cravings.

You have provided excellent information on this topic. I hope more and more of those affected by this disorder, read this and get benefits from this.

Thank You for sharing another wonderful health related article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 26, 2021:

Hi Devika,

I think binge eating is very addictive now that I have done a great deal of research. There are some treatments that may help. Thank you so much for your comments.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 26, 2021:

Pamela99 Facts that are interesting and so worth the read. Binge eating affects many people and you made useful points about this disorder. Constant binge eating does show eventually and the reason for doing it as well.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I am glad you found this to be an interesting article. I appreciate your comments.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 25, 2021:

This is an interesting and important article. Thank you for creating it, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi MG,

I learned quite a lot through my research as well. I did not know about the psychological aspects of BED until I did my research.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I hope your relative is getting some help. I agree that green tea is very healthy and drinking liquids before a meal is a very good idea.

Protein fills you up very quicly, but I am not sure that matters to people suffering from binge eating as there is a psychological commonet.

I appreciate your very nice comments and your support. Stay safe and healthy!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 25, 2021:

I am always learning from your articles. I knew binge eating but not the extra information provided by you. Thank you.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on February 25, 2021:

A Very detailed and well-written article, Pamela

Much appreciated I must say a very noble deed

I have seen one of my relative having this disorder as you said people may hide food and withdraw themselves from others. yes, this is very true.

Drinking water before meals is a good idea, here I would mention drinking green tea can help a lot, as it boosts metabolism

Such people should eat more proteins including eggs, fish, chicken etc. and fewer salts and carbohydrates


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I know many who are obese also, but I doubt any of them have BED. It is a deeply psychological problem, more so than I realized before my research. It is very sad.

I appreciate your comments and hope you are doing well, Linda.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Vivian,

I imagine the COVID virus has caused more dietary problems, due to stress and maybe loneliness.

We don't hear as much about this disorder, yet there are more people suffering with it. I think someone with this disorder probably needs to want help in order to recover. I didn't realize before my research the emotional aspects of this disorder.

Thank you so much for your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on February 25, 2021:

Pamela, I know a number of people who are obese, but I don't know if they have an eating disorder. I wonder if the stress of isolation because of the pandemic could be making this more of a problem—people who didn't have the problem a year ago perhaps have it now?

This is very sad, and it's a deeply psychological problem.Thank you for shedding some light on this.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

First, writing one and occasionally two article per week does not make you much 'bob'. :)

It is sad to see fat children. Why aren't parents feeding them healthier food? Maybe, because it is easy not to. I don't have those answers.

Obesity is a problem in most countries that are financially better off.

I fully agree with your comments about spirituality and the Will of the Lord. I pray and continue to learn, as that is the only way I know to move forward.

I appreciate your generous comments, as always. You might be happy to know I have starting working on a 'leaky gut' article.

Stay safe and healthy. God bless you, Manatita.

Vivian Coblentz on February 25, 2021:

This is such a well-researched article. Great work, Pamela! I can totally see how people could turn to food in times of stress, etc., to bring them comfort, but once it gets out of control, the problem literally "feeds on itself." This disorder doesn't seem to get the same amount of attention as anorexia and bulimia. Hopefully, anyone who struggles with this will find your article and then get help.

manatita44 from london on February 25, 2021:

Pamela, you are covering some great topics ... things that are educational and so I hope you make a few 'bob' for them. (Smile)

You have covered this topic so well! When ever I see a 'large' person eating, I tend to look at the food in their hands on on the table. It is invariably the bad stuff. Some children are like that too. They hate water and constantly go for sweet things. They crave sweet and the largeness, in time, also demands more fuel. It's a vicious cycle.

When I ran CCU, we saw lots of videos like that, most being of Americans much larger than your photos, but it's in the UK too. Sometimes, people are where they are for God's own reasons.

I teach Spirituality, yet I know we cannot move faster than Grace. So I'm saying that while some can and do change, some seem to need this experience for ordained reasons. Who knows the Will of the Lord. May the Light of the One within, bless us all.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

I agree that the quality of life for those with BED is awful. I didn't realize how difficult it is for people to overcome this disorder until I did the research.

Thank you for your comments, as always. I hope the Texans are recovering from the snow and that the grocery stores are getting fully stocked.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

Being a little overweight and having the binge eating disorder are definitely two different things. I am sympathetic for them also. I hope they continue to find new treatments. I am glad you liked the article.

I always appreciate your support and your thoughtful comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Liz,

I think the number and the types of eating disorders have significantly grown over the past few decades. I think fast foods are just one component. At least we are becoming more aware so there are more treatments available.

I appreciate your comments. Stay safe and healthy!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 25, 2021:

Hi Pamela,

Your articles are always filled with good information to know. BED certainly does cause a poor quality of life from everything you listed.

Rosina S Khan on February 25, 2021:

I am a little overweight but I don't have binge eating disorder. Thank God! My sympathies with those who have such a disorder. Hopefully, it can be overcome. That is the good news. Thanks for sharing this awesome article, Pamela.

Liz Westwood from UK on February 25, 2021:

We have become much more aware of eating disorders in recent years. This is a well-written and interesting article, which goes beyond explaining the symptoms of binge eating to look at the causes and possible solutions and treatments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi E Randall,

I drink water also to help avoid overeating. Obesity has become a more serious problem in our society for sure. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.

E Randall from United States on February 25, 2021:

Thank you so much for writing this. Obesity is such a problem, I am not big at all, but I understand how difficult it is and the plight it can create for people. Binge eating is serious, I make it a point to eat small meals and drink a bottle of water before a meal to limit calorie intake. Thanks again, this is great information as always.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Fran,

I think you are blessed that you have never had any weight problem, as there are so many types of eating problems any more. I am glad you found this article informative.

Thank you so much for your comments. Take care!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Ann,

This disorder happens in more prosperous countries. I was surprised to learn how difficult it is to break this cycle of binge eating. I think the reasons you listed probably contribute to getting this disorder.

I always appreciate your very nice comments. Take care!

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on February 25, 2021:

Pamela, very informative article. I sympathize with those afflicted with the disorder. I am very lucky that I have never had an eating disorder or weight problem. Must be my metabolism. Thank goodness there are programs to help alleviate the disorder. Thanks again for your article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I am happy to hear you learned something new. Some people are simply obese but do not have this disorder. I was surprised to hear how difficult it was for people to break this cycle.

I appreciate your comments. Have a great day!

Ann Carr from SW England on February 25, 2021:

This seems to be more of a problem in more modern times - am I right? Lack of self-esteem, boredom, lack of employment, I presume all contribute to this. It must be very hard to stop once this sets in.

You've given an in-depth view of this problem, with lots of helpful ideas of how to meet it.

As always, a well-constructed and expertly delivered article.


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 25, 2021:

I truly did not know there was a name for it. I learn something new every single time I read one of your articles. Very interesting, my friend.