Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a serious mental illness characterised by periods of bingeing – often in response to emotional distress or triggers – and, for some, compensation for the binge through restrictive eating and exercise. People can feel trapped in a cycle of bingeing and restricting, with the bingeing – or planning of the binge – taking up a lot of time and headspace.
BED is often misunderstood. Because of the secretive nature of the illness, and the fact that many people with BED maintain a so-called “normal ” weight, the illness often persists whilst someone is otherwise high-functioning in other areas of their lives. What’s more, it is sometimes hard to distinguish between BED and overeating – as to occasionally overeat, and “comfort eat”, is normal behaviour as human beings.
We hear from many individuals who have had the unfortunate experience of sharing their concerns with a healthcare professional, only to hear that they should restrict their food intake or start some form of diet. This kind of response serves to minimise the distressing experiencing of living with binge eating disorder, discouraging individuals from reaching out and asking for help.
If this resonates with your experience, please know that you are not alone. Binge Eating Disorder is a serious eating disorder and you deserve recovery.
If you are recovering from BED, here are four things we want you to hold onto…
1) Respond to yourself with kindness and understanding
Whilst it might not seem like it, bingeing often serves a purpose to self-soothe in response to emotional distress. In this way, BED develops as a protective coping mechanism – something that keeps you going in the midst of challenge or overwhelm.
Give kindness to that part of you that found a way to keep going, despite how unhelpful or maladaptive it might be.
2) BED is more than ‘just over-eating’
Binge eating is more than just overeating, which is something we all do on occasion. Eating disorders liked BED are about the feelings, not about the food, and many individuals feel a significant amount of shame and guilt towards their behaviours. It’s not just about ‘over-indulging’, instead it’s absolute a felt sense of losing control.
Food is merely a symptom of underlying causes. Therapy creates a space to explore what’s going on underneath. Here we explore deeper why eating disorders are not just about ‘food’.
3) BED is not about willpower
Bingeing is not about a lack of ‘self-control’, and this rhetoric serves to shame individuals for the complex and overwhelming symptoms and thought processes that they experience.
Suggesting that people with BED follow a very restrictive diet in an attempt to recover, only serves to make someone feel deprived, and actually exacerbating the binge eating behaviour. Instead, at Orri we suggest instilling a sense of structure into our day and meal plan (whilst allowing flexibility), and becoming compassionately curious towards the emotional processes we go through in relationship to food and all other aspects of our lives.
4) Recovery is possible!
Recovery from BED is truly possible. By bringing greater awareness to our triggers and patterns with food, we can mindfully create a space between our emotional experiences and our urges to act in direct response.
“I’d forgotten what normal eating looked like…I had spent so long starving myself or gorging that I’d forgotten what that middle ground looked like.” Richard, Client
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
There’s no “right way” to have Binge Eating Disorder (BED), however, there are shared characteristics and behavioural patterns that help in the diagnosis of the illness.
Often, people suffering with BED eat large quantities of food – called “bingeing” – but typically don’t engage in compensatory behaviours such as with Bulimia.
Sufferers often feel a significant amount of shame and guilt associated with their symptoms, which traps them in the cycle of the illness.
BED is not about the food, rather, the symbolic act of binging can be understood as an attempt to negate or interrupt overwhelming negative emotions.
You can find out more about BED on our page, here.
Remember, it is never too late to start recovery. You don’t need to live with this for the rest of your life.