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Blog: Blog2

Binge- Eating: Challenging Myths

Updated: Sep 7, 2023


Credit to Louise Adams for many of the ideas in this blog. Louise is a clinical psychologist who works in private practice at Flourish Kirribilli in Sydney, Australia. She has been practicing in this field for more than 20 years.


Louise is the President of Health At Every Size Australia, and is also a Member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), and a Fellow of the Clinical Australia, and is also a Member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), and a Fellow of the Clinical College of the APS.


You can find Louise's resources & programs at https://untrapped.com.au/


Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder. BED makes up 47% of all diagnoses, whilst anorexia nervosa accounts for just 3%. Binge eating is very common, however many people feel great shame about this behaviour & struggle to change it.


Binge eating is characterised by eating a lot of food in a short amount of time, often quickly and in secret. People report feeling totally unable to control or stop the eating once it starts.


Many people suffer for years before they finally ask for help. And when they do seek help, they often feel confused & helpless about how to stop these patterns.


Binge eating is often seen as a problem of over-eating. Subsequently, people often believe they need to diet &/or restrict their food to compensate for the binges.


This pattern of binge & restriction makes things much worse.


That is because binge eating is often a very normal response to a long history of feeling or being restricted around food. When we feel like many foods are 'off limits', we develop a restrictive mindset.


One of the strongest predictors of binge eating in adulthood is being raised in a restrictive food environment at home. Kids whose cupboards lack food options (due to food scarcity, poverty, or having extremely 'health-conscious' parents) frequently hoard, hide, and seek food out. Whereas kids raised in an environment of food abundance and who are not given strict rules around food grow up to be more intuitive eaters.


Binge eating in response to chronic restriction is adaptive and normal. And the treatment for binge eating is not dieting, since dieting may have caused it in the first place!


Binge eating is a very complex subject, and having a history of restriction is by no means the whole picture. Our relationship with food can be impacted by so many factors - trauma, illnesses and medications, shift work, stress and anxiety, age, etc.


Some questions to ask yourself about your relationship with food:

  • Do I have 'rules' around food?

  • Do I feel bad about myself if I have eaten 'bad' food?

  • Do I have times when I give myself permission to eat & other times I tell myself I can't or shouldn't eat?

  • Are there foods I judge as 'good' or 'bad'?

  • Do I count calories/ carbs/ macros to determine what I can eat?

  • Do I engage in dieting or other food behaviours with the goal to lose weight? (Dieting always involves restriction, & restriction inevitably leads to binge eating- it's just biology!)


Try this instead:

  • Give yourself permission to eat all foods

  • Eat regularly

  • Challenge judgments of foods

  • Focus on getting nutritious food into your body, rather than taking foods out

  • Tune into your appetite & eat accordingly (many people struggle to connect with appetite, particularly after years of dieting- seek help from a suitably trained therapist or dietician)


The important thing to understand is that denying food intake is not the answer to stopping binge eating. We want to understand what has caused the binges in the first place, & how we can approach eating with mindfulness & self- compassion:)



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