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What to know about the Eating Disorder Binge Eating: thoughts from a West Chester Pennsylvania Non-Diet Registered Dietitian

Updated: 22 hours ago




By: Rachel Dodson RD, LDN

Updated: July 23, 2024


The eating disorder Binge Eating (BED) does not discriminate in regards to its impacted population.


An eating disorder that does discriminate who it impacts is the eating disorder binge eating disorder (BED). Anyone - any gender, body size, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc can struggle with this disorder. Binge eating disorder is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by recurrent episodes of binge eating which include eating an abnormal (perhaps more than most would eat in a similar amount of time) amount of food in a discrete period of time. The episodes may feel uncontrollable, like one can’t stop eating, feeling disconnected from the actual eating experience, eating more rapidly than normal, or feeling uncomfortably full after eating.***


***Sometimes eating to satisfaction results in us feeling uncomfortably full and THAT IS OKAY!


Often, there is much distress over the quantity of food, the pace of eating, and/or the type of food consumed. Eating disorder binges are associated with at least 3 of the following criteria:

  • Eating rapidly

  • Eating until uncomfortably full

  • Eating larger amounts even though physical hunger is not present

  • Eating alone due to feeling embarrassed about the nature of the binge

  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after the binge


Pink and white cupcakes representing the potential for treating the eating disorder binge eating

Diagnosis Changes of the Eating Disorder Binge Eating


Eating disorder binges must occur once/week for 3 months on average with the absence of other compensatory behaviors. Before 2013, binge eating disorder was not formally recognized as an eating disorder, but was a subtype of other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED). The change is significant because insurance companies will only cover the care for DSM diagnosed disorders. While 9% of the US population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, 3.5% of women and 2% of men will have binge eating disorder in their lifetime. Binge eating disorder is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, secrecy, urgency, or dissociation. Both genetic and environmental influences are relevant in the development of binge eating disorder.


The Dietician's Role in Binge Eating Disorder Treatment


Unfortunately, less than 50% of those who struggle with the eating disorder binge eating disorder have looked for treatment. A dietitian's role in binge eating disorder treatment is to assess their client’s current eating patterns and create an individualized meal plan that meets their client where they’re at. A meal plan for someone in binge eating disorder treatment is not like a diet. “A meal plan is simply a tool to teach clients to nourish themselves without the need of a meal plan at all.”


From what I have seen in my personal experience with clients, meal plans that can feel restrictive in nature or resemble past diets clients have been on do not help those struggling with binge eating disorder break the disordered habits of measuring their food, counting calories, or restricting their intake. They are still relying on external factors to guide them in their eating and a meal plan that does not cater to their individual needs won’t help break the restrict/binge cycle.


The Roll of Access to Food in Binge Eating Disorders


It is also important to point out that someone’s access to food could be playing a role in their binge eating disorder. For example, someone dealing with food insecurity who relies on a food bank to feed themselves and their families will experience food deprivation not because of a fear of weight gain, but because of a lack of access to food. Our bodies respond to food deprivation no matter the saucer of the undernourishment.


Unfortunately, studies show that the more food insecure someone is, the higher their likelihood of engaging in eating disorder behaviors, who may also lack access to diagnosis and treatment of their binge eating disorder. 


The role of a Registered Dietitian for those struggling with the eating disorder Binge Eating


Your Registered Dietitian in recovery should be helping you to find ways to implement their nutrition recommendations, identify harmful thoughts and emotions around food, and help you challenge food rules and harmful beliefs about food. Kylie Mitchell, RDN, MPH points out 2 factors that contribute to eating disorder binges:

  1. biological reasons (under eating or restricting food intake, mental restriction through food rules… which all trigger our primal drive to eat)

  2. emotional reasons (dissociating from how you’re feeling by binge eating, fullness replaces the feeling you don’t want to be experiencing)


The sun shines through a tree covered in pink flowers representing the light at the end of the journey to healing your eating disorder binge eating

Are you nourishing your physical body - consistently eating satisfying meals and snacks regularly throughout the day? The cornerstone of binge eating disorder recovery is unconditional permission to eat ALL foods. Working with a Registered Dietitian to help you plan fear foods into meals and work on habitation with food can be extremely helpful as you move through recovery. Are you taking care of yourself emotionally - are your meals emotionally satisfying? Do you have multiple tools in your toolbox for coping with emotions? Working with a binge eating disorder therapist to help you manage anxiety/loneliness/stress can also be extremely helpful as you move through recovery.


Healthy at Every Size Approach to Treating the Eating Disorder Binge Eating


It is important to have a treatment team that is operating from a health at every size approach. A weight-centric approach to health has unintended consequences such as food and body preoccupation, weight cycling, decreased self-esteem, eating disorders, and weight stigmatization. A weight-inclusive approach assumes everyone can obtain health and well-being independent of weight when able to obtain non-stigmatizing health care.

Pink flowers in bloom representing the potential for growth and healing for those with the eating disorder binge eating through therapy.

Practical Tips for Overcoming the Eating DisorderBinge Eating



Eat regularly and eat enough for your body.

Don’t skip meals - especially after a binge episode! Continue nourishing your body - not eating after a binge eating episode will only keep you stuck in the restrict/binge cycle. When we eat throughout the day and include carbs/fats/proteins at meals/snacks, our bodies will be reassured they consistently have access to what they need!


Process your emotions with your therapist.

It’s not possible to do the emotional work of recovery if your brain is malnourished. Get curious instead of judging yourself or your behaviors - what are you feeling before/during/after a binge? Remember, you are a human being. You are not perfect and your relationship with food will never be perfect. Give yourself grace as you navigate recovery and work on unlearning messages you’ve been sent your whole life!


Take care of your body in a way that is achievable for you

prioritize sleep, spend time outside, feed your body in a nourishing way, and avoid external factors that hinder you from listening to your internal needs like calorie counting, measuring your food, and weighing yourself - your value is not in that number and our bodies are dynamic and weight shifts often. If you are struggling with finding appropriate binge eating disorder treatment, don’t hesitate to reach out for help!


If you are struggling with the eating disorder binge eating and don't know where to start in the recovery process, don’t hesitate to reach out for help!


If an eating disorder, disordered eating, OCD or trauma from your past is robbing you of your future, our online therapy services in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, South Carolina and Florida are here to help you regain control of your life. Our team of skilled professionals specializes in eating disorders and their related traumas! Led by recovered individuals that can relate to where you are at on your journey, we want nothing more than to help you live your best life! If you are thinking about reaching out for help here are some basic steps to get you started on your journey to healing past traumas. Fill out our quick and easy contact form online and someone will get back to you within 24 hours. Now that you’ve reached out, take a minute to get to know our team here. We encourage you to get to know us, our specializations, and our credentials.

Begin your journey to health and wholeness! You CAN do this!

Other Mental Health Services Offered in PA, NJ, MD, DE, SC, and FL

At our eating disorder therapy center understanding past trauma plays a key role in recovery. That’s why we offer a wide variety of services related to eating disorder recovery including trauma therapy! We offer Weekly Support Groups, Nutrition Services, and Family and Parent Therapy as well as Coaching, all tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. We offer our services online in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida! We are here to offer our support and understanding in a safe and non-judgemental environment.


We have immediate openings right now for eating disorder therapy in:


Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania.


And recovery coaching worldwide.



Recovered and Restored is an eating disorder therapy center founded by Gabrielle Morreale, an eating disorder therapist and licensed professional counselor. We specialize in helping teens and women heal from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and binge eating disorder and treat disordered eating, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. We provide eating disorder therapy in the towns of Horsham, Upper Gwynedd, Lower Gwynedd, North Wales, Lansdale, Hatfield, Blue Bell, Doylestown, and nearby towns with eating disorder therapy and therapy for body image and OCD. Also providing virtual eating disorder therapy in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina and Florida. Some towns served virtually but are not limited to Pittsburg, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Center City, Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Mount Laurel, Cape May, Avalon, Brick, Dover, New Castle, Bethany Beach, Marydel, and Oceanview.



REFERENCES:

  • Sick Enough: A guide to the medical complications of eating disorders

  • Setnick, J. (2017). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Pocket Guide to Eating Disorders (2nd ed.). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

  • Tylka, T. L., Annunziato, R. A., Burgard, D., Daníelsdóttir, S., Shuman, E., Davis, C., & Calogero, R. M. (2014). The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss. Journal of Obesity, 2014, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/983495

  • Bacon, L., & Aphramor, L. (2011). Weight science: Evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutrition Journal, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9

  • https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed 





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