Recovery update: What’s the difference between “binge eating” and “overeating”?

When I first sat down to think about the above question, without trying to figure it out in the moment it was affecting me directly, I quickly came around to the opinion that its actually easier to separate the two out than I previously thought. In the moment this question is affecting you it can be hard to sit there and figure out “have I binged, or have I just overeaten a bit?‘. Feeling you’ve engaged in the first can lead to some serious guilt-tripping if you suffer from binge eating, and this question is one that at the beginning of recovery I really struggled to figure out. The immediate difference is that whilst binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder (obviously), overeating is not.

First though: why does it matter? As a recovering BED sufferer I like to keep an eye on how I’m doing. If I can identify that I am binge eating before it gets too far I can maybe reign it in. Furthermore, knowing the difference between binging, and just a little bit of over-indulging has really helped to reduce the guilt I felt when I was, say, going out for a big meal. Previously, eating an extra serving of something or a three course dinner would push me into worrying that I was binging. I’m sure many of you understand the “fuck it” mentality of binging: you feel you’ve started binging, you may as well carry on. Not being able to separate out the above things in my mind meant that I was binging more and more frequently. I was avoiding occasions where I would be going out for food, and generally missing out. So in summary, once I got the difference between binging/overeating I was able to:

  1. Pre-empt a binge by tuning in to how I was feeling around food.  As I practiced, this then helped me to avoid slipping deeper into binging.
  2. Minimise the guilt surrounding occasions where I’d maybe eat a bit more than normal, which eventually allowed me to relax around certain trigger foods and in turn begin to eat them without binging. I never actually thought this was possible, but I’m getting better at it.

Obviously, I am not a healthcare professional, and if you have an eating disorder then you need to find someone who is. This post is just something I wanted to share from my own experience, in-case it helps anyone out. Having been through ED I would encourage you to seek help before yours goes any further; you can do this by booking a doctor’s appointment, or by visiting a support website such as B-eat (link at the bottom of the page). Okay, now we can begin… Continue reading