Emotional eating, binge eating and friends – some definitions

Howdy comrades! I’ll be writing updates here about how I’m getting on with my binge eating recovery shenanigans since I got home from Green Mountain, as well as sharing some resources that I’ve found helpful. But I thought it might be helpful to define things somewhat, as the terms can be obscure and/or confusing.

“Binge eating disorder (BED) is a serious, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large amounts of food (often quite quickly and to the point of distress ); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. ”

There’s also a fantastic definition and helpful information on the NHS site in their beautiful British non-nonsense style.

While I have frequently met the clinical criteria for BED over the years, I’ve found the most helpful way of looking at eating behaviors is Green Mountain’s approach:

“Binge and emotional eating aren’t necessarily two separate and distinct processes, but rather the identical procedure on a continuum. ”

Imagine a continuum like this:

At the start of the continuum you have your bog standard psychological eating, a wholesome thing which most people do. For instance, bitching to a friend about your bloody awful day over a pizza and glass of wine. Or something like scoffing a plateful of your Mum pavlova at Christmas all year long, after looking forward to it.

Like numbing out with the whole tub of Haagen-Daaz.

The next station stop along the line is binge eating, when large quantities are eaten, often quickly and accompanied by feeling out of control and unable to stop.

Then it moves up to standards of diagnosable Binge Eating Disorder, which is about the frequency of the binges and the impact they’re having on one’s life. In 2013 BED was recognised as an eating disorder diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the American Psychiatric Association’s handbook used by health care professionals as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders.

I’ve discovered the idea of a continuum. Firstly because I see how fast one can proceed up it when food is the only coping mechanism happening. However, it’s also helping since I appreciate that moving down that the continuum is a sign of progress. It stops that nothing or all, perfectionist thinking.

I’m not hung up on labels or diagnostic criteria, but I’m finding it useful to check in with this continuum and ask – Where am I right now? What’s going on to be in this position? Do I need to make some adjustments so that I can move back down? 

Thanks gazillions to everybody who gets in touch during or since Green Mountain. It s so bloody good to realise we’re not alone!

It goes without saying I’m not a health professional, and the above is from my own reading and doesn’t constitute advice. Thanks to my buddy Sara for connection assistance.

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