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Binge Eating vs Overeating

Is There A Difference Between Binge Eating And Overeating?

Are you concerned about your eating and unsure if it is a REAL problem? Having an extra slice of cake after a tough day at work doesn’t necessarily mean that you have binge eating disorder (BED). However, if you find that you regularly eat large amounts of food and that the feeling of sadness, guilt, regret or shame accompanies these ‘eating episodes,’ then you may have BED.

Overeating And BED Are Not The Same Conditions

Many people believe that overeating and binge eating are the same health concern, often using both of these terms interchangeably to describe the same situation. To the untrained eye, both overeating and binge eating can LOOK the same, but the truth is, they’re vastly different. While these two conditions share several behaviors and habits, they are not the same health issue and usually require proper diagnosis by a specialized therapist or physician.

Did You Know That BED Is The Most Common Eating Disorder?

Presently in America, BED is the most common eating disorder and is now recognized as a medical condition. Those with BED regularly eat large quantities of food, all while undergoing a deep sense of loss of control during a binge episode. After eating, they often feel a prolonged period of shame or guilt. At this point, no one understands what exactly causes BED, but the general belief is that family history or genetics may play a significant role. Other psychological symptoms, like anxiety or depression, are also associated with this disorder.

With Overeating, You’re Still In Control

When overeating, you may eat to the point of feeling discomfort, taking on an extra serving or two of food. Yet, it is something that people do on occasion, usually during special events or holidays. At other times, overeating can occur when you need to alleviate stress, skipped your previous meal, or simply because a meal tastes so good, you want to finish the whole thing. Regardless of the reason, overeaters are still in control of their eating habits, though they may experience some regret or physical discomfort after overeating.

With BED, There’s A Loss Of Control

On the other hand, the key distinction with BED is the loss of control. Once an individual with BED starts eating, they believe they cannot stop, even when they begin to feel uncomfortably stuffed. More often than not, binge eating is driven by body image issues, including a negative relationship with their body, low self-esteem, or trauma. BED is also associated with:

  • Eating much faster than normal
  • Eating to the point of discomfort
  • Hiding food
  • Being embarrassed about eating, leading to eating alone
  • Eating unhealthy quantities of food, even when not hungry, in a short amount of time

People who suffer from BED find their eating experiences very upsetting, connecting the consumption of food with feelings of depression, shame, and disgust.

Seeking Help For Eating Disorders

Binge eating disorder (BED) has nothing to do with willpower or self-restraint. Rather, it is a serious medical condition that requires proper treatment. While there are a few different treatments for eating disorders, the most effective ones involve some form of counseling or psychotherapy with a nutritional or medical component. Be it binge eating or overeating, if you feel that you need help with nutrition or weight-loss, seeking medical attention will help you find health, balance, and happiness in the long run.

You can also check out my Binge Free for Life program for more support!

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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