“Binge” Does NOT Mean Breaking Your Diet… I Mean “Lifestyle Change”

Posted: July 16, 2014 in Problems
Tags: ,

Trigger Warning for talk about Eating Disorders

One of my biggest pet peeves in diet spaces (which I don’t go out of my way to be a part of, but there is sadly a lot of overlap with fitness spaces) is the use of the term “binge” to mean just breaking one’s diet… or “lifestyle change”.


A binge is not sitting down with a bag of chips and then realizing you ate the whole thing (as I saw one person define it online), it’s not mindless eating, it’s not eating a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream because it’s sooo good, it’s not eating food because you like it and it tastes good and it’s not even synonymous with emotional eating.

Binging is uncontrollably eating a massive amount of food in one sitting, typically done in private with efforts made to hide this activity and behavior from others, it often involves eating past being full and past the point of being painfully full, and is accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame regarding what you ate. And no, not that slight guilt because you ate more than you know you should when you are supposed to be dieting, but a strong feeling of guilt, shame, self-hatred, and lack of control. Binging typically involves using food to cover up and try to drown out negative emotions.

People who actually engage in binge eating may eat literally everything in their fridge in one sitting. Many who engage in binging do not restrict the binge to food that tastes good- tasting good is not the point of the binge. Even when people do binge on sweet foods- it’s not eating that whole package of oreos, it looks more like eating that whole package of oreos, two pints of icecream, a whole cheesecake, and several bags of candy all in one sitting until you are physically ill from how much you ate.

Binging is not eating too much at a restaurant with friends because you got caught up in enjoying your food and a social situation and forgot you were supposed to be dieting and not allowed that much food. Binging is driving alone all over town to different drive-thrus or carryouts, ordering a relatively normal amount of food from each place (to cover up and hide how much you are really eating from the people you interact with at the restaurants) and then eating all those meals in one sitting.

Binging eating is not mindless eating, it’s not just emotional eating, it’s not just eating “too much”, it is disordered eating. 

If you are are binge eating, you have an eating disorder, and you should seek help from a mental health professional because eating disorders are a mental health issue. I’m not saying this as a judgement, or to put someone down, because there is actually nothing to be ashamed of in having an eating disorder or any other mental health issueI say this because you deserve to understand that this is a disorder, and because you deserve real help recovering from it.

Binging may happen alone as a part of a binge eating disorder or it may be followed by purging activities or other compensatory behaviors such as starving oneself or excessive exercising  as a part of bulimia or an eating disorder “not otherwise specified” (specified in the DSM. NOS is used for people who display disordered eating but are not an exact fit for any of the specifically mentioned and named eating disorders in the DSM.)

If you are not binging in a disordered eating sense, then you are not actually biging and you need to stop using the terminology of eating disorders to characterize non disordered eating. When people using the terminology of disordered eating to describe non disordered eating it minimizes actual eating disorders, it encourages people to think these behaviors are not disordered behaviors, and it means people may not seek out the help they really need for an eating disorder. Using the term “binge” when talking about breaking a diet suggests that actual eating disorders that cause binge eating need to be fixed through self-control and diets instead of treated through mental health care, which again, leads to people not getting the help they really need.

  1. lozette says:

    Good post – TBH I have often wondered what “binge” actually meant, because so many people seem to use it to describe (gasp) eating a whole box of strawberries in one go or similar.

  2. This is a really good point. I hadn’t thought about it before, but now that I am, I actually hear people casually use this word a lot, which does undermine the seriousness of what someone with an eating disorder actually is doing. Thanks for posting!

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