Frequent Asked Questions

How do I know if I am a binge eater or have BED?

There are a variety of symptoms, but the bottom line is feeling overall out of control in your relationship to food. A person may try to change their eating behavior, but will ultimately return to old patterns. Some people may have periods of discreet bingeing (i.e. consuming large quantities of food in a short time), they may overeat at mealtimes, or they may “graze,” never really finishing a meal. Their weight may go up over time, remain stable, or they may even have periods of weight loss, usually followed by regaining the weight over time. Ultimately, the person feels unable to change their eating patterns permanently.

Why can’t I stop this behavior? Isn’t it just a question of willpower?

It takes extraordinary willpower to keep trying to go on diets or make changes to eating patterns. If willpower were the only issue, this problem would have been solved long ago! The reasons behind binge eating are always complex, and are typically about both past and present stressors, biochemistry, and genetics. Often, people have a long history of using food to meet needs other than hunger, including distraction, soothing and companionship. To change eating habits permanently, these needs must be met in new ways. Otherwise, the person will revert back to binge eating as soon as a stressor occurs.

What does "recovered" mean?

  • Recovered means eating and moving in response to body needs most of the time. Your body’s needs will vary day to day.
  • It does NOT mean never eating compulsively again. Bingeing may always be “in your toolbox.” People without BED eat for “emotional” reasons.
  • It means eating to check out will become rarer and rarer, with less and less food, for shorter and shorter episodes.
  • It means one episode will not, by default, lead to another.
  • It means an episode will get your attention right away; you will know the real need, let go of any anger at yourself for eating, and meet the real need as best you can.
  • Recovery is a journey, not a destination. You will recover at the rate that is just right for you!

Who is at risk for developing binge eating or BED?

Many factors are at play in the development of BED, and the combination is unique to each person. A list of common causes includes:

  • History of being “overweight.”
  • Family history of eating disorders, depression, alcoholism, or OCD
  • Intense family or personal concern with weight and appearance
  • Difficulty identifying and/or expressing feelings
  • Family atmosphere that limited emotional expression in significant ways
  • Significant emotional trauma or loss
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tendency to be a “people pleaser,” too often putting others’ needs before one’s own
  • Difficulty setting limits with others
  • High degree of perfectionism or “black and white” thinking
  • Genetic predisposition to experiencing feelings particularly intensely
  • Strong tendency toward self-soothing and dissociation (“checking out”) behaviors
  • Mood disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression and bipolar disorders
  • Significantly negative or distorted body image

What do people with BED use food to do?

There are many uses for bingeing, and everyone uses food to meet needs other than hunger sometimes. But if this becomes a pattern such that your peace of mind is compromised, there may well be an underlying eating disorder. Some common uses of food for people with BED include:

  • Distraction (from feelings, from others, from feared situations or stressors)
  • Reward
  • Escape
  • Rebellion (from dieting, from other’s needs, from the “rules”)
  • Slowing time/Avoiding a scary/stressful issue or problem
  • Cherishing yourself by allowing yourself any food you crave
  • Setting a my “space” boundary or alone time
  • Soothing loneliness
  • Soothing anxiety, fear, shame, grief
  • Express anger (eating can be a violent act!)

Does every binge have an underlying cause?

Bingeing can be caused by any of the issues listed above. It may also be caused by “triggers”, which are behavioral patterns that, over time, become connected with overeating. For example, someone may be feeling ok emotionally, but if a TV show is on that they associate with eating, a powerful craving may occur. An important aspect of recovery is about getting to know your “triggers” very well, and learning how to either avoid them, or disconnect them from the desire to overeat.

We Can Help

It is our mission to create the right professional treatment team for your recovery. Bodywise offers referrals to a variety of professionals, in both the Ann Arbor and Annapolis communities and nationwide. If you need a medical or psychiatric evaluation, a more intensive level of treatment (including inpatient or residential care), or a referral for complimentary or alternative practitioners, we can help!