Emotional vs. Binge Eating

Emotional overeating is just that ~ eating for emotional reasons, rather than physical hunger. Emotional “hunger” often comes on suddenly in the form of a specific craving, compelling you to get that food as soon as possible. Emotional eaters tend to eat past the point of fullness, hoping for some emotional relief from the food. Unfortunately, after eating the comfort food(s), feelings of guilt and shame may develop. Foods that are considered comforting vary from person to person, although there tend to be common foods that are considered more comforting than others (e.g., ice cream, cereal, pizza).

Differences Between Emotional Overeating & Binge Eating Disorder

You may be wondering how emotional overeating is different from binge eating. There are many similarities, including eating that is fueled by emotions, eating past the point of feeling full, and feeling guilt and ashamed after eating. The main differences between emotional eating and binge eating are:

  • Emotional eating is not defined by the quantity of food consumed; binge eating is defined by eating a relatively large amount of food in one sitting;
  • Emotional eating may occur at a fast, normal, or slow speed; binge eating occurs at a rapid pace;
  • Emotional eating may occur in the company of others ~ grazing on snacks at work to stave off boredom, or stuffing yourself at a buffet; binge eating is almost always done in secrecy when no one Is around.
  • Emotional eating is not a diagnosable eating disorder, despite the fact that it can have devastating effects on one’s physical and emotional well-being.

Treatment of Emotional Overeating

As eating disorder specialists with more than 25 years of experience helping people develop a healthy relationship with food, body, and weight, we know that your overeating isn’t due to a “lack of willpower.” And, while knowledge is good, we also know that there is a significant difference between knowing what you need to do in order to change your relationship with food, and actually being able to do it!

At TheHealthyWeighOut, we understand that to successfully change compulsive overeating behaviors, it is important to identify the many reasons why food becomes irresistible, and then provide skills for how to effectively address and thoroughly resolve these underlying issues. Learning how to cope with (not avoid) emotions that drive you to eat, such as boredom, stress, overwhelm, anxiety, sadness, frustration, and loneliness, is key to truly changing one’s relationship with food.