(310) 600-9912 drmoali@oasis2care.com

We live in a weight-obsessed society and we are constantly bombarded by talk of fat in media and our communities. Some people use the term “binge eating” when they deviate from their restrictive diets by only two slices of pizza. Once I heard a friend call eating a bowl of broccoli a binge episode. However, binge eating disorder is a serious psychiatric disorder that can often lead to major physical and psychological complications.

Consuming Large Amounts of Food

It is estimated that two to three percent of adults in American struggle with binge eating disorder. This disorder impacts both women and men (though slightly more women than men) of all ages and ethnicities. Individuals with binge eating disorder often eat larger portions than what other people consider normal within a discrete period of time. For example, one of my clients, Eric, used to order three large pizzas from Dominos five or six nights a week. He often finished them within fifteen minutes of their delivery.

Loss of Control

Binge episodes are frequently accompanied by a loss of control, and guilt and distress follow. Eric told me that would feel so ashamed that tears rolled down his face after each binge episode. Eric felt powerless over his behaviors during his binge episodes. He was only able to stop when there was nothing left. Sometimes, the feeling of shame and disgust is so powerful that my clients take several sessions to begin to feel comfortable enough to describe their binge episodes.

Absence of Compensatory Behaviors

Individuals with binge eating disorder often eat alone during their binge episodes. They rapidly consume the food they are bingeing on to the point where they are uncomfortably full. A differentiating factor between binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa is that individuals with binge eating disorders do not engage in compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative, or compulsory exercise. Contrary to popular belief, the weight of many binge eaters is within the normal range. Only eight percent are in the range of obesity.

Frequency of Binging

Most of us indulge in comfort eating from time to time. A recent study done at the University of California, Los Angeles (Finch & Tomaya, 2015) demonstrated that comfort eating reduced stress levels in adults. Nevertheless, a factor that differentiates those with a binge eating disorder and occasional comfort eaters is the frequency of these behaviors. In order to get diagnosed with binge eating disorder, an individual must engage in binge episodes at least once per week over a three-month period.

If it remains untreated, binge eating disorder can have a devastating psychological and physiological impact. Individuals with binge eating disorder have a sixty-one percent lifetime chance of being diagnosed with a mood disorder such as depression, anxiety, or panic disorder. These mood disorders, combined with low self-esteem, often significantly impair the social functioning of sufferers of binge eating disorder.

Eric initially sought therapy after his discharge from a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt. Eric shared with me that, due to his shame and embarrassment over his eating behaviors, he isolated himself from his friends and family. This only deepened his depression. Within a few months, he had lost his job and was forced to move back in with his parents, at the age of forty-two. Feeling trapped by his shame and depression, he made an attempt to end his life; luckily, he was found by his mother and was rushed to a hospital.

After several months of therapy, Eric was able to change his relationship with food and his mood significantly improved. Eric learned the skills required to regulate his negative moods in a healthier and more adoptive way, which improved his self-esteem. Although recovery can be a life-long process, I have witnessed many of my clients finding peaceful relationships with food and recovering from binge eating disorder.




Dr. Nazanin Moali, Ph.D is a clinical psychologist and an eating disorder specialist. Dr. Moali helps clients understand what drives their disordered eating and keeps them from maintaining unhealthy and painful behaviors around food and body image. She uses Health at Every Size (HAEs) approach in treatment of binge eating disorder. She owns the Oasis 2 Care practice, in Torrance, California.

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