• Jasmine Blake Hollywood, MS, HHP

What is Binge Eating Disorder? A Nutritional Approach

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder labeled under the term Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). [1]. This disorder is considered a mental health disorder classified by the DSM-lV in Appendix B. The DSM-lV in Appendix B is what some would call a dictionary of diseases and it identifies disease by diagnostic criteria.

BED is defined as recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food. [2]. It is not termed by purging or vomiting like the Bulimia condition is. Instead, BED is overeating as well as exhibiting an obsession for diet fads. Some signs and symptoms are overeating, hiding from friends and family, hiding food, and general binging. BED is also associated with other psychological or psychotic disorders, along with diabetes, and relationship distress. [2].

Positive Attributes to BED

Although most people find this disease negative, there is a positive aspect of this mental disorder. Overeating, in this case, is the mind's way of signaling the individual that it has lost control. There is significant cognitive distress, and the mind is trying to compensate by binging on food to bring comfort. In other words, the body is trying to solve this issue of stress by trying to destress. The logical way to resolve this is to remove this person from this stressful situation.


Another reason for excessive eating can be cravings. The requirement for an abundance of a specific type of food could be due to deficiencies in particular nutrients. Again we are speaking about the gut controlling the mind. The gut sends signals to the brain when it thinks the body is ready to eat again.

According to researchers, Pica a condition known as the craving for and overeating of non-food substances is associated with mineral deficiency and usually results in excess potassium and carotene. Also, the craving of chocolate could be due to low serotonin and dopamine. As well, cravings of salt are not something new and may be due to a cortical adrenal insufficiency or stress. In addition, the craving of dairy could be due to a calcium deficiency, and the craving of meats could be due to a vitamin D deficiency.

The positive aspect of having these cravings again is the mind's way of alerting us we need to ingest more nutrients.

Diagnostic Criteria

Besides recurrent episodes of binge eating, people who suffer from this disease usually eat a larger than normal amount of food discretely. [2]. They feel like they have a lack of control over eating during episodes and sometimes they will either eat more rapidly than usual, eat until they are uncomfortably full, eat large amounts of food when not hungry, eat alone because their embarrassed, or experience feelings of disgust and disappointment when finished eating. [2].

As stated above the disorder is often marked by a high amount of stress or distress. [2]. People will have episodes at least one time per day or week for 3 months. [2]. They will not compensate for the condition either. [2]. Meaning they will not regularly exercise nor purge their food. nervosa. [2]. Levels of severity vary with this condition. [2].


Many techniques have been tried to reverse the disorder. The most famous treatment option is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). [2]. CBT focuses on identifying the patients' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and helps to decrease negative emotions or harmful behavior patterns. [2]. Positive thought metabolism is the main interest and this is done by changing negative thoughts about oneself and the world. [2].

Other therapies used are dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy. [2]. DBT focuses on mindfulness techniques and developing skills to improve emotions, decrease stress, develop interpersonal relationships. [2]. Interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on reversing a negative perspective. [2]. Behavioral weight loss is another method and pharmacologic methods such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants,  antiobesity agents, an central nervous system stimulants to regulate metabolic and mental functions. [2].

Nutrition an Integrative Approach

Other ways to improve this condition could be to "cold turkey" go on a low carbohydrate diet (LCD) and begin journaling foods. [3]. Studies show that people who utilize LCD's are more likely to adhere to that lifestyle. [3]. This is in addition to losing weight fast. Seeing results faster can change the way people think and feel emotionally. [3]. Feeling results faster can make a huge difference is adherence. [3]. As well, people who journal foods are more likely to adhere to their diets longer. [3].

Abbreviations: BED Binge Eating Disorder, EDNOS Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, NEDA National Eating Disorders Association, CDC Centers for Disease Control


  1. Binge Eating Disorder. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

  2. Brownley, K. A., Berkman, N. D., Peat, C. M., Lohr, K. N., Cullen, K. E., Bann, C. M., & Bulik, C. M. (2016). Binge-Eating Disorder in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.Annals of internal medicine,165(6), 409–420. https://doi.org/10.7326/M15-2455

  3. Gibson, A. A., & Sainsbury, A. (2017). Strategies to Improve Adherence to Dietary Weight Loss Interventions in Research and Real-World Settings.Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland),7(3), 44. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs7030044