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Feature Articles: Eating Disorders

empty candy wrappersBinge eating disorder

Greta Hopke, RD, and Candance Gabel, MS, RD, LD, associate state nutrition specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Binge eating disorder is not the same as the occasional overeating. It is the loss of control while eating large amounts of food in a short amount of time. Unlike bulimia nervosa, binge eating is not followed by a purging method or other way to attempt and control weight.
The characteristics of binge eating disorder include the following:


  • Feel out of control when eating
  • Eat unusually large amounts of food
  • Eat very fast
  • Eat until they feel uncomfortable
  • Eat a lot, even when they are not hungry
  • Feel embarrassed about the amount of food they eat, so they eat alone
  • Feel disgusted, depressed, or guilty about overeating


In most cases, individuals with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese, although there are some individuals of normal weight. Binge eating disorder, which may also be known as compulsive overeating, is not a clinically diagnosed condition recognized by the American Psychiatric Association; however, it is a fairly common disorder. It is estimated that almost 2 percent of Americans (about 4 million people) have this disorder.

There are possible psychological and physical consequences linked with binge eating disorder. The individual may lack vitamins and minerals due to eating a lot of high sugar and high fat foods instead of more healthful foods. Individuals with binge eating disorder are often obese, which increases the risk of other diseases. Persons with binge eating disorder are often depressed and isolate themselves from others. Although this disorder may seem very different as compared to anorexia and bulimia nervosa, it is still a serious condition that requires time, effort, and most often professional help to overcome.


For more information, see the other Food, Fitness and Eating Disorders feature articles or visit the following websites:



Williams, M. (2005). Nutrition for health, fitness, & sport. 7th Ed. New York: McGraw Hill.


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Last update: Tuesday, February 22, 2011