Everything You Know About Binge Eating Is Wrong

This post title is facetious, of course. There might even be a world-beating research genius out there, of whom it could be said that everything they know about this stubborn condition is right. Meanwhile, the average person is pretty much in the dark — even the average sufferer of Binge Eating Disorder (BED). They tend to have very little insight into what drives them, or how to bring their self-sabotage to an end. One surprising thing is their ability to eat a whole lot of something they don’t even like… just because…

As Dr. Pretlow and others in the field have pointed out, although a person with BED has preferences and favorites, if the choice is between eating and not eating, they will eat anything. The onset of an “acute emotional upset” can induce a willingness to consume even boring nutritious stuff like apples, or conversely, something dreadfully unhealthful — or even something they normally hate. Stress does this to humans. We feel stressed and seek comfort.

Myproana.com once asked its readers whether they ever binged on foods they didn’t even like. (That address no longer exists and a search query is forwarded to a similar site.)

At any rate, at one point, some anonymous respondents named the shameful causes of their slips. Confessions about what they had eaten included:

— disgusting biscuit
— [low quality] ice cream or chocolate or mayo or stale bread or jam
— all sorts of sausages that I didn’t really like
— a lot of bread stuff I’m never too excited about
— tasteless pre-made supermarket sandwiches
— jelly beans and candy corn. Hate. Tasted like rubber. Ew.
— crappy store-bought icing that tasted like play-doh
— I don’t even have time to recognize the taste.

When the binge mood hits, discrimination, discretion, and discernment go out the door. So does sanity. People recall experiences that inspired such self-realizations as…

— No food is off-limits.
— If I really need to b/p and there’s nothing I like I’ll literally just go with whatever’s going.
— Nothing is safe.
— I’d eat almost anything, even if I didn’t like it, if nothing else was around.
— I’ll eat everything in sight.
— I even started craving certain foods I hated.

One person wrote, “I have no idea why I crave to stuff myself with it when I don’t really like it,” while another said she binged mostly on foods she didn’t like because “it’s a sort of a punishment.”

Binge eating is the ugly stepchild

It seems like the biggest problem should get the most attention — but nooooo! Here is another weird observation made just a few years back:

Services often only cater to anorexics who are severely underweight (which is not the majority of anorexics), despite the fact that only 8% of eating disorder sufferers are anorexic.

The writer Róisín points out how eating disorders that cause people to become fat, despite being “far more prevalent and just as punitive,” are routinely ignored in favor of the ones that lead to glamorous thinness. She goes so far as to say, “Anorexia has a monopoly on eating disorder representation, portrayed with morbid fascination as an exaggerated diet or desirable suffering.” Some activists have a sneaky suspicion that the medical profession does not view overweight patients as legitimate victims who are worthy of resources.

Similarly, in a piece discussing the patients labeled “super morbidly obese,” Dr. Mark Warren wrote,

As a society, we often think of anorexia nervosa when we think of eating disorders. However, it is crucial that we widen our collective perspective to remember that binge eating disorder is a source of tremendous psychological and physical suffering for so many people. Their suffering is all too often overlooked. Increased awareness and understanding are important first steps toward providing effective care to those struggling with this difficult illness.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Do you ever binge on food you don’t like?,” Myproana.com, 4/12/15
Source: “Eating Disorder Treatment is Broken, and Only Abolition Can Fix It,” Medium.com, 08/30/20
Source: “The Challenges of Going Through Life “Super Morbidly Obese,” EmilyProgram.com, 01/05/18
Image by Junior REIS on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources