Many people ask me, “What causes binge eating?” I have found that there is no one answer. What they really want is a simple reason so they can fix it and not overeat. I see binge eating as a puzzle with many pieces each contributing to the person binge eating. So think of a puzzle where each of the categories below are pieces that fit together, some people have all these pieces and others don’t.

1)      Cultural- we live in a society where we want things fast. We want to diet and get rid of the weight quick. Dieting is a contributor to binge eating. A diet is a restriction that leads the person to have an opposite binge to counteract it.

2)      Bad habit- part of binge eating is just a bad habit a person has developed that has now become a part of his/her ongoing behavior and, over time, feels out of control.

3)      Social- we are exposed to an ideal body image that for most of us is unattainable. This leads to defeat, because no one can look like that person in the picture.

4)      Emotional- some feelings that contribute to binge eating are loneliness, sadness and boredom.

5)      Stress- using stress as a reason to binge eat is common. Stress is a catch all word for a sense that there is too much to do. People sometimes say something like, “I am so stressed that I am going to have a treat.” Food is not a useful way to handle stress over the long term.

Understanding your particular puzzle pieces (and their contribution to the overall problem they cause) can be a starting point to determine how to stop binge eating. If a piece of your puzzle is emotions that lead to overeating, address those emotions. If you have a negative view of your body due to social comparisons and are always putting yourself down, you can start with some self-affirmations.

To understand what causes binge eating, begin by looking at these factors as a starting spot to honestly determine your reason(s) for overeating. Putting these puzzle pieces together can be an enlightening way to determine the root of your issue and help to create a plan of action to address it.


Kim McLaughlin is a Motivational Coach who works with people who binge eat or are emotional eaters. Call her for a free 15 minute consultation to see if her services are right for you at 916-847-8053 or email kimmclaughlinmft@gmail.com.

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