I GET Asked this question quite often, so i wanted to answer it for you Here on my blog. As we navigate our relationship with food and heal any disordered eating tendencies, it’s easy to get caught up in what is “right” versus “wrong.” Truth is there is no black and white answer, or perfect relationship with food. But learning how to differentiate between normal and disordered eating will help you along the way. Because we all should be enjoying our food and creating a safe space for ourselves to have a loving relationship with what and how we eat.
The answer to this question is simple. YES. There is a difference between the following:
1) Binge eating
2) Emotional eating
3) Eating when you are not hungry/past the point of being full.
It is important to know the difference and separate them. They can also go together, so it is important to know that too.
Binge eating, as many of you know, is damaging to both your physical and mental health. Binge eating is tied directly to the urge (not the emotions) to binge. Bingeing feels out of your control and usually is "emotionless" and results in you "blacking out" and eating to the point of not being able to stop so that you feel sick and physically ill afterwards, often until the next day. Binge eating is often followed by feelings of guilt, shame and sadness which can often continue the cycle of binge eating.
Emotional eating can be categorized as normal eating behavior. But it is important to note only if this is separated from and does not lead to a binge. We eat when we are sad, lonely and also when we are happy and feeling joy. It is ok to eat when you are emotional if you are AWARE in the moment and is consistent with present thoughts that might say something like "yes I am aware I am eating because I am emotional, and I can stop when I want to." It is also important to be aware that binge eating is emotionless. When you binge eat, the urge is strong and present but your emotions then fall way during a binge and you are not aware or present.
Eating when you are not hungry or eating past being full can also be categorized as normal eating behaviors. The difference is that you have control over the urge and you can stop if you wanted to. These can also be defined simply as "mindless eating" and not binge eating. We often eat when we are not hungry because we are bored or to fill the time. We can become mindful of this by mentally checking in with ourselves when we are bored, and ask ourselves "Am I hungry, or just bored? What else can I do to fill this space?"
Eating past being full can also be categorized as normal eating. When this takes place we are able to identify that we over ate and also listen to and trust our body that it will balance itself out. We aren't able to intuitively listen to our bodies all the time because of well, life and all it's wonderful distractions, and therefore we normally overeat or under eat. When eating past the point of being full or eating when you are not hungry leads to a binge (as explained above), this is when it is categorized as ED behavior.
I work with clients on separating these three behaviors and overcoming the binge/restrict cycle. It is important to note that the journey to full recovery is difficult and working with a health coach like me to form new habits with food will be beneficial for your mental, emotional and physical health in the long run.