top of page

What’s the Difference Between Overeating, Emotional Eating, and Binge Eating?

Overeating, Emotional Eating and Binge eating what's the difference - Wendy Byard


Overeating is just …. eating more than your body needs to feel full and stay healthy. Eating too much at a special occasion is something almost everyone has done and is not a crime!

Emotional Eating

This is a big one, many people who suffer from it don’t even realise it. We can all eat too much because it tastes good or because it offers relief from stress or negative feelings.

Sometimes, we head for ‘comfort food,’ things like ice cream, pizza, crisps and chocolate because they make us feel good. Once in a while that’s ok, but the problem starts when we regularly turn to comfort foods because they’re usually high-calorie, high-fat foods that calm our bodies making us feel relaxed so we get into a hair of turning to them. Comfort foods can also be something we associate with a positive experience, just like cake the cake our grandmother used to make.

Everybody overeats and emotionally eats sometimes.

Compulsive Eating

Compulsive eating is eating without conscious awareness. Rather than considering what we’re doing, and determining whether or not we’re physically hungry, we reach for the first thing we crave. Major life events, or simply just the hassles of daily life, can trigger negative emotions that lead us to automatically reach for a treat whenever we’re angry or stressed without thinking about what we’re doing.

Binge Eating

Overeating or compulsive eating isn't necessarily binge eating. Although it may appear the same, binge eating is classified as an eating disorder when binges occur at least once a week over 3 months. For example, eating a tub of ice-cream in 15 minutes may feel like a binge, but it is really just overeating. Eating a tub of ice-cream, then heading to the cupboard for multiple chocolate bars, and eating long past the point of fullness, even to the point of physical pain is binging.

Misconceptions about emotional eating - Wendy Byard

Misunderstandings about emotional eating are as common as the act itself. Here are a few of the most damaging:

It’s All About The Food

Although you might believe that it's all about the food, more often than not it’s likely you’re struggling with unmet needs and using food to manage your emotions, whether that’s positive or negative. Identifying, understanding and addressing your emotions are essential steps toward overcoming your pain and understanding your needs, wants and desires. Eating is just a means of distraction, it results in keeping emotional discomfort below the surface, so that you may not even realise it’s there.

You Just Need Willpower

You might believe you just need to get control over your food - if you were only stronger or more determined you’d be ok. But you’re basing this idea on your belief that some food and food habits are bad, which means you’re bad for eating them.

This often creates a deep sense of guilt and low self-worth, leading to a cycle of emotions that trigger overeating, feeling bad about yourself and so you eat more to mask the pain. You aren’t good or bad for eating certain food types, challenging the judgments you have about the food you eat is one of the first steps towards transforming your relationship with yourself.

If I Had My Ideal Body, Everything Would Be Fine

This is a HUGE misconception and often stems from body hate. You might be telling yourself how ugly you are and pointing out all the bits of yourself which aren't right, comparing yourself to others, and imagining how much better life would be if it looked good.

Hating your body is one of the biggest factors of emotional eating. Negativity, shame, and hatred might give you a shove to start a diet, but it rarely inspires people to make long-lasting change, especially when you don’t feel any better about how you look. Many people think they’ll stop hating their body after they reach their goal weight, that’s not necessarily true. From personal experience I can say it doesn’t……I say you have to stop hating your body before you can stop the emotional eating cycle.

In other words, you have to challenge the belief that your body shape and size determines your value as a person. You have to develop enough love, respect, and compassion for yourself to tend to your emotional needs and begin believing that you matter, just as you are.

THIS WAS MY STORY, if it’s yours I can help you overcome it.

I Should Just Stop Eating Or Go On A Diet

This is one of the most common and damaging misconceptions on the list. In fact, if someone starts out eating normally but then diets for the wrong reasons, they can begin to eat emotionally or excessively as a result of deprivation.

Your body needs food to survive, but when your energy level is low, you’re more likely to reach for anything that can provide an immediate boost. Diets create more than just physical deprivation, they also create feelings of emotional deprivation and a sense of being punished. Forbidding a particular type of food or creating a certain eating habit, makes it more desirable. As you anticipate the deprivation, it’s common to overeat just one last time before beginning a diet, who hasn’t done that? You’re also more likely to give in to temptations for forbidden food, especially when you’re struggling to cope with difficult emotions.

I hope you found this post useful, as always if you need any help or support I'm around,you just have to ask. Not sure what kind of eater you are? Why not take my short test and find out....just go to the top of my home page, it only takes a few minutes.

Next post

Is Your Eating Emotionally Driven?


bottom of page