Emotional Eating

1 04, 2017

Binge Eating Disorder: More Than Emotional Eating

2017-03-29T16:45:15+00:00 April 1st, 2017|0 Comments

From time to time we all overeat, and many of us will occasionally engage in “emotional eating.”  But what’s the difference between occasionally adding that extra serving of yummy potatoes to our plate after we’re full or eating that handful of M&Ms when we’re stressed and a legit eating disorder?

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) describes Binge Eating Disorder (BED) as recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food within a short period of time. It is important to understand that a binge is not characterized by caloric amount but rather,  by the consumption of food significantly larger then what most people would eat under similar circumstances and period. There is also the emotional component with a binge, like most eating disorders, there is a sense of lack of control during the episode, often followed by shame, distress or guilt.

In order to diagnose BED and to distinguish it from other forms of eating disorders, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) adds a few more qualifiers to help determine the correct diagnosis such as  level of distress over bingeing episodes, loss of control over amount of eatin, frequency of the bingeing episodes of at least once weekly for at least three months,  as well as things like eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating more rapidly than normal (i.e. two hour period), feeling depressed, guilty, or disgusted with oneself after overeating, eating alone because of embarrassment associated with how much one is eating, and eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry

A few interesting statistics about binge eating disorder:

  • 40% of those with BED are male
  • 3 out of 10 individuals looking for weight loss treatment show signs of BED
  • Research estimates that only 28.4% of people with BED are receiving treatment for the disorder
  • eating disorder can affect individuals at any age, for BED it often begins in the late teens or early 20’s.
  • BED is actually more common than Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, with data revealing that about 5 million women and 3 million men in the United States struggle with this disorder

What tips the scales from the occasional overeating episode into truly disordered eating?  Studies have shown that many factors can play a role in the development of BED. Among those factors may be a family history of eating disorders, psychological issues such as feeling negative about yourself, your skills and accomplishments (triggers for a binge episode can include but are not limited to poor body image, stress, boredom and food), or a a history of dieting sometimes dating back into childhood.


Binge Eating disorder can lead to obesity which could create a host of health issues and medical conditions related to obesity (joint problems, heart disease, sleep-related breathing disorders etc).  It can also influence quality life by leading to social isolation, problems at work, depression, anxiety, substance use, feeling bad about yourself, and a poor quality of life.

The good news?

Binge eating disorder is treatable. Here at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling Center in Phoenix/Glendale Arizona, clients work with experienced, compassionate therapists and registered dietitians to reduce binges and address the underlying emotional and psychological components that lead to the binging.  We offer a wholistic approach to eating disorder recovery which includes the dietetic management and education component, individual counseling and therapy, as well as Intensive Outpatient (IOP) group therapy for both adults and adolescents.

Sabrina Landa is a clinical intern who offers counseling services here at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling Center while she completes her Masters degree in Professional Counseling at Grand Canyon University.

If you or someone you know needs help, talk with your health care provider or give us a call!  We have a caring staff of seasoned therapists in our Phoenix/Glendale, Arizona offices who have experience in helping people heal from the past, find meaning and joy in the present, and embrace hope for the future.  (623) 810-1663


  • Mayo Clinic Staff Print. (2016, February 09). Treatment.  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/binge-eating-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/treatment/txc-20182948
  • National Eating Disorder Association. (n.d.). Overview and Statistics. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/binge-eating-disorder
  • National Institute of Mental Health.  “Eating Disorders Among Adults – Binge Eating Disorders”.  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1EAT_ADULT_RB.shtml
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) http://www.dsm5.org
15 02, 2017

Explore The Connections Between Food, Body & Feelings

2017-03-13T13:37:06+00:00 February 15th, 2017|0 Comments


  • Do you find it hard to love your body?
  • Are you done with fad diets?
  • Do you think you “should” exercise, but you’re embarrassed to go to the gym?
  • Have you considered the relationship between food and feelings?
  • Do you eat certain foods to help you feel better?

Join our EMOTIONAL AND BINGE EATING PROCESS GROUP which begins March 29th and meets weekly on Wednesday nights from 6:00-7:30 in our Glendale, AZ office.

If you live or work in the greater metropolitan Phoenix area, please join us and connect with others who share your struggles, and begin to move towards healing and wellness. Topics covered will include nutrition, body image, movement and more!

Call our office for details: 623.810.1663.

26 10, 2016

The Benefits of IOP: Eating Disorder Outpatient Treatment in Arizona

2017-02-22T02:07:01+00:00 October 26th, 2016|0 Comments

For many people, getting help for an eating disorder isn’t a matter of admitting that they have a problem. The issue is getting the right amount of support that can be flexible enough to accommodate a busy schedule. Inpatient eating disorder treatment isn’t always necessary, and it’s not the right option for most people. Even so, traditional outpatient treatment can leave participants feeling as though they need more than just a meeting or a group one or two days a week.

Intensive outpatient programs offer the perfect level of treatment for most eating disorder patients, and these programs carry many benefits.

Plenty of Time for Counseling in Arizona

Counseling is an integral part of eating disorder treatment in every case. It’s essential for you to be able to work one on one in a therapy environment and discuss the issues that could have led to your eating disorder. When you choose IOP, you’re giving yourself plenty of time to work with your counselor without having to wait a long time between your appointments.

Availability of Eating Disorder Groups

Research has shown that participating in group therapy has been instrumental in helping people recover from eating disorders. When you have an eating disorder, you typically feel as though you’re all alone in your struggles. You may feel depressed when you see others who are living their lives normally, and you wish you could achieve that goal for yourself. In a sense, the weight of your eating disorder and the isolation it brings can drag you down. Eating disorder groups reinforce the truth – that you’re not alone, and there are others who have struggled the same way that you are struggling. In addition, you’ll reap the benefits of hearing others tell their stories, and you’ll help many people through their own struggles too.

Health Insurance Companies Prefer Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Arizona

If you have ever tried to begin an inpatient treatment program for your eating disorder, you may be familiar with how difficult it is to get some health insurance companies to approve your stay. The fact is that for most people, inpatient treatment isn’t necessary, and yet, traditional outpatient treatment doesn’t provide enough support for recovery.

IOP offers an excellent middle ground for eating disorder treatment, which health insurance companies prefer. Many times, their reimbursement rates are much higher for intensive outpatient programs than they are for inpatient treatment programs, and you’re able to get started much faster. Choosing IOP relieves a lot of financial stress, and gives you the excellent support you need.

Intensive Outpatient Programs in Arizona are Flexible

One of the biggest reasons people tend to shy away from going to inpatient treatment is that they don’t have the time to commit to such a program. Some of these programs are thirty days long, or even longer in many cases. Life is busy, and if you work full-time or have a family to care for at home, inpatient treatment is probably out of the question for you.

With IOP, you can get the level of support you need on a schedule that fits into your busy life, and allows you to take care of all of your responsibilities.

IOP in Arizona at Empowerment Treatment & Counseling

At Empowerment Treatment & Counseling, our approach to eating disorder treatment is a holistic one, and our goal is to get to the underlying root cause of your eating disorder so that we can promote healing and recovery.

Our intensive outpatient program is an eight-week program for men and women who are age 18 and older. You’ll have the opportunity to work closely with our treatment team, and other patients in a group setting several days during the week. The flexibility of our program allows you to continue going to work or school during the day and receive the help you need during the evening hours.

How can Empowerment Treatment & Counseling help you recover from your eating disorder? Contact us today to learn more.

27 05, 2016

Emotional Eating: Finding a Way Through

2017-01-17T01:45:13+00:00 May 27th, 2016|0 Comments

There’s a reason why it’s called “comfort food”.

As a child, I learned that food could be a welcome pick-me-up that made me feel better when nothing else could, and that perception only grew as I got older. By the time I was an adult, food had become my coping mechanism.

I Turned to Emotional Eating Whenever Life Let Me Down

It’s easy for me to have a love-hate relationship with food.

On the one hand, my comfort foods of choice have always been there for me – they don’t judge me, criticize me, reject me, or let me down. Binge eating always made me feel better – at least for a while –whenever I was feeling:

  • Stressed
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Anxious
  • Lonely

But here’s the thing – as time went by, a wicked pattern started to emerge.  Whenever I was feeling down, I would often overeat even if I wasn’t hungry. I would eat way past the point of feeling full. It was almost as if I was completely powerless.

Of course, all of this binge eating affected my weight, which in turn affected my self-esteem and made me feel even worse. So, without even thinking, I would turn to my normal coping method – eating.

I Had to Get Help for My Emotional Eating

My problematic eating caused me a bit of a health scare, and my doctor recommended that I get some help that went beyond just losing weight. After checking around, I found a reputable program right here in Arizona.

When I met with my counselor for the first time and she interviewed me, something she then said really stuck in my mind. She told me that my primary goal in therapy wasn’t going to be to lose weight – it was going to be to get healthy.

She explained that my weight was only a byproduct of a different problem – emotional eating. If, through counseling and therapy, we could get to the root of that problem, the weight would take care of itself.

Learning to Move Past Emotional Eating

During the first few sessions, we worked on identifying the “triggers” that set off an episode of binge eating. We talked about being “mindful” – trying to increase my overall awareness of how I was feeling at any given time. The goal was to recognize the emotional and physical signs that preceded a binge.

Once I was able to recognize my triggers, we worked on substituting positive coping methods that didn’t involve food. For example:

  • For stress or anxiety, I could get rid of the excess energy by taking a walk, doing housework, or even turning on the radio and dancing alone in my apartment.
  • For depression or loneliness, I could make myself feel better by calling up a friend or family member. I was also encouraged to get a pet to keep myself company.
  • For boredom, I could go to a movie, take up a new hobby, or even enroll in a class.

Of course, all of these were just examples that we explored. The main goal was for me to understand that I did not have to be held “hostage” by the feelings that could result in emotional eating. I could proactively regain a measure of control.

Once I started learning how to eliminate some of the triggering negative feelings, we worked on how to resist the inevitable cravings. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, I would still sometimes experienced almost-overwhelming feelings of wanting to eat and eat and eat.

We worked on practical strategies that I could employ to deflect and delay until I felt more in control of myself:

  • Sometimes, all it took was steeling my resolve for very short periods – half an hour, 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes at a time, to give the craving an opportunity to pass.
  • When shopping, I stuck to a list of healthy, non-junk foods.
  • I never let myself get too hungry –I kept a supply of healthy, nutritious snacks. If I let myself get positively ravenous, it became all-too-easy to lose control.
  • I tried to practice portion control.
  • I ate slower and took smaller bites.
  • Most of all, I tried to appreciate my food, rather than just mindlessly wolfing it down. Again, this allowed me to be more mindful of what I was doing.

Over the course of my therapy treatment for emotional eating, I learned so much about WHY I overate, which helped me to practice strategies that I still use to this day. I honestly have no idea exactly how much I weigh, because I was taught not to judge my progress via a scale, but I can tell you this – today, I am happier and healthier than I have been in a very long time.

If you live in Arizona and are struggling with any degree of eating disorder, Empowerment Treatment & Counseling, conveniently located in Glendale, has licensed therapists who can help you regain control of your health and your life.