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Binge Eating Disorder Factsheet (for Schools)

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
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What Teachers Should Know

Almost everyone overeats sometimes. And it's normal for kids and teens to have bigger appetites during growth spurts. Binge eating, though, is an eating disorder in which people often eat large amounts of food quickly, and feel like they can't stop.

Binge eating can be triggered by feelings of stress, anger, boredom, sadness, or anxiety. Unlike bulimia, another eating disorder, people with binge eating disorder don't force themselves to vomit or over-exercise (purge). They usually become overweight after several months of overeating.

Health risks associated with weight gain and obesity due to binge eating include:

It's considered binge eating disorder if someone:

  • eats more food than most people could in a short period of time
  • feels out of control during binges
  • feels upset or guilty after bingeing
  • binge eats, on average, at least once a week for 3 months

Students who have a binge eating disorder may:

  • gain weight quickly
  • feel ashamed of their weight and eating habits
  • eat in secret or alone because of embarrassment
  • hoard snacks or extra food, and hide wrappers or containers
  • skip school or avoid activities for fear of being teased or bullied
  • need extra time to make up homework or assignments due to doctor, nutrition, or counseling appointments

What Teachers Can Do

Binge eating is often a way to deal with difficult emotions. Many binge eaters are teased or bullied because they are overweight. This can cause even more distress and lead to overeating. Because of feelings of guilt and shame, many kids and teens don't get help for binge eating.

Early detection is the best way to successfully treat eating disorders such as binge eating disorder. If you know or suspect that a student has an eating disorder, refer them for assistance. The school counselor or school nurse can help.

In your classroom, maintain an atmosphere that promotes health and wellness without focusing on weight. Demonstrate healthy attitudes about food, exercise, and body image to set a good example for your students.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2021