A preliminary study of momentary, naturalistic indicators of binge-eating episodes in adults with obesity

Int J Eat Disord. 2018 Jan;51(1):87-91. doi: 10.1002/eat.22795. Epub 2017 Nov 7.


Objectives: Binge eating is common in adults with obesity. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Psychiatric Disorders describes five indicators of binge eating (eating more rapidly than usual; eating until uncomfortably full; eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry; eating alone because of embarrassment over how much one is eating; and feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating), but their validity is unclear.

Method: We examined preliminary associations between the five indicators and binge versus nonbinge episodes among 50 adults with obesity via ecological momentary assessment.

Results: Generalized linear models revealed that, relative to nonbinge episodes, self-reported binge episodes were associated with lower pre-episode hunger (p = .004), higher postepisode fullness (p < .001), a greater likelihood of reporting moderate to extreme shame prior to eating in conjunction with eating alone (p < .001), and a greater likelihood of reporting moderate to extreme disgust, depression, and/or guilt after eating (p < .001), but not with eating more rapidly than usual (p = .85).

Discussion: Results support the validity of most binge-eating indicators, although the utility of the rapid eating criterion is questionable. Future research should examine whether modifying these indicators in binge-eating interventions would reduce the occurrence of loss of control and/or overeating.

Keywords: binge eating; classification; diagnosis; indicators; loss of control; validity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Young Adult