None of these warning signs on its own means that a young person has binge eating disorder but if they are exhibiting several of these signs then you are right to be concerned.
Rapid weight increase / weight fluctuation
Due to the vast amount of calories consumed during a binge, a binge eater will tend to gain weight very rapidly. As binge eating tends to be worse at periods when the sufferer is struggling, perhaps due to pressures at school or at home, their weight may plateau at times when they are finding things easier, then rapidly increase next time they go through a difficult patch and resort to binging.
Binge eaters can often feel very embarrassed about eating and may make an effort to eat alone. They are unable to control their urge to eat but are usually keenly aware that they are overweight and feel that they should be eating less, so they will often do it in private away from prying eyes which they often assume will be judging them.
Eats very quickly
We all talk about how we ‘inhale our food’ when we’re very hungry or in a huge hurry. This rapid eating is quite normal for many binge eaters who are driven by powers beyond their control to keep eating as much and as quickly as possible.
Eats even when not hungry
Many of us snack when we’re bored or just because we fancy a treat, but binge eaters will often take this to the extreme consuming whole meals’ worth of food – or more… just because.
One of the main reasons binge eaters eat when they’re not hungry is because they eat emotionally; meaning that they use the process of consuming food as a way of dealing with difficult emotions. This is the classic stereotype of the broken hearted girlfriend eating a tub of Haagen Daaz after being dumped taken to extremes. Binge Eaters, struggling with difficult emotions they don’t know how else to manage may resort to emotional eating as often as several times a day.
Feels out of control about their eating
If you talk to a binge eater, they will tell you that they want to eat less, that they want to lose weight and that they want to take control of their eating, but they feel completely out of control and consequently unable to do so.
Seems moody or depressed
If you notice a major change in a pupil’s behaviour, in particular if they become moody, irritable or seem depressed, then that can be a clear sign that things aren’t quite right psychologically and emotionally. Coupled with other warning signs, it can be an indicator that Binge Eating may be a problem for the young person in question.
Can’t focus on school work
Like Anorexics and Bulimics, Binge Eaters become completely consumed by the thought of food. You may find that they are entirely unable to focus during lessons because they are thinking about what and when they will next eat – or because they are beating themselves up about their last binge.
Isolated from friends
As the disorder takes grip, Binge Eaters will often begin to isolate themselves from friends and family. Their life will often revolve completely around food and the hurt they are feeling inside. There isn’t a lot of time left for friends. Besides, they will often feel that their friends can’t understand them anymore, or that they don’t deserve to have friends at all.
Over emphasises the importance of physical appearance
Pupils who binge eat will almost always be overweight and whilst they are desperately unhappy, they almost uniformly feel that if only they could be skinnier, that life would be good. These young people think that, like themselves, their peers are judging them solely on their appearance and will often think this is far more important and their academic ability or personality.