The short answer is that not everyone with binge eating disorder (BED) is overweight and most people who are overweight do not have binge eating disorder. Confounding binge eating and weight distracts clinicians and people with BED from seeking appropriate treatment for this eating disorder.
As for the details about the association between weight and Binge Eating Disorder (BED): Statistics on the prevalence of BED in people classified as obese range from 7.5% to 49% for people who seek weight loss and bariatric treatment [1, 2]. This means that 51% – 92.5% of those do not have BED.
More difficult to find are statistics about the prevalence of BED in people with larger bodies in the general population (not just those seeking weight loss treatment). One study estimated that 6.6% had BED in a community sample of 903 people across the weight spectrum. Rates of BED in this sample were also broken down by BMI category: ≤25 = 2.0%, 25-30 = 4.0%, 30-40 = 12.5%, and >40 = 22.0% .
So, BED shows up across the weight spectrum, and while BED increases as BMI increases, 78% of the people in the highest BMI category did not have BED in this sample. Moreover, 87.5% of this sample, categorized with a BMI between 30-40 and 96% of the BMI 25-30 category did not have BED.
Getting a truer picture of the association between weight and BED can help us challenge misinformation that we come across. More important, it helps us focus on treating the underlying binge eating disorder without being distracted by one’s weight.
- de Zwaan, M., Mitchell, J. E., Howell, L. M., Monson, N., Swan-Kremeier, L., Roerig, J. L., Kolotkin, R. L. and Crosby, R. D. (2002), Two Measures of Health-Related Quality of Life in Morbid Obesity. Obesity Research, 10: 1143–1151. doi: 10.1038/oby.2002.155
- Ricca, V. V., Mannucci, E. E., Moretti, S. S., Di Bernardo, M. M., Zucchi, T. T., Cabras, P. L., & Rotella, C. M. (2000). Screening for binge eating disorder in obese outpatients. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 41(2), 111-115. doi:10.1016/S0010-440X(00)90143-3
- Grucza, R. A., Przybeck, T. R., & Cloninger, C. (2007). Prevalence and correlates of binge eating disorder in a community sample. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 48(2), 124-131. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2006.08.002