Someone once asked me, "What's the difference between binge eating, as in the eating disorder, and just pigging out and knowing you just ate way too much?"
Everyone pigs out sometimes. Hello, Thanksgiving!...or holidays in general. Maybe a BBQ or a party... sometime. But, to a binge eater or a bulimic, the act of "pigging out" is emotionally and physically much different.
To a binge eater or a bulimic, the act in which one overeats is usually much different then sitting down to a meal and splurging by having seconds and a sweet dessert. A binge eater probably won't make a plate or even sit down to binge. The binge eater will definitely make sure they are alone. The binge eater may plan for this binge; they may have gotten their favorite take-out (part of them hoping they will eat some, a legitimate portion size, and save themselves leftovers rather than totally binge and eat it all). They may have gotten their favorite dessert for later (again, hoping they just might keep control and only eat half of that huge slice of carrot cake or pint of Ben and Jerry's). They might stand in front of an open fridge and open cupboards and consume hundreds, maybe thousands of random calories without even realizing it. A binge eater keeps eating because the thoughts in their head won't let it go. Eating that next piece of this and the next bite of that has become an obsession; an uncontrollable obsession that cannot be let go of until it is done...and done...and done... The binge eater usually experiences all of this disordered overeating in an almost trance like state. While grazing and binging during this trance-like time, it may even bring the eater into a certain type of euphoric state. The minute, the second that its over, their self-esteem and sense of worth is irrevocably gone. Their day is over, its has been lost. They are now officially a complete and utter failure. Guilt takes over. Their obsessive thoughts take a turn; a turn into disbelief. Once again, they just totally messed up.
She can't believe she just let that happen; she just lost; she lost all control, again!
...Purging is almost always a considerable option. But, sometimes, they may not even feel like they deserve to purge. The guilt-laden, disbelieving failure they just became (again) definitely doesn't deserve that "easy" way out.
So, what's the difference? Obsessive thoughts that lead in to their trance-like state of "pigging out", doing this binging most definitely alone (because if ANYONE saw this, it would be devastatingly embarrassing), a feeling of a loss of control, and GUILT...extreme guilt in what they just let happen, again...