Decreasing Binge Eating with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

A new study examined the effectiveness of Behavioral Weight Loss (BWL) versus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) in obese clients. “The association between BED and obesity and the possible heightened risk for developing future metabolic problems highlight the need to find methods to effectively reduce weight—in addition to eliminating binge eating—in persons with BED,” said the team comprised of researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, The Yale University School of Public Health, Rutgers and The State University of New Jersey.

The researchers evaluated 125 individuals between the ages of 18 and 60 for their study. All of the participants had an elevated body mass index and met the criteria for binge-eating. The subjects were divided into three groups: one received CBT for 24 weeks, the second received only BWL for 24 weeks, and the third received CBT followed by BWL. “Our findings indicate that CBT and BWL are effective for treating BED, produce benefits that are durable through 12 months post-treatment, but fail to produce substantial weight losses,” said the team. Primarily, they noted that the combination of CBT and BWL provided results that were relatively close to the overall weight loss achieved by CBT or BWL alone.

However, the researchers did discover that the participants who experienced a decrease in binge-eating behaviors in the early stages of treatment saw the most sustainable results. The researchers noted that this fact underscores the importance of targeting that specific behavior, either through CBT or BWL or a combination of both. “Patients who achieved binge-eating abstinence at post-treatment had a mean 4.3% BMI loss at 6-month follow-up, and patients who were binge abstinent at 6-month follow-up had a mean 3.5% BMI loss at 12-month follow-up,” said the team. “These findings suggest that stopping binge eating may play a role in subsequent weight control.”

Grilo, C. M., Masheb, R. M., Wilson, G. T., Gueorguieva, R., & White, M. A. (2011, August 22). Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy, Behavioral Weight Loss, and Sequential Treatment for Obese Patients With Binge-Eating Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025049

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • James


    September 1st, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    The bad thing, or the hard thing about all of this I guess I should say. is that while CBT can be helpful for binge eaters, so many of those who binge hide the disorder and are embarassed to talk about it. I guess if they found a good therapist that they would feel comfortable with then progress could be made but of course that is going to take time too. But the effectiveness of CBT with binge eating and probably lots of people with other eating disorders is that it shows that they need help, more than just simply going on a diet or changinf eating habits. It has to be a total and holistic transformation.

  • Adrian


    September 1st, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Keeping binge eating at bay is often like fighting a war but victory is weight loss.So the struggle is not without a cause and is very much an important aspect for those looking to reduce.

  • randy


    September 1st, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    binge eating happens not because the body demands more but because the mind demands the cure for binge eating must lie in the mind too.great to see methods being explored for the same.



    September 2nd, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    Just telling a person not to indulge in binge eating is not gonna help.Same is the case with the person trying to control the hunger pangs.The problem is that the mind is tuned to that regular and unnecessary eating.So the solution should also be there.And to have CBT coming into the picture is good because it has already proven its worth in other areas.

  • Katerina


    September 3rd, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    yeah getting them to therapy is the hard part- once they get there I am sure that it can be critical for their recovery but most with the problem do not understand that they need to be there.

  • Marty T

    Marty T

    September 11th, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    This sounds like a great treatment option, but I’ve noticed that most people with binge eating disorder have never been diagnosed. Unfortunately this means that most people suffering from binge disorder aren’t aware that they are, and think they are obese for normal reasons. So most people with BED will never undergo CBT treatment.

    To change this we will need to start raising awareness of BED so that more obese people get tested. People need to realize that they might be able to solve their weight problems with ways that don’t involve eating better and exercise only.

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