Struggling with Binge Eating? Read this.
First of all, let's define what binge eating is:
the consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time, typically as part of an eating disorder.
Binge eating isn't just overeating every so often and moving on with your day. It isn’t a lack of willpower. It isn’t a lack of discipline. Binging is a physiological response to restriction or trauma. And unfortunately, it’s a perfectly curated cycle. Demonstrated below:
We restrict our food so hard because we want to lose weight or are afraid of overeating, then we finally give in and have ONE BITE of cake and we feel 100% out of control. Whether it is a full binge or you just overeat and are overcome with guilt and shame, our response the next day is….. MORE RESTRICTION!
So we try and skip breakfast or overdo it on exercise to "make up for” what we ate and then because our body is underfed, we will overeat to make up for it. Do you see how well oiled the cycle is?
When I say that binge eating is a response to restriction, we can see this in our physiology. If we are in a famine or in a food scarcity, your body needs to know how to store food (as fat), and how to turn off our hunger until we are in a place that we are able to eat. Most of the clients that I see that struggle with this do not ever feel hunger anymore, those hormones feel so scrambled that it feels impossible for us to "listen to our bodies."
This looks like eating almost every meal or snack when you aren't hungry (because you are never really hungry). After we have overeaten or binged for long enough, we start to lose what it feels like to be SATISFIED by food. For example, it can feel like a meal isn't done until you are stuffed or uncomfortably full. Eating until you are no longer hungry doesn't feel right anymore.
Guilt, shame, restriction, frustration, guilt, shame, restriction.
STOP THE CYCLE.
👏Binge eating isn’t the fact that you can’t trust your body, binge eating is happening because your body can’t trust you.👏
Because food (or energy intake) is unreliable, you are waiting until your blood sugar drops and you are HANGRY to allow yourself to eat, because food is taking the place of emotional regulation. And this is a shame, because food does not satisfy emotional hunger.
What you can do today:
1. Start a more reliable, consistent eating schedule. The name of the game is TRUST. We need to remind your body that you can eat out of compassion, not just compulsion. If at first you are not experiencing hunger and fullness hormonal cues, no worries, this will come back as your body comes back into a balance. In the meantime, start to build in a healthy rhythm. We are trying to build in some consistency with your eating schedule so we can stop the minimal eating all day and binging every night cycle. Instead, look at your schedule and build in when you can start eating balanced meals/snacks every 3-4 hours. . You need to be biologically fed.
2. Feel an urge? Get some clarity.
If you feel the impulse to binge take a breath and set a timer for 1 or 2 minutes. Write down all of the feelings, frustrations, and emotions that are going on inside of your head at this time. Then, (and this is important!) understand that you are still allowed to eat.
If you are not allowed to eat after gaining that clarity, then you will not take the time to do this exercise. The whole intention of taking this time is not to stop yourself from eating, it is to gain clarity on WHY you are eating.
If you are faithful with doing this practice you will start to be able to know yourself better, and then be able to slowly but surely find different ways to soothe, comfort, or deal with your emotional state. Clarity first.
3. Stop restricting foods.
Like I said earlier, restriction is one of the strongest reasons for binge eating. 35% of all diets will lead to disordered eating, and of disordered eating, binge eating is the most common. If you are still restricting food groups or if you have foods that you completely cut out while thinking about them incessantly, that is what is keeping this cycle going strong. This can be incredibly daunting, especially if your experience with these foods have felt out of control. There are so many ways we work through this with clients, check out this video for some of the pitfalls to avoid, and please consider working with a KYPO Health Coach to find your balance here!
If you are realizing that your binge eating episodes are triggered by trauma, please consider working with a licensed therapist.