indulge in an activity, especially eating, to excess.
“she binged on ice cream”
As a self-proclaimed emotional eater, I have always associated binging with disordered eating. I used to have episodes of binge eating to a point where I felt like I couldn’t control myself – like I absolutely had to finish what was on my plate even if I felt sick or stuffed (I still have times when I eat past full or I perhaps indulge a little too hard on the peanut butter). I thought this meant I had some deep emotional trauma that was leading me to uncontrollable eating. I mean, if you do a quick Google search, binge eating is associated with eating disorders – it is marked as a condition of people who are feeling depressed or are trying to fill a void in their life or to mask emotional pain. But what if it isn’t psychological at all?
There is a new thought pattern out there at the moment that binge eating could actually be habitual. As simple as that – you have formed a habit of binge eating. That’s it. Not that you are trying to bury a traumatic event with food, not that you feel empty inside. Just a habit of overeating. This blew my mind, and got me to thinking of my situation and if it could be true for me.
With food being so easily accessible and delicious, it’s easy to see how we can get into a habit of overeating. When I was younger, my mom made the most delicious food (she still does, I just don’t eat it as often with me living in a different province). I loved her food so much that I would always get seconds at Sunday lunch or during the week if there was extra. I became accustomed to eating until I was uncomfortably full, and this became the norm after a while.
When we restrict our diet and aren’t getting enough calories, the survival part of our brain kicks in and sends out a strong urge to eat more, so that we are getting enough nutrients and energy to function. The longer we are on a restrictive diet, and the more we receive and act on these urges, the more we form the habit of overeating or binging. I know exactly when I am not getting enough food (apart from being hungry all the time) – because I immediately reach for the most calorie dense items I can find (hello there peanut butter and banana snack / cake / chocolate donut).
More recently, though, when I binge it’s when I am on a fairly restrictive diet. Now this could be because I am not getting exactly what my body needs and it’s asking for more (as mentioned above), or it could be my stubborn side that goes “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO” *eats all of the cookies*. Either way, it is definitely associated with restriction of food types or calories for me.
Identifying with Diet
This made me think, then, that if it’s just a habit – why is there so much shame and guilt associated with binging? You know, the typical cycle of Restrict –> Binge –> I am a terrible person –> Restrict –> Binge –> I am a terrible person.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because we associate our personalities with our eating habits. Some of us can’t actually disassociate how we perform on our diet with who we are as people. That when we “cheat” suddenly we think we are a bad person (e.g. I ate a thing that was not on the plan or is “bad”* = I have no discipline = I am a bad wife / mother / employee and I’ll never be good enough – and yes I actually have had this thought process happen in the past). What if we stopped doing that? And just asked ourselves if we ate a little too much because it’s habit, our bodies are asking for more or if it was just flippen delicious, and used that information to make a better decision for ourselves next time?
*there should be no “good” or “bad” food labels. Just calorie dense vs. nutrient dense foods.
Ok, so now how to break the habit?
- Eat good quality food in adequate amounts, break the restrictive diet mentality and focus on whole, nutrient dense foods. Your body won’t send out urges for more if it’s getting enough.
- Allow for the odd occasion where you eat what you want, so you don’t have the rebellious eat all the things and I’ll start again on Monday type of binge. Moderation in anything is key.
- Try break the thought pattern of food as a reward or a punishment (this is a whole other topic for another day) and be mindful about what you are eating and how you are eating.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you have a day where you do binge eat. Shake your tailfeathers, move onwards and make a better, more conscious decision next time.
So, to conclude, I just wanted to remind you that your eating habits don’t define you as a person. If binging is simply just a habit, you have total control to make better choices next time. You’re doing the best you can and if you binge or eat off-plan know that you’re good enough. Guilt isn’t an emotion we should associate with food and it’s totally, 100% OK to eat the cake because you are more than your body and your body is not just there as a calorie in / out machine.
However, if you suffer from chronic binge eating, please seek help from a professional or just talk to someone about it. Know that you can be in control again and food should be a balanced, enjoyable part of life.
– Yours in health (mental and physical)
Disclaimer: this blog post is not a replacement for medical advice. This post serves as a recollection of my experiences with binge eating and my advice of what I am working on. If you suffer from an eating disorder, please seek professional help.