Binge-eating is one of the biggest struggles I and many other people face when it comes to getting healthy and dieting. But what exactly is binge-eating and what causes it. In this article, I will explore these questions and explain the binge-cycle bringing in my own experience of binge-eating.
Binging is linked both to restriction and emotional eating.
So take your average person, Jane. Jane decides she wants to lose a few pounds. She cuts out bread and sweets and skips her breakfast, eats a salad for lunch and comes home from work and is starving. She makes her dinner but is still not satisfied so she has a tablespoon of Nutella thinking to herself one spoonful is not going to make or break it. I have been good all day. But one spoon turns into three, and soon the Nutella jar is empty. Jane is then thinks “oh well since I have already messed up today, I might as well go the whole hog” and tomorrow will be a fresh start. She starts scouring through her cupboards to find food to eat. She ends up eating everything in the fridge and is then filled with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. Balance she figures. This idea of balance leads Jane to either (a) purge ie. throw up (b) overexercise to counteract the bad food eaten (c) restrict the next day what she eats. Maybe even a mixture of all three. This is how she controls the binge.
But then, a few days later, after so much restriction, she has a crappy day at work or school or university. Her boss gives out to her, or she has too much homework due, or she has an assignment due and she spots the Nutella jar and her willpower weakens for a moment and she finds herself in the same position. On the floor, digging into a tub of Nutella with a tablespoon. And so the cycle continues.
So how do you break this cycle:
Firstly, remember everything is a habit. Binging is a habit. The first step in breaking a habit is figuring out the trigger. Take for example Jane. Her triggers are:
- When she is overtired
- When she has not worked out that day
- Leaving too long a gap between meals and being too hungry
Jane can eliminate triggers 1, 2 and 6 by ensuring she gets her 8 hours of sleep at night, working out daily and eating every three hours.
Jane can tackle the emotion driven binges by forming a new habit. Instead of eating to satisfy her emotional responses, she should (a) write down in a journal why she is feeling a certain way if she is lonely/sad (b) go for a walk and get out of the house and away from food (c) ring a friend to catch up. Forming these new habits will override the old habit of turning to food for emotional comfort. The more that you practise the new habit, the more it becomes a way of life and soon you will have lessened your desire to turn to food for emotional comfort, but instead will turn to a friend or a journal.
Overcoming binge-eating is not easy but it is doable. You may relapse, but it is how you deal with that relapse that is important. In short, do not restrict as this will cause you to fall into a binge-eating spiral, and secondly identify your triggers that lead you to binging. Once those triggers are identified, figure out how to break the connection between the trigger and the habit of binge-eating.
I hope this was helpful, please leave comments below of your experiences and if you have any questions.