Although many of us may have experienced some form of binge at some stage, binge eating is actually a form of disordered eating and something that can be quite debilitating, overpowering and all-consuming. From my experience of working with clients and a lot of beautiful women, binge eating isn’t so much about the food as it is about how we feel about ourselves.
In fact, how we feel about ourselves can directly relate to every other area in our lives – it just so happens that food is one of the most prominent areas as it is such a powerful tool and necessity of life.
There’s a massive difference between binge eating every now and again and living with binge eating disorder.
Maybe you had your last binge when your girlfriends came over for a gossip session, when your boyfriend broke up with you, when you lost your job or even the night before you promised yourself you’d start your next diet. Whenever we treat food in a different way to our norm, it’s usually as a result of an external factor affecting something in our lives and manifests itself as our attempt to ‘normalise’ that factor. However, with binge eating disorder, there’s a lot more going on than what we see at the surface. It’s not just about what happened 5 minutes ago, an hour ago or even the day before. It’s about who we are, how we view ourselves, how we perceive our lives, what we feel we are lacking and most importantly, it’s a direct reflection of our relationship we have with ourselves.
Think about it this way – if you loved yourself unconditionally and accepted every part of yourself, you wouldn’t allow any form of self-punishment to become the norm. As with any eating disorder, binging is not just a reflection of what is going on in our lives and how we view ourselves, it is also an attempt to regain control over our lives when we feel we have lost it.
Let’s face it, it’s highly unusual to have a binge on broccoli or kale chips – in fact, most of the time, binging leads us to eating high calorie, sugary and/or starchy foods. I have previously written about the 8 common causes of cravings, but when it comes to binging and binge eating disorder, one of the main reasons we may crave more sugary foods is due to the stress hormones released in our body. A binge never happens when we are in our most relaxed state. As I mentioned, it’s usually an attempt to gain control when you feel you have lost it or as a self-soothing mechanism when we feel distressed as a result of external factors affecting our life – both of which result in stress. Even at a very basic level of associating our relationship with ourselves with that of food – if we have a terrible relationship with our self, then stress hormones are still being released.
Binging and binge eating disorder is such a complicated topic and there are so many reasons that it might be affecting you and although everyone experiences it in their own unique way, I wanted to share some quick tips to help you on your journey with binging and also how you can reduce those binge eating induced sugar cravings.
With any eating disorder, it’s so important to get and create a strong support system around you. Even if you only have the occasional binge, having that network of people to support you and guide you is also critically important. It’s so easy to close off, hide away and not open up about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through – in fact, that might be your natural instinct, but that’s what makes it so crucial to start talking!
It might not be about relying on one person, maybe your support system means looking to a whole group of different people for help – whatever ‘support’ looks like for you, seek it out! Start talking, expressing how you’re feeling and getting things off your chest. That way, you’ll no longer feel alone and isolated and your one step closer towards healing.
Rather than relying on food as a form of self-soothing, look to those who love and support you for comfort.
Not only does bingeing result in stressors that affect the body, but it’s also triggered from stress. Remember, it’s the release of stress hormones (mainly cortisol) that may lead towards sugar cravings.
Be aware of where those sugar cravings are coming from and next time you feel the need to binge on starchy and sugary foods, try de-stressing techniques instead, wait a while and see if the craving subsides.
Reducing stress over all may also lead to less binging overall as your body won’t perceive itself to be in a state of distress and seeking that self-soothing or comfort through food.
Some of my favourite de-stressing techniques include:
Imagine a scale from 0-10.
0 represents feeling so desperately hungry that every cell in your body screams for nourishment and 10 represents extreme fullness where you can no longer put any food in your body not matter how hard you tried.
Ideally, as we go through life we want to live in a state from 3-7. So, that means that we are never ravenously hungry or completely full – we are just constantly in that happy medium. Focussing on this hunger scale is actually an intuitive eating exercise but something that is also really useful if you binge or suffer with binge eating disorder. Any disordered relationship with food may usually mean that we are out of touch with our bodies and also the hunger/fullness cues that our body sends out. By focussing on this hunger scale, you are training your body and mind to connect to the foods you’re eating and how it affects your body.
If you notice yourself getting hungry and feel you’re around a 3 or 4 mark on the scale, don’t wait another hour until it’s ‘lunch time’ as you’ll be too hungry and may binge on more food than you would ideally want to. Prepare some snacks and have something at that moment before your hunger scale tips over that edge.
Also notice how you feel when you’re eating and try not to tip the scale over the other way and become too full. Try to notice when enough is enough and stop when you reach that 7 on the hunger scale. If you have hit that 7 but are still craving food, ask yourself why – it might be a sign that you’re about to overeat. So start to understand what is triggering you to do so and comfort yourself in knowing that the food will always be there, you just don’t need it right this moment.
This is again an intuitive eating exercise but a very powerful one when it comes to binging. Most of the time during a binge, we don’t actually notice what we are putting into our mouths. We lose that connection to the food we’re eating and we’re no longer eating from a place of love but a place of fear. This exercise is about bringing you back into the moment and practicing mindful eating.
When you notice you’re having a binge or are about to, practice this exercise:
Binging and overeating can lead to a lot of self-judgement and that is not only unhealthy for yourself but also unhealthy for your relationship with food. It’s time to release and let go of those judgements you have about yourself. These judgements may happen during a binge or even before or after. In fact, it’s these judgements that can sometimes lead to that binge – remember our relationship with ourselves is directly reflected in our relationship with food.
Create a judgement journal:
It’s not about believing it in that moment, but the more you practice this exercise, the more you’ll be able to notice a judgement creeping in and be able to reframe it quickly so that you can forgive yourself and move on.
When you release your own judgements of yourself, you’re able to love yourself unconditionally. The more you unconditionally love yourself, the more that will be reflected in your relationship with food and the less likely you are to be overpowered by the need to binge.