Disclaimer: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you feel you may have Binge Eating Disorder, please seek the care of your physician for diagnosis and treatment.
Binge Eating Is A Spectrum
Binge eating behavior falls on a spectrum. There are people that occasionally feel like they have binge eating episodes to people who are severely affected and meet the criteria for Binge Eating Disorder.
The hallmarks of binge eating are consuming large amounts of food in one sitting, feeling out of control while doing so and having intense negative emotions after the episode. These negative emotions impact a person’s ability to seek help because there is often so much shame involved.
This is why I think it is so important to speak openly about binge eating. It is a quite common issue. Understanding it and why it happens will allow you to start gaining control over it.
As physicians, many of my clients feel intense failure because of their binge eating. They feel that because they are physicians, they should know better and should be in more control of their eating.
I want you to know that this simply is not true. In fact, I believe there is many aspects of being a physician that lend themselves to developing food issues such as binge eating.
Its Not About The Food
People who have binge eating spend a lot of time and energy focusing on the food. They desperately just want to not need or want the food anymore. Thoughts of food and what they should or shouldn’t eat and remorse for things that they already ate can take up the majority of the mental energy in a day.
One of the most important things to recognize if you struggle with binge eating, is that binge eating behavior is not about the food. The way I like to think about this is that binge eating is our brain’s way of solving some non-food related issues with food. It is a thought error born from the fact that food does give you momentary relief of distress through the release of dopamine. The problem is that it is only momentary relief.
In order to gain control around binge eating, we need to look less at the actual food consumed and become curious about the reasons why eating is happening. This is not necessarily a quick process, but it is an enormously powerful process. When you discover drivers for binge eating, they can be more easily corrected than trying to fix the eating itself. And when the drivers are addressed, the urges to binge are reduced significantly.
Approach with Compassion
The shame and negative emotion associated with binge eating is part of the issue. Beating ourselves up for what we eat, and then feeling horrible about it ultimately triggers further overeating or binge episodes.
To step out of the cycle, we must treat ourselves with compassion for actions we have already taken. Binge eating does not mean there is anything wrong with you. It does not mean that this will never be fixed. All it means, is that this was the best solution your brain could come up with in this moment for a problem.
View your eating with compassion and curiosity and actively work on letting go of the shame and negative emotion. This puts you in a far better position to make different food choices next time and to find some of the true causes of the binge eating.
There is nothing gained from beating yourself up about food choices. Trust me on this one.
The Binge Restrict Cycle
Binge eating follows a binge-restrict cycle. You overeat one day, feel remorse and decide that you are getting back on your plan tomorrow. The next day, you wake up fresh and full of energy and end up being a bit overly restrictive with your eating. Throughout the day you may have thoughts about how careful you are being or what things you are giving up and may feel deprived or restricted. Ultimately, this restriction leads to further binges.
To be in control over binge eating, you need to step out of the binge restrict cycle. Binges may happen, but you need to focus on stopping the restrictive thinking. After a binge, it can be helpful to think that you just are getting back to your normal way of eating. It doesn’t have to be extra restrictive to compensate for the binge. In fact, it often is easier if the food you are eating feels a bit abundant, so you don’t have any sense of restriction.
What is interesting, is that you can feel abundant about almost any way of eating. Restriction, deprivation and abundance are feelings that come from how we think about our food, not from the food itself. So, you can choose to eat a particular way of eating such as lower carb while avoiding restrictive thinking. Viewing the food that you eat with abundance, regardless of what it is, can help a lot with the binge restrict cycle.
To learn more about binge eating, make sure you listen to the podcast episode below
Hungry for Control Over Your Eating?
If you are feeling out of control with your eating and are not sure why, I can help. With coaching, I help you go from feeling out of control to eating healthy in a sustainable way that works for your life.
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