Binge eating disorder (BED) affects A LOT of people. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, BED is the most common eating disorder in the US, affecting nearly 8 million people.
It’s a difficult, confusing and frustrating thing to deal with. It can consume your life and bring a lot of sadness. I know first hand! I was a binge eater for OVER 20 years, until I suddenly stopped. I completely changed my approach and was able to transform my life. I now see binge eating disorder for what it is...a bad habit, nothing more than that.
So, today, let’s take something complicated and make it simple.I want to explain WHY you binge eat.
For starters, let me say that you do not have issues, there’s nothing wrong with you and you are not flawed.
If you’re struggling with binge eating and feel like you are stuck in the dumps, I want you to KNOW that there is definitely hope…
You can stop binge eating. And it’s simpler then you think. You don’t have demons...you just have bad habits.
There are 4 main reasons why you start to binge, but then once you repeat these actions only a few times, a habit forms. Once the habit forms, the habit itself becomes the problem to fix. Not necessarily the binge eating. More on that here.
So let me explain how these habits form in the first place...
1. Dieting or restriction
When you diet or restrict food, your brain thinks you’re starving. Your body kicks into survival mode and sends you intense urges to binge eat food. That’s literally what’s happening. Your brain doesn’t realize that you’re trying to limit yourself, it assumes scarcity. And therefore wants you to stock up while you can, in case food becomes completely unavailable for a while. As crazy as it may seem, your urges to binge are your mind and body’s way of trying to protect you. In order to stop this, give your body what it needs in each moment. Rather than making harsh rules for yourself about food and diet, simply ask yourself what you’re in the mood for at each meal. And then allow yourself to have it, even if it’s not the “perfect” decision. Because your intuition knows best, it knows exactly what you need. This mentality will serve you tenfold down the line.
2. You learned bad food habits as a child
Childhood shapes us. As a child, you observed and absorbed everything going on around you. This is where you picked up your initial habits and ways of life. Intentional or not. If your family or anyone around you had unhealthy patterns with food, it’s very likely that you then picked them up, too. Or sometimes, if someone close to you was excessively trying to be healthy or perfect, you may have rebelled and done the opposite. So binge eating may seem like it’s an unchangeable part of you. And in a way it is part of you. But really it’s just something you learned, and it’s definitely something that you can unlearn, too. Each day you can grow into and become more and more the person you want to be, your past does not define you. To do this, stop replaying the past in your mind. Instead, focus your thoughts and energy on visualizing the person you want to become (and get excited about her!!)
3. You use food to mitigate pain or negative emotions
Boredom, pain or negative emotions are part of life. Daily life. They can pop up at any time, big or small. This can be more everyday things like insecurity or feeling fat. Or maybe life is generally uncomfortable for you all of the time with recurring feelings like depression or anxiety (if so, you’re not alone!). This could also be less-frequent feelings like when going through a breakup or losing your job. No matter what scenario, when these moments pop up, we want to make ourselves feel better. And as a binge eater, you probably do this with food. The problem with that method, though, is that once you’re done eating and the distraction is over, the feelings come back. And oftentimes they come back even worse, because of the added shame, frustration or sadness from the binge. And so then you reach for more food. And the cycle continues. In order to change this pattern, make a list of things you’d rather do when boredom or uncomfortable feelings arise. Then have it handy for when urges to binge come up. Choose anything on your lists rather than binging. Fight for it! After only a few times of choosing something different, new habits will start to form! And they will be the good habits that you want. For the exact step-by-step process on these lists, see here.
4. Food makes you feel rewarded or high
Food may have an unfair stake in your world. You may see it as a reward (for when something bums you out or in celebration of something good). Or food may be like a drug for you, seeking it out and binging may give you a rise. If this is the case, it simply means that food is playing a role in your life that you don’t actually want it to. And so for these purposes, you’ll need to replace food with something else. Anything that’s not self-destructive, and ideally things that are productive or that make you feel amazing. Because when you have good momentum, it will propel you forward in the direction of your dreams! For this, use the same list strategy mentioned above.
All in all, understanding these basic reasons why you started to binge in the first place will help you stop binge eating. Because it removes the mystery! And makes it less of a big deal, quite frankly. Subliminally you formed some bad habits, and now you want to change them! That’s all it is. Nothing more and nothing less.
It’s not necessarily easy, but it is pretty simple.
I’m excited for you! And I’m here to help. Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments below, I’d love to discuss!