Binge Eating – Why it Happens and What To Do

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a recognised condition where you develop a pattern of binge eating as a way of coping with underlying issues and other risk factors.

It’s important to note, this condition cannot be treated with diet alone.  If the following tips don’t ease the disorder, you may need to seek further advice from a professional.

Understand why Binge Eating Happens

Binge eating is a very common issue and becomes even more difficult to control around Christmas.  Every Christmas celebration is focused around food and eating.  We’re constantly being tempted with sugary treats as we’re given chocolates and biscuits as gifts.  The cold weather and need for insulation increases our appetite.  Then the lack of sunshine causes seasonal depression, so our need to numb our emotions heightens.

One of the biggest issues with binge eating is the guilt you feel after the binge.  You have an idea of what a perfect diet is in your head.  All the food tempting you around Christmas goes against that “perfect” diet.  One night of eating chocolates and biscuits creates a whirlwind of negative feelings and emotions.  These toxic thoughts lead to more depressive thoughts, which only increases your desire to binge.

One of the very first steps of overcoming this condition is to catch yourself thinking such negative thoughts.  The best way to do this is to journal.

Food Journal

A food diary is a log of what you consume each day and how that food made you feel.  The reason a food diary is good to get on top of your binge eating is because the only way you’re going to overcome this, is to learn exactly why its happening.

The foods you crave when you binge offer great insight into what’s going on emotionally.  Is it sugar you crave?  Salt?  Carbohydrates?  The full feeling carbohydrates offer mimic the whole feeling love offers.  Maybe the feeling of food, or feeling full, makes you feel less lonely.  So a way to overcome this is to understand why you feel lonely, do you enjoy spending time with yourself?  Maybe you need to practice more self love.  If you are constantly feeding yourself negative thoughts, you’ll naturally crave more love.  Feeding yourself positive thoughts will reduce your cravings for food.

Another positive aspect of food journaling is so you can consciously see how much you eat.  It’s not as nice of a feeling writing down what you ate, but it will trigger the exact emotion your are trying to numb.  I know it’s not nice facing these emotions, but the only way to overcome this disorder is to face the dragon.  So next time when you think, “I’m hungry, all I want to do is spend the next few hours eating!” – take out your diary.  Allow yourself to eat whatever you write down, but make sure you write it down.

Denying yourself the food is not the answer as it makes your body feel even more deprived.  Your body is craving food because you’re not feeding it something else.  Denying yourself the food only makes the cravings stronger and harder to ignore.  You need to learn what it really is that your denying yourself.

Alt="hand writes food in diary to overcome binge eating"

Forgive Yourself

Binges happen, there’s no one on the planet that escapes them.  There’s nothing better than the feeling of sitting down and gorging on all the food so you can numb your pain and forget your problems.  There’s a sense of release, nourishment and freedom.  But then the thoughts come, “I shouldn’t have ate that. I gave into temptation! I’m weak, fat, and hideous.  I’m going to look like crap this week.  I’ve ruined all my progress and now I’m back to square one.”

Sometimes it’s not even a binge, it was just your body craving a refeed.  Without realising, you might not have eaten enough the days leading up to the binge and any extra exercise could have made your food cravings really intense.

If this is the case then just enjoy the extra calories and put them to use by going up in weights during your next training session.  One binge a month is not going to affect your progress.  If it is just a refeed, it’s unlikely you’ll feel the urge to binge again.

However, if you start to feel guilty about what you consumed, you’ll increase the chance of binging again.  The only way to stop emotional binges is to stop fighting them.  Again, this is where your diary comes in.  Take the time to figure out what happened.  Ask yourself the right questions.

Questions to Ask After Binge Eating

• Was I stressed when this happened? What was I stressed about?

• What were the triggers leading up to this? Why did they trigger me? What’s behind the trigger?

• What foods did I binge on, sweet or savoury? Why these foods – how did they make me feel? (Warmth, love, numb, passion, wholeness)

• How can I get this feeling without overeating?

• Was I actually starving or did I just need comfort? Why did I need comfort? Why did I allow myself to reach a point of starvation?

• How can I plan my day so I won’t end up starving?

• What thoughts went through my mind after the binge, were they negative? Why did I think those negative thoughts?

• How do I see myself? What do I think when I look in the mirror?

• How do I talk to myself?

In your food journal, after the binge, write down how the binge made you feel and if needed, use these questions as a guide on what you should write.  The more you understand why these binges happen, the easier it will be to avoid them in the future.

You’ll recognise the triggers early on and know what to do to avoid them getting out of hand. You’ll start to become aware of your changing moods as they happen and learn why they’re happening.

Find something that makes you feel the way food makes you feel.  Find a different way to release your tension and emotions.

I hope that helps.  For further information on binge eating check out Bodywhys, who have some amazing resources and tips for all eating disorders.

Or check out our other article on Emotional Eating here.

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