An overpowering urge for food together with guilt & shame, topped with a huge amount of self-loathing...
And suddenly... Something snaps and there's no food in the house that's safe anymore from your deep, wild hunger. Does that sound familiar to you? For many, it feels like something just takes over and goes wild on all the food they know they "shouldn't" be eating. For others it's more planned out, they go to the supermarket to stock on all the foods they restricted themselves from, only to devour it all alone in one sitting at home.
In whatever way you go about it, there is something very important you generally don't realise in the midst of beating yourself up for 'failing' and having 'no discipline'... A binge is simply 'a release'. A release of a huge build-up of tension. A binge is a cry for help, something deep inside that you just can't stand it anymore and rebels against the unfair treatment.
Every behaviour we engage in, however painful or destructive, is serving us in some way. The reason we often can't let go of and replace it with more healthy behaviours, is because we don't pay attention to what this behaviour is helping us with... Think about how you feel during the binge, what emotions do you have in the midst of devouring all that food? For me there was a sense of freedom, a 'fuck-it' all I'm gonna finally just do what I want, I don't care anymore, this is too hard anyway". So the question arises: why did I needed that feeling? How come I needed to say "f*ck it all"? In what way was I imprisoning myself?
Bingeing is not about a lack of willpower, you are not fundamentally broken, you are not a failure or uncontrollable. In fact, bingeing occurs only in people who are trying to over-control life and themselves.
Soo... Reducing binge episodes is never going to be achieved by blaming yourself, beating yourself up, trying to use willpower and making plans for sports or dieting to compensate. This 'hardness' only builds up more pressure and tension and in that process we never even stop to think what this binge is actually crying out for...And guess what? The moment you use the hard diet-voice to get out of your binge funk, the breeding ground for the next (and bigger) binge is already established.
Sure, using that hard diet-voice will help you short-term and you'll be back 'on the wagon' for some time, but how long until the inevitable happens again?
So how about it? Tired of the binge-restriction-binge-restriction cycle?
Ready for the longterm approach instead ?
For the sake of clarity, I'd like to start with a crystal clear view on how a binge can be recognised and defined.
The amount of food you ingest is actually not important, because amounts are relative to the individual. We can recognise a binge by emotional and social elements:
- An irresistible urge to eat certain foods - like, reallly visceral.accompanied by a sense of loss of control - like : it's the ice-cream taking over, I have no say anymore.
- Eating in secret, often very fast - oftentimes even standing up?
- A deep sense of shame about it - you are convinced doing this makes you an incompetent failure at life and you can't handle anyone knowing about this.
- Feeling uncomfortably full, sometimes nauseous, followed by guilt and disgust towards oneself and a deep fear of gaining weight.
- Canceling socials either because of having binged or out of fear to be triggered into a binge by the food at the party/dinner.
You may find yourself in a 'secret prison', portraying the 'perfect image' to your environment and lashing out on food when alone, after which worry about weight and/or self-disgust can take over your brain all while having to deal with the physical discomfort of all that food in your body.
If you recognise yourself or someone you love here, then do read on, because
bingeing can be a 100% avoided. And the first step is about letting go and embracing the binge. It is very ironic:
In order to stop bingeing you need to allow yourself to binge.
Many of you reading may go like 'NO way, I just really need to control this better, I need to learn to resist this."
Carl Jung once rightfully said "What you resist, persists, what you accept, goes away."
We have been told that restrictions, food rules, food plans, diets,... together with a dislike/hate for our bodies are what is motivating us to change for the better. We often think that if we dare to eat what we want and love our bodies, all hell will break loose and we'll let ourselves go completely. Now if that were really true, there wouldn't be an obesity problem in the western world! Literally everybody is trying to eat according to rules (not too much sugar, always greens, limit carbs , always eat breakfast, etc ) and still a whopping 90% of the female population has negative thoughts about their body + obesity rates have only increased even though there are thousands of diets available.
What if I told you that scientific studies have shown that food rules and hating your body do the exact opposite? ...
Diet and body hate actually foster weight gain...
1. A binge is a direct consequence of physical or emotional deprivation (aka diet-thinking). Physical deprivation is about physically not nourishing yourself enough and being hungry. Emotional deprivation is where you tell yourself some foods are off limit and you morally judge foods. "bread is bad, tuna is good, I should reduce bread to be healthy (and often also, to be thin). People who never dieted in the first place, dont' binge. They can eat emotionally, have a huge piece of chocolate, but they'll never be tempted to eat the whole cake and then some more.
2. People who dislike/hate their bodies are not likely to take care of themselves, whereas applying compassion and unconditional acceptance of one's body has been proven to foster selfcare and health promoting behaviors.
You have those who can eat 1 banana split , enjoy it and be satisfied. And then you have those who come home after and eat another 2 litres of the vanilla ice-cream they have at home sprinkled with granola... The difference between these 2 people is 1 thing and 1 thing only: deprivation. Your level of physical deprivation ( OR emotional deprivation (telling yourself you can't have this or that food and feeling guilty out of fear of becoming fat)
Note! Even if you're not on a diet, chances are you if you're reading this, you probably have a diet mentality and are emotionally depriving yourself of food. We are raised in a society where diet-mentality is the norm. If you've read beauty magazines, watched the television and scrolled the internet, you've already been conditioned into a diet-mentality.
Here are my go-to self-help tips for bingeing:
1) Prevent a binge by allowing yourself all foods and not morally judge yourself when eating sweets or other 'unhealthy' foods. Trusting your hunger and fullness + eating what you really desire is of vital importance. Look at those 'natural' eaters around you: they eat sweets, they eat bread, they eat pizza, they don't fuss about it and they just stop when they're full without exerting willpower. They stop because they simply don't feel like eating it anymore. That's what is possible if you decide to let go of the food rules. For more info on how to learn this, check out my coaching options.
2) If a binge comes, lean into it and welcome it with curiosity. Tell yourself you are free to binge if you want to. Remember that this is a part of you that is crying out for help and it needs your softness, your loving attention, the last thing it needs is more judging and hardness. There is a deep need in you that is convinced that a binge is the solution for its pain and discomfort. By softening up, you will relieve a bit of the tension and either diminish the intensity of the binge or stop it completely.
3) Find out more about this deep need. What is this binge about for you? What is happening in your mindset and life that your body is screaming for this release? Only by consistently exploring this need, can the bingeing one day dissolve. If you need help exploring that, I currently offer 1-1 coaching where we go deep into the root cause.
I personally reply to all of your questions (while I still can!) , so hit me up here if you want to go deeper!