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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Borer

Binge Eating

We’ve all been there. It’s 8pm at night. You’ve already eaten supper and yet you still find yourself in the kitchen with the fridge and cupboard doors open trying to decide what to eat next even though you really aren’t hungry at all. No, it’s not hunger you’re feeling, but despite that, you find yourself going crazy thinking about eating a particular food (or foods) and won’t be satisfied until you do. The aftermath of the situation? You feel extremely full, bloated, and awful emotionally and physically. The guilt and shame start to take up camp inside your mind.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we stuff ourselves with food to the point of sickness when it’s actually not the food we want? Why has food become our go-to resource for comfort, even when it only serves to bring us discomfort?

I won’t lie – after years of restrictive undereating, I started to struggle with the antagonistic effect – binge eating. The cycles come and go, but trust me when I say that I have the utmost empathy for my clients and anyone else struggling with binge eating. Given my health issues, my foods of choice are 99% of the time super healthy; it’s the quantity that leaves me feeling sick and gross lying on the couch.

However, recently, I’ve been finding myself less likely to indulge in such a pattern. What’s changed? It started with an insight from one of the continuing education courses that I’m currently taking. On our most recent conference call (which I almost missed because I work so late every evening - thank goodness I didn't!), my lead instructor brought up the topic of binge or uncontrollable eating at the end of our call. Having completed a course delving into the psychology of eating (that’ll have to be my next continuing education course!), she had some amazing insights to share that I want to pass along to you because they were incredibly impactful and eye opening for me.

She started by stating a simple, yet powerful quote:

“A binge is a balancing act for an area in life we are in tight control.”

Go back and read that again. And again. And one more time.

“A binge is a balancing act for an area in life we are in tight control.”

What does this mean? Somewhere in our life, we have an excess of control. We are holding the reigns so tightly that our “wild child” inside wants to be let go so desperately that it morphs over into another area of our life: food.

These controls can come in the form of food, others, and emotions.

Maybe we keep our food intake far too rigid, restricting certain macronutrients (i.e. fat) or counting calories obsessively as if we might die if we miscount a calorie.

Or it’s possible that we try and control other people in our lives – our kids, parents, spouse, friends, coworkers…the list goes on and on. It might also be that we feel we have to control ourselves when we are around others as well, trying to maintain a certain image.

Lastly, our emotions could be the source of this excess of control. Do we refuse to let our true emotions show? Do we try and suppress any emotions that come up, whether good or bad? When we hold our emotions in without releasing them at some point, they’re bound to fester and appear at the most inopportune time.

Another factor to consider is an afternoon or evening binge. Which time of day are you more likely to find yourself in that uncanny situation facing the open fridge and cupboard door?

If you tend to overeat in the afternoon, we need to consider the food eaten up to that point. Did you eat enough protein and fat and both breakfast and lunch (breakfast most importantly)? Did you fulfill your macronutrient (calorie) AND micronutrient (vitamins and mineral) needs with the foods you’ve eaten so far? Choosing real, whole foods in a PFC balanced template as I’ve discussed before is the best way to control blood sugar and suppress the need for afternoon uncontrollable eating.

However, if you tend to be an evening overeating, the same can be true plus there is another factor that comes into the picture: emotions. Most of us spend the day holding our emotions in so tightly, most of the time at work (we don’t want to lose it in front of your customers/co-workers), that when we get home, our body has to overcompensate for that rigid control it has felt all day. This is definitely the more common type.

In order to break the overeating cycle, no matter the source of control and time of day, you need to bring awareness to the situation. The best way to do this is by ritualizing your binge. Plan it out down to the last detail. Make it exciting. Make it beautiful. Pick all of your favorite foods, and DON’T worry about limiting any of them. Sit down at the table with a plate and fork and slowly, in a relaxed state, go through all the foods that you want to eat during the binge. Make sure you are also in a quiet environment free from electronic distractions

As you do this, notice what emotions come up for you. Is it uncomfortable to sit at the table withOUT distractions (i.e. TV and phone)? Do you feel alone? Lonely? Bored? Are you jumpy, trying to remember what you forgot to do? Do you find it hard to sit still and be present? Be intuitive. Dig deep. This is where the real answers lie.

Because you’ve slowed down and ritualized the binge, you’ll likely eat less and be able to start to piece together what imbalances in your life that you need to address in order to solve the overeating problem. It’s not as easy as “diet harder and power through it,” it’s about finding the root cause behind these issues in the first place.

Journaling is one of the best ways to dive deeper into these areas of tight control. For instance, you might make a “control inventory” list, a “pleasure inventory” checklist, or my favorite “wild woman/man wish list.”

Take a second to think through each of those prompts. They might seem silly at first, but oh how powerful they can be.

For instance, when I thought about my pleasure inventory, my mind sort of went blank. Yes, I could name items on that list, but how many of them do I actually do regularly? Not very many.

Or the wild woman checklist? That was easy to think about, but the thought of actually doing any of the items on that list would mean stepping WAY out of my comfort zone. Regardless, all three prompts were very insightful into some of the control imbalances in my life that I still need to work through.

What does journaling and sitting with these prompts do? They help you dig deeper into the root causes of your health imbalances that you might have previously tried to cover up. We all have crazy shit from our past, some worse than others, but still that is all too real. It is when we start to unpack it that we can start to truly heal. Building a wall around it and planting flowers to disguise it only serve to perpetuate the problem, leading to other unintended consequences (i.e. binge eating).

What are your thoughts on all of this? Does it scare you? Intimidate you? Good. That’s a sign it’s for you to try.

xoxo Olivia

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