5 Reasons Why You Might Be Binge EatingNov 07, 2021
As I woke up, for a few moments all I could feel was intense bliss. But then I remembered.
I binged again.
My mind flashed back to the night before. How I’d gone out to the corner shop in a daze. How I’d hurried through the store, searching for those foods I knew would numb me instantly. How ashamed I’d felt when the store clerk unpacked my shopping basket and scanned each item one by one. The relief I’d felt the moment that first bite touched my lips. The pain of my stomach as it stretched way past capacity. The food coma that ensued.
Filled with shame and disgust, I started thinking of all the different ways I could make up for this binge.
Not eating today. Double workouts all week. Juice cleanse.
Yet no matter how determined I was to change my life around, by nightfall I’d already broken all my promises again.
It’s such a horrible feeling. That despair that you feel when you realise that, yet again, you’ve let yourself down. And in those moments, it’s easy to think that you just need another diet, or a bit more willpower, to make everything right again.
But it never works.
Because our issues with food have nothing to do with food. It’s about what we use food for. For me, the key to overcoming binge eating wasn’t to focus on what to eat, but to understand why I did it.
Having since helped hundreds of women around the globe get to the root of why they binge, these are 5 of the most common reasons that keep popping up time and time again:
1. You may not be eating enough
I know your initial reaction when you read this might be “I’m binging! Of course I’m eating enough. I’m eating too much!” — but hear me out…
Many of us who struggle with binge eating have spent a considerable amount of our lives dieting. We’ve restricted calories and cut out entire food groups, to the point where the list of what we’re ‘allowed’ to eat becomes rather slim (I remember being afraid of eating perfectly natural foods like fruit and potatoes, but would then binge on pizza and ice cream later on).
At some point, the cumulative effect of these restrictions starts to take a toll on our body, which isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.
Our body interprets this as a warning signal to stock up on food whenever the opportunity strikes, causing us to binge the minute we let our guard down. But even when we binge, we tend to go for more processed and less nutrient-dense options — meaning that, even though we physically feel stuffed, our body is still starving.
As counterintuitive as this may seem, to stop binge eating we have to eat more — and specifically, eat more nutrient-dense foods.
Once we stock up on nutrients, our body can relax and we’ll experience fewer food cravings.
2. You’re being too hard on yourself
Have you ever paid attention to the voice in your head? Chances are, it’s not being very nice to you. Most women talk to themselves in a way they wouldn’t even dare to speak to their worst enemies.
“I can’t believe you gained weight again.”
“Look at how much you ate! You’re DISGUSTING!”
“Why can’t you get your shit together?”
“Everyone is going to notice how big you’ve gotten.”
“Your kids are going to be embarrassed by you.”
“Your husband never wants sex because of how fat you are.”
The way we talk to ourselves has a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and ultimately treat ourselves.
I used to constantly beat myself up over what I ate and how I looked, which left me feeling incredibly guilty and ashamed about myself. And the only way I knew how to soothe those uncomfortable feelings…. was through food.
When I started to pay more attention to my food cravings and why I was binge eating, I noticed that the vast majority of my binges were triggered by negative and self-critical thoughts. Learning to speak to myself in kinder and more compassionate ways was key to breaking the binge eating cycle once and for all.
3. You’re worrying about what other people think of you
There’s nothing that brings up more anxiety and worry in a human being than the fear of rejection. It’s a primal instinct that has been deeply instilled within us, stemming from prehistoric times where being accepted by the tribe was essential for our survival.
It’s why we people please, why we try to fit in. And it’s why we spend so much time worrying about what other people think of us.
But the more we focus on our flaws and all the ways we’re falling short of what other people expect of us, the more we feel terrible about ourselves… and the more we might feel the need to comfort ourselves with food.
Learning to stop worrying about what other people think of you and reclaiming your self-worth is a crucial part of the healing process.
4. You lack the tools to cope with your emotions in a healthy way
Very few of us were ever taught how to properly handle our emotions. It’s something we were supposed to learn from our parents, but most of them didn’t know how to do so either. Hence, we had to get creative and find other ways to self-soothe — and turning to food was a brilliant way of doing that.
Eating food releases a bunch of yummy brain chemicals, which do 3 things: they give us pleasure, they make us feel loved, and they provide pain relief. I mean… who’s going to say no to that?!
But while binge eating is an excellent tool when we don’t know how else to handle our emotions, it’s a temporary one, since it only kicks the problem further down the road.
While it temporarily allows us to escape those uncomfortable feelings, when that last bite of food crosses our lips, the feelings are still there — at which point we’ve either got to eat more or finally face the shadow.
5. You’re not happy with your life
How many times have you said to yourself: “Once I lose weight then I’ll do X!”
Sadly, many of us put our lives on hold while we’re waiting to shrink into a smaller jeans size — shrinking the amount of joy we experience in our lives in the process. And guess where then go and seek that joy instead? In food!
One lady just last week told me that she sends her husband to the beach with the kids because she just can’t bear the idea of being seen in a bathing suit. She knows her kids would love nothing more for her to be there with them, but she just feels too self-conscious to go — instead, she stays at home and ends up comforting herself with food.
Let me ask you this: if today was your last day on Earth, would you regret that you missed out on so many things because of the way you felt about yourself?
If the answer is yes, then stop waiting and start living. I can guarantee you that your kids, your friends, your family, they don’t care about what you look like, they just want you to be there so you can make lasting memories together.
Looking back over this list, I realise now that I used to experience all 5 on an almost daily basis (no wonder I felt out of control around food!).
It was only once I stopped trying to “fix” my binge eating through diet and exercise and started to address the root cause, that I was able to break free from the binge eating cycle once and for all.
Awareness is half the battle.
Once we understand why we turn to food, it empowers us to make different choices going forward.
What are you really craving?
Take the Decode Your Cravings quiz to uncover why you keep turning to food (even when you're determined not to!)