Did you know that there’s a difference between bingeing every now and then and an actual binge eating disorder? The term ‘binge eating’ is thrown around often but there’s so much more you need to understand.
Many people complain about their relationship with food and attribute this to binge eating. There are different types of binge eating though. There’s the Friday night binge after a long, hard week where you just need some takeaways, a dessert, chips, some choccies and maybe even a couple of biscuits.
Then there’s the more serious side to binge eating. Binge eating disorder (BED) is a type of feeding and eating disorder that’s now recognised as an official diagnosis.
Everyone has experienced some form of binge eating but that doesn’t always mean you have BED. Let’s take a deeper look into this.
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What is binge eating?
Binge eating is when you eat even when you aren’t hungry and continue to eat until the point where you are over-full or feel physically ill.
Binge eating can be something you experience periodically but it can also turn into a disorder where in addition to eating large amounts of food in excess and to the point of discomfort, you also feel out of control when eating and have a sense of shame or guilt.
Binge eating more often can have serious implications on your health and wellness and it’s important to restore a sense of balance to your relationship with food.
The psychology behind binge eating
Bingeing behaviours extend beyond food. Bingeing can include eating, drinking, shopping and more and all types of binge behaviours actually have similar causes.
According to clinical psychologists, bingeing helps people deal with their negative emotions that they can’t deal with rationally.
Many of us have had a moment of self-indulgence when things just feel too tough but when does the occasional overindulgence become an actual problem?
Well, according to clinical psychologists, bingeing can become a full-fledged disorder when characterised by feelings of powerlessness, secrecy, shame and isolation.
When you start to feel that you need to hide away and binge in private or you need to schedule your binges around work and social plans, then you may need to dive a little deeper into why you’re doing this and figure out whether or not you need to ask for some help.
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Why do we feel the need to binge?
There are a variety of reasons why you may seek comfort in binge eating. Some of these can be;
As we mentioned above, feelings of unhappiness, frustration and the like can be “numbed” by binge eating, even if for a limited time.
Sadly though, what often happens is the pain and guilt in the aftermath of a binge can trigger stress which may lead to another binge and the cycle can continue.
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You know that feeling of euphoria after biting into a delicious meal or dessert? Binge eating can give you a similar chemical reaction.
Often people overindulge because it feels great (until they begin to feel guilty). Our brains release the feel-good neurotransmitter of dopamine in high quantities when we eat something that brings us joy.
You can imagine what happens next. Once your brain gives you that euphoric feeling during a binge, that feeling can become a physical addiction. You’re then more likely to binge more often because you crave that same rush of chemicals.
Society can be tough and cause feelings of self-consciousness and like you aren’t good enough. The need to fit in can lead to bingeing in many different forms.
Managing the guilt around (binge) eating
The guilt associated with a binge can be crippling. And it can feel like it’s impossible to get over.
These are some of our tips that should help you manage the feelings of guilt:
Spot your “should”s and “shouldn’t”s
Start paying attention to how often your inner dialogue includes the words should or shouldn’t. How many times do you say “I shouldn’t eat that” or “I should be doing that”? The second you start saying I should or I shouldn’t, you’re immediately making yourself feel guilty.
Be more mindful
Actually think about what you’re eating and how much. It’s so easy to get caught up in your feelings and trying to find a quick fix but really think about what you want and what will serve your mind and body.
Eat slowly and think about how you feel. Remain in tune with your body, it will tell you what you need and even if your mind is yelling “more!”, your body is probably begging you to stop so pay attention.
Unfollow accounts on social media that are triggering
Social media can be a very triggering environment. From “what I eat in a day” posts to the never-ending posts about hustle culture, it can leave you feeling less than adequate.
Unfollow accounts that trigger negative emotions in you and cause you to use binge eating as a coping mechanism.
Talk to yourself like you’re talking to a friend
Be kind. You’re your own worst critic and we can be so hard on ourselves. Change the thoughts you have about yourself. Think to yourself, “would I say this to one of my best friends?”, if the answer is no then why would you talk to yourself like that?
Building a balanced relationship with food
This isn’t an easy thing to do. Many of us struggle with food. Whether we’re worried about gaining weight or if something is healthy or not, our minds are constantly dissecting food.
When you feel the urge to binge, take a step back and acknowledge how you’re feeling, as difficult as it may be. Truly think about why you feel the need to eat right now. Consider questions like;
- Am I hungry?
- How will this make me feel later?
- Does this serve what I am trying to achieve?
- Do I need to eat or am I trying to hide my feelings?
The best thing you can do is be conscious about what you’re doing and why. If you feel like you’re really struggling, please never feel ashamed to reach out for help.