Overeating

Binge eating and restoring balance: The expert’s guide to balanced eating

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. 

Explore: The importance of gut health – plus the best and worst foods for your gut

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. 

Related: Are you an emotional overeater? Here are 5 ways to help you overcome it

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;

Psychological

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. 

Explore: Managing stress and how to make it work for you 

Chemical

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.

Sociocultural

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. 

Healthy Gut

The importance of gut health – plus the best and worst foods for your gut

We often hear the words “that’s healthy” or “that’s unhealthy” when talking about food but did you know that there’s more to it than just that? Your gut health is something a little different and something you need to start thinking about.

Everything you eat and drink has an impact on your body whether it be big or small. Some foods and drinks can have a bigger effect on your overall health though. That’s why it’s important to start thinking about what you’re putting into your body and how it influences your gut health.

The focus on gut health has become increasingly prevalent over the last few years and there’s a good reason for it. This blog takes a deeper look into all things gut health and gives you some great tips on the best and worst foods for your gut.

What is gut health?

Your gut has bacteria known as the microbiome and what you eat directly influences the makeup of this bacteria.

Gut health refers to the physical state and physiologic function of the many parts of your gastrointestinal tract.

Basically, what that means is that what you’re eating has a direct impact on your health. A healthy gut reduces your chances of developing chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer and reduces inflammation, keeps your brain healthy and should help you maintain a healthy weight.

By changing your diet ever so slightly, you can keep the bacteria in your gut at a healthy balance which will make you feel better from the inside out.

The importance of prioritising your gut health

Everything you eat is broken down in your gut into a simple form that can enter your bloodstream and be delivered as nutrients throughout your body. But this is only possible if you have a healthy digestive system.

If your gut is healthy, it has healthy bacteria and immune cells that protect you from infectious agents like unhealthy bacteria, viruses and fungi. If your gut is healthy, it also communicates with your brain through your nerves and hormones which helps you maintain your general health and well-being.

Discover: Are you an emotional overeater? Here are 5 ways to help you overcome it

What are the signs of gut health problems?

Now that we’ve spoken about the importance of a healthy gut, you might be wondering but how do I know if I have any gut health issues?

Well, most people will experience some sort of digestive problem like abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools, constipation, heartburn, nausea or vomiting at some time. This is pretty normal if it isn’t happening continually. If these symptoms persist for a long period, it may be time to contact a doctor.

Other signs that you have gut health problems could include;

  • Weight loss without a good reason
  • Blood in the stool or black stool (a sign of bleeding in the gut)
  • Severe vomiting
  • Fever
  • Severe stomachaches
  • Trouble swallowing food
  • Pain in your throat or chest when you swallow food
  • Jaundice (a yellow discolouration of your skin or eyes)

These symptoms could indicate that you have underlying gastrointestinal problems that could have serious consequences. Please contact your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

What you should and shouldn’t be eating

To keep your gut healthy and avoid any underlying gastrointestinal issues, there are some foods you can introduce into your diet to help with your gut health. There are a few foods you should avoid too.

The best foods

If you have a nutritious diet overall, you won’t need to consume low-nutrient, calorie-dense foods that keep your stomach asking for more. With a well-balanced diet, you’ll feel full, satisfied and your overall health and energy levels will improve.

The best foods to include in your diet to promote a healthy gut are;

  • Healthy fats like avocado or nuts
  • Nuts and seeds
  • High-fiber, low-glycemic carbs like leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower)
  • Slow carbs, like sweet potatoes and butternut squash
  • Hypoallergenic proteins (pea, rice, hemp, chia)
  • Clean and lean proteins like free-range poultry, fish and grass-fed meats
  • Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut or you can even drink kombucha
  • Greek yoghurt

The worst foods

Dairy

For many people, the two proteins in milk, casein and whey, can be hard to digest. A lot of individuals also lack enough enzyme lactase to break down the lactose in milk which can make you feel bloated, gassy and even give you diarrhoea.

Gluten

Gluten makes food fluffy like in bread rolls but it can have a negative impact on your gut. Some people have a gluten intolerance which can cause bloating and other symptoms depending on your level of gluten intolerance (this can include rashes on your skin).

Soy

Soy and its derivatives can be found everywhere from tofu to edamame to protein bars and powders. Many soy products are genetically modified which means these products are heavily processed which can lead to gut issues like leaky gut (inflammation, digestive issues etc).

Processed and refined foods

The biggest issue with processed and refined foods is that they lack diversity and fibre. They’re often filled with added sugars, salt, artificial sweeteners and/or additives and preservatives. Foods like sweets, biscuits and bread that have huge amounts of preservatives are okay but in moderation. We’re not suggesting you should cut these foods from your diet completely but limit the amount that you eat.

Your microbiome thrives on diverse fibres and polyphenols from a variety of colourful fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This is why it’s so important to focus on creating a diet or lifestyle that has a variety of nutrient-dense food that keeps you satisfied and your gut happy.