Have you gotten caught up in a loop of overeating and/or binging? A lot of people think that once they overeat, it means that they are a bad person with no self-control or discipline.
A binge is different for each person. Eating a cookie may be considered a binge for one individual and for another it may be a very large amount of food.
Binging is actually a natural response to feeling deprived when you feel that you’re not permitted or ‘supposed’ to eat the food you want to eat. The binge occurs at the moment when the person is no longer able to tolerate the feelings of deprivation they are experiencing. Feeling the stress of overwhelming emotions triggers a binge.
Consider a binge as an act of desperation
To a person who binges, they know that they feel pressured to eat because it feels like the only way out of whatever situation they’re facing. It’s a very helpless sensation to feel so powerless and out of control around food. Because there is so much shame and guilt around the idea of binging, a person who binges often eats very quickly and chews very little. This can lead to pain or abrasions in the throat from swallowing large or hard pieces of food that haven’t been properly broken down from chewing. It also often leads to swallowing air, which causes discomfort with gas and bloating.
Past the point of the first few bites of the forbidden food, the taste is perceived as less satisfying and appealing. In the scientific community, this is known as “negative alliesthesia.”
In their book, “Body Respect,” co-authors, Linda Bacon, Ph.D and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD explain the reasoning for this saying, “your taste buds tone down on repeated exposure. This is nature’s way of prompting you to eat less once your calorie needs are met.”
Stop Shaming Yourself for Overeating
There’s a lot of reasons that people overeat. Sometimes you just get so swept away with the taste of the food that you lose all sense of feeling full. We all overeat, and it’s really no big deal, as long as you can put it into a bigger perspective. But sometimes a binge is an act of desperation and it’s during those times when it’s important to recognize that you deserve to be compassionate with yourself when you find yourself unable to stop eating pushing past the point of pain.
Just like a 2 year old child throws a temper tantrum by getting down on the floor, kicking and screaming, eating when you’re under pressure is your body’s way of saying, “I can’t deal with it anymore.”
But if you were raised to believe that overeating is proof that you are just a greedy pig with no self-control, you would end up feeling terribly shameful each time you give into temptation and overeat. And the shame and guilt that you feel towards yourself around overeating will only pile more stress on top of an already monumental amount of pressure that you’re facing.
Do you ever try to talk yourself out of eating by saying mean things about your body or putting yourself down? Saying hurtful things and talking disrespectfully to yourself can often lead to more overeating and binging in an attempt to feel better.
The insight that inspired me to stop trash talking myself
Like so many people, I used to think that I could solve all my problems by losing weight, so I spent years in the pursuit of getting thinner. One day in 2006, I looked at myself in the mirror feeling shocked and disgusted for regaining nearly 35 pounds. In that moment, I had an epiphany that made me realize that the nasty, sarcastic and disrespectful way I had learned to talk to myself was a big part of the problem that fueled my constant binging. Somewhere along the way I had become my own worst enemy.
If you’re an emotional eater, your brain and body have long ago established a pattern that food = comfort. In the absence of having other ways to deal with your stress, your body has come to rely on eating to feel better.In her book, Binge Eating: How to Stop It Forever, author and psychotherapist, Gloria Arenson says, “binge eating is not so much a problem as it is a statement about unresolved issues in a person’s life.”
Here’s what I learned about how to break the binge cycle with self-compassion:
Embrace the Process: Changing your relationship with food takes time. Each time you overeat, consider these ‘mistakes’ as valuable learning experiences.
No judgment: Think about what kinds of things set you off and make you want to reach for food when you know that you can’t possibly be hungry. Do you get the urge to eat when you expect that you’ll get rejected? Does food cry out to you when you feel pressured ‘to be perfect’ and shoulder the burden of trying to take care of everyone? How ’bout when you can’t stand the way you look?
Talk to Yourself Gently: When we treat ourselves harshly as in the way we talk to ourselves or handle our bodies, it sends a message to our brains that we don’t believe that we deserve better and gentler treatment. By taking a fresh approach and allowing yourself to be curious after you overeat, it enables you to think more clearly and to gain insight into what situation actually triggered the anxiety that made food seem like the right answer at the time.
Give yourself permission to eat: If you love broccoli and your house is filled with it, and you knew you could satisfy your every broccoli crave anytime you wanted to, it would never appeal to you unless you were hungry. After the novelty of the forbidden fruit disappears, the same goes with any other food, even chocolate. On the other hand, if you love broccoli, and you deprive yourself of eating it, and you remove it from your home, and any other place that is easily accessible, you will go out of your way to get your broccoli fix. To end the cycle of deprivation, buy the food you love in quantity and keep it accessible and replenish it whenever your reserves run low.
Change the goal: Stop focusing on food and weight. As long as getting thinner is your most important goal, it sends a threatening message to that part of your subconscious mind that fears change. This will trigger any inner conflicts that you have around feeling safe being a smaller size. For women who have encountered any kind of sexual abuse or had awkward and uncomfortable or confusing sexual experiences that left them feeling shameful, this can trigger excess feelings of hunger and lead to weight gain.
Forgive yourself whenever you overeat. Forgiveness is the greatest gift that you can ever give yourself. I urge you to practice this each and every time you overeat in order to create a new empowering habit of self-love and gentleness.
As a gal who’s been in recovery from emotional eating for years, I’ve learned that there are no easy answers and everyone’s needs are different. But for the most part, to break the pattern of stress eating, you have to be more compassionate and treat yourself with more love.
If you’re tired of feeling shameful about your binging, desperate and hating your body, I can help you develop new habits of self-nurturing and kindness. I invite you to join my free coaching group, “30 Days to Lovin’ the Skin You’re In”. Click the image below to check it out: