Have you ever wondered how to stop binging especially when you feel like your urge to binge is so powerful it truly has a life of its own and that no matter how much you know you want to stop binging it just seems to keep happening?
It’s very frustrating to see that night after night, no matter what promises you make to yourself or how you plan your day, you always seem to end up drawn, like the moth to the flame, to the nearest drive thru, local convenience store or perhaps to your own private treat stash.
The lack of follow through on your good intentions to eat well and ‘have a good day’ food wise, has many negative consequences both in the moment and beyond.
For starters, eating more than you are hungry for often adds extra weight to your body. Also the fact that people often overeat foods that are high in carbohydrate and / or refined sugar means that it’s fat we are putting on our body and not muscle mass. Oh, if only we felt drawn to binge on lean protein and veggies rather than on candy and bread. We’d still be overeating but at least the consequence would be less harsh.
It isn’t the binge, it’s the diet that’s keeping you stuck in binging behaviour.
These consequences that humans experience from binging are both long and short term, and mental and emotional. Some examples are:
a) Being overweight, or at least not your best self physically; perhaps a little more paunchy or jiggley than you might like which can make you feel less confident with others and less comfortable in your own skin and spend your precious life struggling with diets and weight loss plans to compensate.
b) The extreme fluctuations in your mood from the sugar you are ingesting. (Remember that processed carbohydrates like bread, chips, crackers etc. quickly become sugar in your body too, so even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, those savories are impacting you almost exactly as they would if they were candy).
These foods initially trigger a chemical spike in your body that raises your dopamine levels and makes you feel happy and soothed and comforted. (After all, dopamine is known as the feel-good hormone.) Then just as quickly they trigger a compensatory downward spike in your mood as the sugar rush ends, dopamine levels fall, and now you’re depressed, judging yourself, and tired and wanting more.
c) Then there’s the experience of witnessing yourself break yet another promise to yourself. Where is that damn willpower when you need it anyway? How can we be so competent and capable in other areas of our lives and yet seem to completely lack any stamina and follow through whatsoever when it comes to ourselves and what and how much we are eating?
I could go on, but I’d say that that list alone is enough evidence to support the argument that your life would be much better off if you could just really truly trust yourself to not binge anymore. Wouldn’t you? Agreed!
When I was a little girl I inadvertently discovered that bread and cookies and cakes and chips and sweet things made me feel better, calmer. It seemed at least for that moment that things were going to be okay. This little pick-me-up protocol had a nasty side-effect though and that was to add a little extra weight to my developing frame, giving me rather a stocky appearance and, as my family used to not hesitate to point out privately or otherwise, a tummy that looked like that of a starving child from Ethiopia (their judgement not mine).
My mother’s preoccupation with appearance and weight and her own fears that I might be picked on, just as she was as a child, led her to put me on diet after diet after diet, each of which naturally failed because of what I dubbed my ‘pantry-raids.’ These private little parties consisted on me tucking myself securely in the corner of my bedroom closet after school or late at night and proceeding to gorge myself on whatever I had found in the pantry earlier that day or just a moment before. (As a side note, cherry pie filling is surprisingly tasty out of the can. As was icing, and notably, even bakers chocolate could do in a pinch.)
I’d then hide the evidence of my pantry-raid deep in the garbage can, and if it was after school I’d then force myself to eat dinner so as not to raise suspicion. If it was evening I’d just feel guilty and worry that I’d get caught and get in trouble. Needless to say it wasn’t an entirely pleasurable experience but it gave me something I really needed at that time: comfort, soothing, and numbing from the moment.
Funnily enough no one in my family ever said anything about the disappearance of multiple cans, boxes and bags of sugar filled foods. I imagine my mother knew exactly what was happening and in her own confused way, this was her way of allowing me some comfort in an otherwise stressful and sometimes downright scary environment.
Anyway, my point is, I had many years of binging experience under my ever-straining belt by the time I finally stopped trying to ‘cure’ myself through dieting and weight loss programs and instead started to take a look at what was really going on underneath. In fact I think you could confidently state that I had a PhD in binging and dieting and self-loathing, having mastered the art of the diet-binge-guilt cycle by the age of 10.
The Diet-Binge-Guilt cycle refers to a pattern of restricting something (or of someone else restricting something) and then having it or engaging in it anyway, despite the imposed restriction and then feeling guilty. This is followed by another well-intended commitment to restriction which sooner or later triggers another binge, triggering more guilt and so on.
The Diet-Binge-Guilt cycle is human nature. It isn’t about willpower, mine or yours, nor is it about being good or bad or competent or capable. It just is.
You see, when human beings experience a sense of restriction, whether self-imposed or externally imposed, they naturally feel a sense of frustration and an increasing preoccupation with the restricted thing/person/situation begins to develop (Just watch what happens when you tell a toddler that they can’t have a toy, or stay at the park, or stay up any later tonight. The truth is, adults have the same immediate response to being denied something they want. They just handle that response and their desired a little bit differently – most of the time.).
This preoccupation with the restricted object grows and grows until whatever barriers we (or others) erected to keep ourselves within our established guidelines become irrelevant. In other words, in that moment, we just don’t flippin’ care that we aren’t supposed to have X we just want what we want. In fact, in that moment, we are far beyond wanting it’s more like an overriding urgent need and we need it NOW!
And so, regardless of our good intentions; what we said we were and weren’t going to do, and our sincere desire, in the moment of making that agreement, to reap the rewards of following through, we cave, we bail, we give in and experience that all too familiar emotional concoction of guilt, shame, relief and soothing, just like I did in my closet as a little girl.
So much for the diet of the day, and our plan to keep it together.
Good, then you’ve come to the right place if you’d like to stop riding the binging train and instead experience complete and lasting relief from binging and dieting and weight loss programs.
Next week I’m going to share a little exercise with you that I teach all of my clients early in our work together. It is the foundation for complete freedom from food stress and I want you to be able to experiment with it in the privacy of your own mind and in your own home and see how it effects your need to binge and how stuck in the diet-binge-guilt cycle you feel.
For this week, I invite you to reflect on the points in this article about the consequences of binging and notice when you are being impacted by them and how they affect your day, your evening, your ability to relate well to others, and your overall energy and zest for life. If you were to take just a moment to write down a note or two about what you observe this week you’ll get even more out of our exercise next week.
The more conscious you are of this, the easier it will be for you to add the little experiment into your day and you’ll experience greater benefit from doing so.
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