"Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by compulsive overeating in which people consume huge amounts of food while feeling out of control and powerless to stop. Individuals who binge often eat even when they’re not hungry and continue eating long after they’re full. They may also gorge themselves as fast as they can while barely registering what they’re eating or tasting." - HelpGuide.org Binge eating affects more people than anorexia and bulimia combined and yet it doesn't get near as much coverage? Why? Because it's unattractive. No one wants to talk about the dirty details of feeding your feelings to the point of sickening discomfort. Well guess what? I'm gonna talk about it because I think something needs to be said. In the last month I've had more than a handful of individuals confess to me their struggle with bingeing. Adults, who have never addressed the issue because no one was willing to discuss it. So, let's open the floor.
I'm going to paraphrase a friend who has given me permission to share her struggle:
"I'll do so well during the day, counting calories, choosing salads and fruit, but at night my BED (binge eating disorder) monster comes out. Once I'm home alone I'll gorge on whatever I can find. It starts out okay…maybe I'll make something reasonably healthy for dinner like a sandwich…but then I'll end up having three. My healthy turkey sandwich turns into two peanut butter and jellys, which just turns into eating half the jar of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Maybe I'll eat 4 or 5 more slices of bread too. But that's still not enough. I'll open the fridge and go through an entire jar of pickles. 3 candy bars, half a gallon of ice-cream, a bag of chips and probably a half a pound of cheese later I wake up from my daze and feel so sick that I feel the need to vomit. 4,000-5,000 calories later, I sit there holding my belly and am overcome by intense feelings of worthlessness. I binge to fill a void but after I'm done bingeing the void is still there.
Some of you might be able to relate. And just because you don't fit the diagnostic criteria for a Binge Eating Disorder doesn't mean you don't struggle. Perhaps for you it looks like overeating in private after everyone else has gone to bed, or maybe your car is filled with fast food trash because you don't want anyone else to know. Maybe you don't ever allow yourself to feel full and continue to stuff your belly of unneeded food until you feel depressed and physically ill. Bingeing can come in many forms.
- Inability to stop eating or control what you’re eating
- Rapidly eating large amounts of food
- Eating even when you're full
- Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
- Eating normally around others, but gorging when you’re alone
- Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes
- Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating
- Embarrassment over how much you’re eating
- Feeling numb while bingeing—like you’re not really there or you’re on auto-pilot.
- Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
- Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
- Desperation to control weight and eating habits
I am not a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, and for some, seeing a health professional is the next best step. But here's the advice I can give you in order to help fight the battle against binging and unplanned eating:
1. Eat a healthy breakfast. Don't restrict yourself excessively all day. That will inevitably lead to overeating at night. Give your body the nutrients it needs. Starting your day with 300-500 wholesome calories is a great launching pad. Choose a breakfast comprised of lean protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. Eggs, veggies and turkey bacon, or Greek yogurt with oats and berries are a few great options.
2. Check in with your body. The underlying issue of any eating disorder is usually psychological, so learning to become more aware of your physiological status is important. How do you feel? When was the last time you ate? What is your body telling you? Don't simply give in to emotional impulses. Think, then act.
3. Think ahead and create a plan. Mentally organise your day and the food-related activities that will ensue. Are you going out to lunch with colleagues? Check for the menu online so you're prepared to order and aren't taken by surprise. What will you make for dinner that will keep you satisfied until bedtime? Will you, at any point, be alone and tempted to overeat? What strategies can you use to fight against unplanned eating?
4. Add movement to your day. Take a walk around the block. Go to the gym with a friend. Do some relaxing yoga or stretching at home. Exercise has shown to work wonders on stress levels and help fight against depression. Activate your pleasure centres with something other than food and drink.
5. Stock up on the good, toss out the bad. Create a clean, stress-free environment for yourself. So that when you're tempted to overeat your choices are carrots and hummus, cottage cheese and air popped popcorn instead of unhealthy, high-calorie snacks likes chips, sweets and treats. The world is a battlefield, your home should feel safe.
6. Have a person. Your person. Who you can call, text or email at any time of day. A coach/mentor/friend who will talk you off a ledge if need be, or encourage you to keep fighting when you need it. Find that person and allow them to invest in you.
As I was preparing to write the curriculum for our next Nutrition Support Group at emPower Training Systems I wanted to focus on the psychology of nutrition. So many of us know exactly what we need to do in order to lose weight or get healthy, but for some reason we can't seem to follow through. I would argue that it's because our sabotaging thoughts, negative mindsets and emotional justifications get in the way. Emotional eating is when we eat to satisfy a need other than hunger. When was the last time you ate because you were hungry? Do you even know what hunger feels like? We're all guilty of emotional eating at times, but at what point does it become unhealthy? When does it start affecting your life and the lives of those around you in a negative way? And what can you do about it?
I've learned a lot in prepping for this next series and I only hope that those involved will feel the same way. If you're interested in joining our next Nutrition Support Group, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love the community of people I get to work with, sharing stories; failures and successes with each other in order to build one another up. Remember, this doesn't have to be a secret struggle. You aren't alone in this.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.