Coming off of a very food centric holiday season, I think most of us are feeling like need to re-asses what a responsible portion size is. I don’t know about you, but when I’m surrounded by nostalgic, homemade comfort food, all I want to do is binge eat.
And after a week or so of indulging like that, it become really difficult to break the habit.
For many people, binge eating isn’t just a short-term habit. “Binge eating disorder” is a very real disease in which a person loses the ability to stop eating, even when their body is technically full. It is not just about self-control, or lack thereof. It is a disease, and it can be very dangerous, even life threatening
I want to take this opportunity to stress once again that I am NOT A DOCTOR or therapist or professional of any type. If you are concerned you have binge eating disorder, I want to encourage you to seek professional help, but also know that this condition can be managed and even cured!
Signs / Symptoms Of Binge Eating Disorder
Most of us overeat occasionally, and some of us suffer from regular urges to binge eat, even if we haven’t been diagnosed with a disorder. This can often lead to weight management issues, though isn’t always the case. Nutritional deficiencies are
Some people who binge eat consistently, try to curb the effects by either using laxatives or purging to get rid of the food, and others may turn to obsessive exercise to “work it off”. These aren’t cures for binge eating – they’re enabling habits.
Some of the most common signs of letting your binge eating get out of control may be:
- Feeling like you couldn’t stop eating, even if you wanted to
- Eating for the sake of eating, even when you aren’t hungry
- Gobbling down huge amounts of food within a short period of time
- Eating really fast, so that you can physically eat more (I was so bad at this, I practically bragged about it!)
- Keeping your meal-times secret, so nobody realizes just how much you eat
- Feeling guilty after you eat, or even ashamed or depressed
- Yo-yo dieting
If any of those sound like you, trust me, you are NOT ALONE! I used to do many, if not all of those things and I was never diagnosed nor treated for binge eating disorder. I did have a disordered relationship with my food, however, and it wasn’t doing me any favours.
Are You At Risk For Becoming a Binge Eater?
Binge eating doesn’t just happen. There are usually triggers or factors which lead up to a binge eating “fest”, and might eventually lead to a significant problem. Some of the most obvious risk factors may include:
- Family History & Family Eating Habits. the way you were introduced to food can and will have a big impact on how you related to food throughout your entire life. If you have a relative that is prone to binge eating, or if you were raised to believe eating huge portion sizes was simply normal, this could increase your likelihood of having issues surrounding portion control.
- Psychological Difficulties. Eating is closely linked to our emotions, both positively and negatively. We live in a society that embraces food to celebrate any occasion with food. If you’ve just been promoted, your significant other might treat you to a fancy dinner. If you’ve just been dumped by your significant other, your best friend might show up with a truckful of ice cream. Binge eating out of boredom, stress, or depression is incredibly common, and can quickly spiral out of control.
- Dieting. Most diets work by restricting what you eat in some way, shape or form. Unfortunately, if you make massive changes in your eating habits in a very short period of time (like most diets require), it’s very unlikely to be sustainable habits. You’re more likely to “fall off the wagon”, rebel, or overcompensate on cheat days with massive binges.
- Age. While it’s possible to start binging at any age, it is most commonly triggered in the late teens or early 20s. I suspect this is partly due to hormonal surges and also to a lack of kitchen skills. When you’re first introduced into the world on your own – if you’re anything like me – you may not have the skills to cook for yourself. That often leads to fast food, which is served in massive portions, has very little nutritional value, and leaves you desperately craving more.
Why Is Binge Eating So Dangerous?
If you haven’t already guessed, binge eating can lead to some serious physical and psychological problems.
Do any of these sound familiar:
- Eating way too much food in one sitting and then feeling terrible about yourself – physicially and emotionally
- Thinking about food so often it’s hard to function properly in social situations, or while you’re at work
- Getting depressed when you think about your life…and how it’s NOT what you pictured it being
- Having an overall poor quality of life, health wise
- Isolating yourself socially from others
- Constantly struggling with your weight
- Suffering from food and/or weight related medical problems, such as
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- osteoarthritis of the joints
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (also called GERD)
- breathing problems (sleep apnea, etc)
There can be even more dangerous psychiatric disorders linked to binge eating problems, but again, I am NOT A DOCTOR and if you’re in dire straits, please contact a professional in your area for a full evaluation of your eating behaviors. Some conditions to be aware of include: bipolar disorder, symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, and even heavy drug use. Your doctor may do a complete physical examination, including blood or urine tests, and consultations for diagnosing sleep disorders.
How To Cure Occasional Binge Eating
Binge eating can be dangerous to your physical, mental and emotional well-being, and curing yourself before it become a serious concern is the smartest preventative solution.
As with just about everything in life, there is no one size fits all solution. But there are some commonalities for you to start thinking about.
Find Your Personal Trigger
Often, when we find ourselves binge eating, something has triggered the behaviour. If you can self-diagnose your trigger, you can start to be more mindful of your reaction. Understanding WHY you do what you do is a powerful means of curing yourself. Some common triggers – but by no means an exhaustive list – include:
- Ordering In. Almost all delivery meals are WAY too much food to eat in a single sitting, but…if it’s there, we’re much more likely to simply consume! (Chinese or Indian food deliveries are my downfall!)
- Eating Out. Again, we’re probably being served much too much for a single serving, but throw in the social aspects and you’re less likely to realize how much your eating…or to care
- Exhaustion. The more tired you are, the more likely you are to simply eat on autopilot, not giving your body an opportunity to tell you when it’s full.
- Overly Emotional. If you’re excited or sad or overwhelmed in any way, you’re more likely to feed your emotions, without a care in the world about your stomach
- Over Serving. If you put too much on your plate to start with, you’re more likely to eat it all, whether or not you’re hungry for it
Once you’ve identified your trigger, start paying attention to how you react every time it comes up. Being mindful of your behaviour is a big step towards changing your habits. Keep a notebook or journal handy at all times is a great way to physically keep track of your triggers…and your reactions!
Change Your Routine
Once you understand your triggers and are well practiced at being mindful of your reactions, it’s time to start changing your routine. You are strong enough to stop habits that are negatively affecting your life! Try replacing binge eating with something else, that is just as rewarding.
- Perhaps a warm drink after a regular sized meal will give you the full feeling you crave.
- Maybe keeping track of the money you save by eating less will allow you to treat yourself to a mani/pedi at the end of the month
- Going for a walk with your significant other after eating, and then coming home to a nice glass of wine could give you the intimacy your craving, without requiring an extra hour spent at the dinner table
Choose To Cook
Ultimately, I find that making the decision to cook healthy, wholesome, filling and delicious foods for yourself is a great way to curb your appetite for access. Buy replacing quantity with quality, you can help your body physically recover from the damage of binge eating. Developing new skills in the kitchen can set you up psychologically to believe in yourself, and respect yourself.
Choosing to cook is powerful!
I hope this helps some of you come to terms with your eating habits. Binge eating is so common these days. We live in a world of plenty, which is just as much a blessing as it is a curse. But if you can start to control your eating habits, instead of letting them control you, better health is just around the corner!