Binge Eating, An All Too Common Problem
Uncontrollable eating or binge eating is a very serious issue that is very rarely talked about. I work with many women who suffer from binge eating or uncontrollable eating. I too suffered from this syndrome after going through a very traumatic time in my life. I had lost my father and brother in a very short period of time and the way I dealt with my emotions was through food. It was a time when my whole world was turned upside down.
I have not publicly discussed this issue and I think it is about time. So many women who contact me are going through the same issue and I want you to know you are not alone anymore.
Binge Eating is an emotional response to stress; it actually has nothing to do with food or your lack of self-control. It is a way that some people deal with the overload of stress and emotions that are going on in their life.
It is time to end the silent suffering. Let’s get to the bottom of this so you can learn to manage binge eating and make it a thing of the past.
It may seem strange but when your life feels out of control, controlling what you eat may be the only thing you have control of and it temporarily relieves the stress and pain you are feeling.
But unfortunately it is a very temporary fix that leaves you feeling even worse after the binge is over. The feelings of failure, disgust, lack of self control and self-punishment set in making you feel worse than before the actual binge.
There’s A Party And I Am Not Invited?
Does this sound familiar to you? You decided to start a nutrition and exercise plan. You are doing a great job, exercising, eating well, and you think to yourself, this is it, this is the time I am going to be successful. I am going to stick to my diet and exercise plan and finally have the figure I have wanted for a long time.
You are planning your meals, starting to feel better and then you think, it’s not happening fast enough or you find yourself losing your drive and falling off the wagon. You think, what happened? I was doing so well and then all of a sudden BAM, it happened again, those negative thoughts come in your head. I can’t do this, I have no self control, no willpower.
You find yourself running into the drugstore for a candy bar or two or is it the drive through for french fries or maybe a bag of potato chips at the grocery store. You eat them and then feel so upset with yourself.
You want to cry, “why can’t I just control my eating” ? Maybe you do fine for a while and then all of a sudden you just feel down, you just want to curl up in a blanket, and shut the world out. You beat yourself up and then give up, thinking, “What’s the use, I can’t do it, just forget the whole thing. I am just supposed to be like this. What is the use?”
What if I told you it is not your fault? Would that make you feel better? It happens to so many women across the world. They have the best intentions and then something seems to stop their progress.
Well, it is not a secret anymore. It is your HORMONES. Your hormones are out of control, having a wild party in your body every month and they forgot to invite you!
Now that you know about the party, it’s time for you to take charge and be the party planner of your own body.
Are You Going To Eat That Cookie or Should I?
Cravings and out of control hunger are a big sign that your hormones are at their highest concentration during your monthly cycle. All of a sudden you find yourself switching from carrots and grilled chicken, which you were enjoying to craving chocolate, salty chips or ice cream.
This is because your body is low in serotonin at this time of the month and it is sending out signals to get more. The quickest way for us to get this “feel good” hormone is to eat carbs. This is why we get those uncontrollable cravings or just seem twice as hungry than we normally are. It is not that you don’t have strong enough willpower; it is your body sending signals out to eat more.
The best way to be in control of these cravings, are to first realize the reason why it is happening. “Now that you know it’s not because you are losing your willpower but it is a hormone shift in your body you can deal with it in a different way.”
Which Carb Do You Crave?
Sweet, salty, savory, smooth & creamy, crunchy, cake or cookies or just anything that has chocolate in it? Think about what you crave and write down a healthy alternative here so you will be prepared.
I crave _____________________________________________________
A healthy alternative I will use is____________________________________
Now we are going to have a plan of attack and by having healthy alternative carbs on hand to satisfy or “crowd out” these cravings and knowing it is OK to give into them is going to help a lot. Planning a preparation is key to being successful in managing those cravings when they hit.
For me it is chocolate. I love anything with chocolate. My healthy alternative at first was a chocolate chip Vita Muffin or a gluten free chocolate muffin. I found this satisfies my chocolate craving and was quick and easy. I felt satisfied after eating it and felt better knowing I had a healthy choice instead.
Once the craving is satisfied I am fine and can go on normally. Before I would try to deny myself chocolate, but what would happen instead would be that chocolate was all I could think about and I would have to eat it and then overindulge in it.
At a very low point in my life I remember making up excuses to go to the grocery store, like we are out of eggs, just so I could go buy chocolate and eat it in my car so no one would know. Sound familiar? Deprivation and hormones do not work. The hormones will win just about every time.
So I urge you to go and start to find a healthy replacement for when those crazy cravings hit. Now I make my own homemade chocolate healthy muffins and have them in the freezer for when the chocolate monster arrives.
Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
- Do you feel out of control when you’re eating?
- Do you think about food all the time?
- Do you eat in secret?
- You think what is wrong with me? Why can’t I control myself?
- Do you eat until you feel sick?
- Do you eat to escape from worries, relieve stress, or to comfort yourself?
- Do you feel disgusted or ashamed after eating?
- Do you feel powerless to stop eating, even though you want to?
Most binge eaters are very sneaky and will binge in private, they will hold on to their emotions until no one is around and then watch out. Some woman I work with will binge eat in their car after a grocery shopping trip before they return home or there is the every dependable drive through window. The fact is there is always going to be food around to binge on so how do we deal with or make this uncontrollable behavior go away?
The first step is to truly understand what binge eating is before we can conquer it. First lets understand what is truly going on. As I stated before, binge eating has nothing to do with food. It is a coping method to deal with an out of control stressful situation or life. It is the feeling you get from binging not from the food. Food is not the solution to the problem. It is actually dealing with the stress that will control the binge eating.
Binge eating is a chemical response to the stress.
When someone binge eats they grab cookies, cakes, sweets, ice cream or maybe pizza? Why because their bodies want to alleviate the feelings of guilt, disgust, and depression. They worry about what the compulsive eating will do to their bodies and beat themselves up for their lack of self-control. They desperately want to stop binge eating, but feel like they can’t. Binge eating is a chemical response to the stress. Eating more of these high carbohydrate foods releases more serotonin into the body.
Serotonin, in the “feel good” hormone. So quickly you feel better, but then when that feeling subsides, and it does, you feel even worse because you realize all the food you have eaten and the feelings of disgust, overwhelm, shame and I am not good enough come flooding back and with a powerful punch. The instant calm is gone just as fast as it came.
The good news is that binge eating can be conquered with work and learning the signals that trigger it and how to deal with them in a positive way.
Acknowledge that binge eating is a problem. Realize that it is not food that you need to make you feel better but rather dealing with the emotional issues causing the binging in the first place. Realize that it is not you it is the underlying stress that is causing the binge eating. This is the first step.
Clear Vision and Coping Skills
When the feelings of being uncomfortable, depression, stress, overwhelm, self doubt start coming you need to have new ways of dealing with the stress besides food.
Now that you understand what is happening it will be easier to deal with. It is a matter of learning new strategies to deal with the stress. If you feel the tidal wave coming over you, change what you are doing. I sometimes stop everything put on a pair of sneakers and go for a long or short walk. It totally clears my head, puts me in a different mind frame and gives me time to think things through.
Know what your triggers are, what sets you up for binge eating. My hands down number one trigger is sugar. I think I can control it but I really know I can’t. Sugar sends me into a downward spiral, I want more and more.
Another trigger for me is feeling overwhelmed with too much to do. It makes me very uncomfortable and then I will reach for food for comfort. The way I deal with this is to either say no to doing to many things at once. It is okay not to do it all. My motto is “It will Get Done Eventually,” I give myself the okay to take my time, and the world will not end.
Another way I deal with overwhelm is for a day or two to turn off my computer, limit my phone calls and texting and just do something for me. Read a book, shop, go to the gym whatever it is that takes me away from feeling stressed. This gives me time to regroup and come back stronger.
Try reaching out to a BFF, your mom or someone in your life who you trust and can get support from. Often times we try to go it alone. How is that working for you?
I find my girlfriends are my lifeline when I am ready to lose it. I have actually been so depressed found myself in my car in tears ready to down a huge Oreo McFlurry to dull the pain. But I stopped and called my best friend, crying and sniffling. She saved me and in the end I would up laughing and throwing the McFlurry out in the trash.
What do I mean? I mean, realize that you are in control of your world and your life. It is time to step up to the plate and do whatever it takes to be in charge of you. Deal with your issues instead of eating your issues. You are much more powerful than you realize. Once you make the decision to acknowledge what and why things are happening you can own it and your life will be a much happier place.
Nurture Your Spirit
I am a graduate of Integrative Nutrition and one of their philosophies is about Primary Foods. Primary Foods are not food at all they are about balance. Balance in our home life, relationships, work, family and soul. When any of these things are out of balance our secondary foods the actual foods we eat become out of balance to manage the stress.
Take time to nurture your mind, body and soul. Learn to slow down and appreciate the small every day moments, because they are truly life’s precious gifts. A smile, a beautiful flower, a kind word from a stranger.
Make time to love yourself, because you are the most important person in your life. Most importantly, remind yourself that you are not helpless, you are not hopeless, and you are never alone.