In my first installment on binge eating I talked about the most common reason that I see for binge eating, which is….not eating enough food across the day and week. So many women are still following outdated low calorie diets and doing tonnes of cardio in the gym each week. Their daily calorie intake is just falling too short and by the end of the day, week or month (whenever it is for you) this leads to binge eating simply because you are hungry.
When your metabolism doesn’t get enough energy (calories, from the right places) it starts to crave energy-dense food and when you get your hands on it you eat the lot. This is normal physiology, nothing to beat yourself up about. All you’re doing wring is starving yourself. So the first place to start if this is YOUR issue is to start increasing the amount of food you eat each day by adding in more good fats and quality protein.
Today I want to address some of the emotional reasons behind binge-like eating behaviour.
Being aware of your emotional triggers is KEY and the first place to start if you want to address it.
It might be loneliness, anger, frustration, a stress response, sadness, or other. We all have different emotions to different situations and handle them differently.
Sometimes binge eating is fulfilling a particular human need that isn’t being met, the most common ones being love and connection, which is a basic but strong human need.
Start by identifying YOUR emotional trigger, for example is it boredom or loneliness? Are you using certain foods to fill a void?
Once you’ve identified the emotional trigger then start to think about what else you can do to fulfill that need or fill that void.
Before I met my partner I lived alone, which I absolutely loved and didn’t actually want to change, but from time to time I could feel a little isolated because my sister and her children, whom I’m extremely close to live in Ireland, my Dad is a couple of hours away, and we lost my amazing Mum in 2011. So some lonely Saturday nights I could easily find comfort in a giant bag of crisps and whatever else I fancied. But if I just called them on Skype for a chat and a laugh the cravings I THOUGHT I was having dissipated. Other times I would go for a good workout, go for a walk, have a relaxing bath, listen to music, or listen to a podcast or powerful self-development audiobook. By the time I was done I my mind had usually diverted away from the need to binge and I was instead preparing a nourishing balanced meal for myself.
A client of mine, during one of our coaching sessions, identified that she immediately reaches for the office biscuit tin whenever she’s just had a challenging conversation with a difficult colleague in her high-pressured job. As soon as she recognized this she was able to stop herself in her tracks and think about what she was doing. The next time she found herself reaching for the biscuits she made a deal with herself that she would first go for a walk outside then come back in and if she still wanted a biscuit she could have one. She didn’t still want the biscuit when she got back, and this was the case 99% of the time going forward.
Another thing to ask yourself if your binge eating is fulfilling a need that isn’t being met is how can you change your life so that need starts being met in real terms? Sometimes we simply can’t change our circumstances but in some cases we can, if we think hard enough about it there IS a few things we can make happen or change that will improve our situation and remove the need for emotional eating.
So, identify the underlying reason for your binges;
- Do you eat enough protein and good fats across the day and get ENOUGH calories in? (Click here to read my blog on calories)
- What is your emotional trigger/s?
- What need isn’t being met in your life?
- What else can you do to meet that need that doesn’t involve food or drink?
- Is there an emotion that you’re trying to suppress with the food you want in that moment? You may not be aware of this at the time but if you can try to sit with your emotion for a while and let it come to the surface, and express itself (e.g. in the form of a long old sob) then you may just find you no long need or want that particular food anymore because all you were trying to do with it in the first place is suppress the scary unwanted emotions. Instead, let the emotions come, sit with them and let them pass through.
Sit down and make a list of things that make you happy and lift your spirits, however big or small. From there see if you can start to incorporate more of this into your daily life, coupled with eating ENOUGH food by way of quality protein, good fats and fibre, and see if this changes your binge episodes for the better.
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