Binge Eating is a relatively common condition characterised by a strong urge to eat a large amount of food, until overly full, in a short period of time. Sufferers describe being unable to concentrate on anything other than when and where they will get their next ‘fix’ from. Many sufferers are unaware of their binge eating triggers and have a good understanding of the condition or causes.
Bingeing is not something that people do to satisfy hunger or because they are “greedy”. Rather, it is a complex condition that combines biochemistry, psychology, personality, life experiences and palatability of food. For some, there may be conscious or unconscious emotional trauma that maintains the urge to binge. Just like an addict, bingeing is often to the detriment of your work, relationships, social life, overall health and sense of wellbeing. Breaking any addiction including binge eating, emotional eating or food addiction can be tricky however you can significantly improve your chances of overcoming the urge to eat by identifying your primary triggers. Although the experience of the disorder is unique for everyone, there are some shared and common triggers.
How to Overcome the 4 Common Binge Eating Triggers
#1 – Guilt and Perfection
In today’s pressurised world, you may feel guilty if you sit down and take time to relax. This is particularly true if you are a perfectionist who is afraid of failure and sets incredibly high expectations of yourself. Having expectations can be a positive personal attribute, however, when you push yourself too hard and you are constantly judging and criticising yourself, it can seriously affect your mental health. To soothe the feelings of inadequacy you turn to food. When you feel burnt out or needing energy to keep going, you turn to food. This just creates another cycle of guilt and failure.
If you notice that you primarily overeat due to work stress, it is fundamental that you build in relaxation and stress management throughout your day. You need to change your expectations, internal dialogue and focus. Perfection doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on doing your best. Everyone makes mistakes. The only time you will fail is if you don’t take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and continue to criticise and judge yourself harshly. In the middle and at the end of the day, take 3-5 minutes to write down what you achieved and what you did well. It will help you to change your perspective.
#2 – Unrealistic Dieting Rules
If you’re looking to shift a few kilos, it is all too easy to come up with a punishingly restrictive diet to speed up weight loss to try and fit back into those jeans. Inevitably, however, seriously depriving yourself of sustenance can cause overwhelming hunger which you find very difficult to fight. When you reach for a sugar-laden chocolate bar or cake to get rid of these painful feelings of hunger, you may notice that feelings of judgement and guilt soon follow. You have not been ‘perfect’ by giving in to hunger or eating the forbidden, bad or “naughty” foods. You may feel like you’re a failure and have blown your whole diet, believing that you might as well turn your minor indiscretion into a full blown binge. In part, this could be some form of irrational punishment.
To avoid this unhealthy pattern, it is important that you stop associating certain foods with labels, behaviours and emotions such as guilt and rebellion. Dieting and restriction results in a Stress response; whenever your body is starved of nutrients or calories, it is biologically programmed to find and consume the calories that your body has been starved of. The moral of the story: eat a healthy, balanced diet and provide your body with nutrition regularly throughout the day and you will reduce cravings and binge eating cycles.
#3 – You Bully and Shame Your Body and Yourself
It can be easy to feel inadequate in today’s image-obsessed society, with women and girls, in particular, facing increased pressure to look slim and polished at all times. It is common for people with any form of Disordered Eating Behaviour or Eating Disorder to assign unkind labels to themselves when looking in the mirror such as “fat” and “ugly”. This triggers feelings of anxiety, stress and even depression. Punishment or rebellion occurs through vicious cycles of restriction (dieting), bingeing and/or exercising.
If you notice that your bingeing tends to occur after looking in the mirror or weighing yourself, try to consciously treat yourself in a kindlier fashion. Rather than criticising, bullying or shaming yourself, focus on what your body can do, aspects of your appearance that you like and what are your gift, talents, strengths, as a person that make you unique.
#4 – Low Mood and Depression
If you’re experiencing episodes of depression or low mood, you may binge to comfort yourself, feel better or even to punish yourself. You may not see the point of attempting to control your diet and feel the desire to sabotage yourself and your life. Rest assured that these are common feelings and can be overcome with help and support. The first step to recovery is to realise that your Binge Eating is caused by emotional factors rather than stemming from some kind of personal flaw. If your bingeing is affecting your work, relationships and overall feelings of wellbeing, it is imperative that you seek help as soon as possible.
Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out for Support
Whatever your binge eating trigger, you are more likely to overcome your urges with help from a trained professional. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support if binge eating is taking over your life. It may also be helpful and healing to connect with a support group of people who share similar experiences and are creating positive change in their lives.
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