When you go on a diet and abstain from eating certain foods, you eventually feel physically and/or mentally deprived. This potentially results in you eating many (many) more of the off limits foods – no matter how much you try to stop yourself. The diet industry will tell you it’s a willpower problem. However, the science of eating behaviour shows us that the more we try not to eat something, the more likely we are to overeat it. So before you vow to never have potato chips in your house ever again or curse your lack of willpower, understand the science of binge eating – and make peace with all foods this year.
The Science of Binge Eating
Research in an area called food habituation shows that the more you are exposed to a food, the less your brain cares about it. As a result, your desire to eat it diminishes. This has been shown with a variety of foods including potato chips, mac and cheese, pizza and chocolate.
It makes sense: Say you were told you could eat fish and chips for dinner every night. While that might sound great on night one, by the fifth or sixth night, the fish and chips will have lost its allure and you’ll likely eat less than you did the first night. Just like people who live in the city adjust to street noise or stop being as bothered by bad smells, people get habituated to a food the more they eat it.
The opposite is also true. When you don’t have access to certain foods, the more your brain focuses on them.
The same thing happens when you label food “off limits.” As soon as you tell yourself that you can’t have, say, potato chips or chocolate, your brain will concentrate on those foods and cause you to crave them. Then, when you do get access to these foods, you’re more likely to overeat them since you don’t know when you’ll be “allowed” to eat them again.
How your body works with binge eating
If it’s physical deprivation in the sense that you go hungry or go into an energy deficit, your primal drive for food will kick in. Your brain will be on high alert for food. Sights, sounds and smells of food will be prominent and thoughts about food as I mentioned abover will be persistent.
There’s only so long that your willpower can last in the face of a biological drive for food. You can’t overcome your biology (ie; your brain and appetite hormone secretion).
If you’re not calorie restricting or cutting out food groups, but you still have the ‘Food Police’ in your head controlling what, when and how much you should eat in an attempt help you lose or maintain your weight, you will also experience deprivation. But it won’t be physical deprivation – it’s a mindset of deprivation.
If you believe you shouldn’t or can’t have something, of course you’ll want it! Your mind will fixate on it. Your brain won’t leave you in peace until you eat it! Know what I’m talking about?
If you have been avoiding your favourite foods because once you start eating you can’t stop? This is called deprivation backlash or rebound eating. Doing further research and reading into the science of binge eating will help you understand it better.
How to prevent binge eating
Reading one post is unlikely to prevent binge eating. The best I can do here is point out a few tips for you to prioritise. There are lots of baby-steps in between to help you stop what is driving your compulsion to binge.
1. Put weight loss on the backburner – remember dieting is restrictive. Any restriction results in feelings of deprivation, which often results in overindulging or bingeing. Let weight loss happen if it’s meant to through creating new healthy habits with food, movement and self-care. Repair your relationship with food first and see what happens with your weight. 2. Stop negative self talk – when you blame yourself for your lack of self-control or willpower, remember the science of binge eating above. Remind yourself that diets and food rules set you up for failure. 3. Get professional support – allowing yourself permission to eat all foods is scary (but necessary) when you are trying to stop binge eating. Will you binge when you allow all foods? Probably, but that’s normal and expected in the beginning. Having specific strategies and support to guide you through this process will help you stay on track and stop binge eating much quicker.
If you’re tired of yo-yo dieting, feeling unhappy with your body and obsessing about what, when and how much to eat? I’ve got good news – it IS possible to be free from all of that.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on the link below.
The food police are the unreasonable rules, feelings and thoughts that are deeply embedded in your head, developed by years of dieting and living in diet culture. It causes you to feel guilty before, during and after eating certain foods. Here’s how you stop your internal food police – a crucial step to having a healthy, normal relationship with food.
The food police
The food police are either your ~ SUPPORTER OR SABOTEUR…
It’s called the ‘internal food police’ – we all have them. They’re those thoughts in your head that declare you as “good” for ordering a salad or “bad” for ordering fries with your meal. The food police can also be a friend, family member, doctors, teachers or our society as a whole…
If you’ve been “bad” it makes you judge and feel guilty for your food choices. This is what keeps you in the dieting loop and sets you up on the restrict-binge-repent-repeat cycle.
By identifying and challenging the inner voices you can make neutral food choices based on hunger and satisfaction, rather than on diet rules or deprivation.
These thoughts will either serve you as your food supporter or saboteur.
In the Intuitive Eating book they describe the Food Police as a “strong voice that’s developed through dieting. It’s your inner judge and jury that determine if you are doing “good” or “bad”. It is the sum of all your dieting and food rules, and gets stronger with each diet. It also gets strengthened through new food rules that you may read about in magazines or messages you hear from friends or family.”
Common food police language
I shouldn’t eat too much bread.
I’m so bad for eating this brownie.
Saying no thanks to birthday cake, I’m being good today.
I shouldn’t be hungry yet, I didn’t eat that long ago.
Even though you are pregnant doesn’t mean you should “let yourself go”.
You failed today because you didn’t eat a single fruit or vegetable.
I can only imagine how many points/calories this meal is.
I could go on!
How to challenge and stop the food police
As your journey continues in Intuitive Eating you can begin strengthening other more helpful voices:
“The Food Anthropologist” – the voice that makes observations without judgement.
This voice allows you to discover new foods without judging yourself.
It allows you to honour the thoughts and feelings you’re having about how your body is being fed without judging it based on what someone else thinks you should be eating or doing. NO ONE ELSE can tell you what your body needs. We all need different things and what makes one person feel good doesn’t mean it will make everyone feel good. With that said you also have to reach a point that you can “hear” what your body is telling you.
“The Nurturer” – this voice is gentle and is how we would talk to our best friends or close family members.
“You aren’t bad because you had one cookie”
“It’s ok that you skipped your workout because you were tired. Sleep is just as important as movement”
“You are still YOU, no matter what the scale says”
“When you take care of yourself you are happier”
This voice isn’t an “excuser”, it’s actually a voice of reason. I’ve learned self-care and self-compassion is SO important when learning to repair your relationship with food.
When I went to eating disorder therapy nine years ago, the Food Police ruled my life! I had SO MANY RULES. Over the years, I’ve slowly released them and found food freedom and you can too.
“You would think at 50 I wouldn’t be worried about my weight”. This comment speaks to why middle aged eating disorders are often cloaked in secrecy. In most people’s minds, an “eating disorder” conjures up images of thin, teenage girls. However, eating disorder demographics are changing. Over the past five to 10 years, we have seen a growing number of older women seeking treatment for eating disorders.
Middle aged eating disorders
Women in midlife and beyond, from all ethnic backgrounds, are struggling with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Some have experienced this since they were very young. Others have relapsed in midlife after a stressor such as a divorce, death of a loved one, or menopause. While others are experiencing an eating disorder for the first time in midlife.
Research indicates how misguided our generalisation about eating disorders is. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that about 13 percent of women over 50 exhibit eating disorder symptoms. To put that in perspective: Breast cancer afflicts about 12 percent of women.
There was one common thread uniting most of the women in the study: Their illness was generally overlooked by doctors. While it seems unlikely that signs of an eating disorder would baffle doctors, the truth is, they can and do.
Women get a lot of positive feedback if they’ve lost weight or maintained a low weight, no matter how it’s achieved, so it goes unnoticed.
When many women enter a different chapter of life or encounter new hurdles—their sense of self can become disorganised.
The pressure for women is further compounded by societies mindset that it is not okay to age. There’s the whole 50 is the new 30 and 70 is the new 50 attitude. The burden to stay forever young and thin is intensifying.
Many women experiencing middle aged eating disorders won’t experience a dangerously low weight and that is key to understanding why eating disorders often go unnoticed. Anorexics aren’t always emaciated, and bulimics and binge eaters can be a healthy weight or even overweight. Furthermore, one of the classic symptoms of adolescent anorexia—loss of a period—doesn’t apply.
Accepting yourself at any age
With the increased recognition of eating disorders in middle aged women, treatment options are readily available and can be tailored to meet your unique needs.
If you or your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, remember that it is never too late to seek the help you need and begin your recovery journey.
Since you can’t solve a problem you don’t fully understand, let’s start by defining “binge eating” and “emotional eating”.
What is Binge-Eating? – (BE)
Binge eating is a reaction to deprivation around food. It is generally not a stand-alone behaviour—it is one part—the second part—of the diet-binge cycle. It’s eating half a loaf (+) of bread because you haven’t had a single slice of bread in 2 weeks and you can’t hold yourself back any longer (natural biological instinct to relieve yourself from food restriction).
This type of eating can also be triggered by unhealthy thoughts about food and weight (aka “Diet Mentality”). People who feel guilty or shameful about eating certain foods are much more likely to binge-eat or feel “out of control” around food because they criticise their choices with food.
What is Emotional Eating? – (EE)
Emotional eating is eating for emotional pleasure and/or to cope and soothe uncomfortable feelings. A “normal” eater may eat emotionally from time to time, but will likely do so much less often than dieters. The reality is…most people eat emotionally sometimes…(through good and bad times).
The difference between a person who has 1 small bar of chocolate after a stressful day, and the person who eats 2 family size blocks of chocolate after a stressful day, is whether or not they were trying to “control” their food and weight in the first place (aka dieting).
Are you seeing a trend here?
Engaging in restrictive or restrained eating to control your weight is the REAL reason you struggle with food. Think about it for a second.
Many parents are not recognising the early eating disorder signs their child might be displaying. Read on to find out why parents typically miss these signs and what the signs actually are.
First of all, please do not beat yourself up. This is not untypical, as a recent study found one in three adults surveyed could not name any early signs of an eating disorder.
Dieting and Diet Culture.
Diet culture is a society that focuses on and values weight, shape, and size over health and well-being. Variations of diet culture also include rigid eating patterns that on the surface are in the name of health, but in reality are about weight, shape or size.
Furthermore, diet culture is very sneaky because as we have learned that diets don’t work, they (diet culture) have transformed their message to say that they are all about health (I’m looking at you Weight Watchers).
Their definition of health though, is one that is synonymous with weight – that when you lose weight (by any means necessary) then you will be healthier.
Dieting has become so pervasive. Almost religious. Our identity.
Dieting has become so common place, that we don’t know what “normal eating” looks like anymore.
Moreover, compounding the problem further is the common belief that all young girls will inevitably have “body image issues”.
Many parents don’t see this as a problem because it’s become “the norm”. And, it’s not their fault because that’s all they know.
Anyone who is concerned about a loved one should research the issues thoroughly and get help as soon as possible. A person who has an eating disorder is not always skinny. In fact, some people with eating disorders are living in larger bodies.
What are the signs to watch out for?
The main signs to watch out for are:
becoming obsessive about food
changes in behaviour
having distorted beliefs about their body size
often tired or struggling to concentrate
disappearing to the toilet after meals
starting to exercise excessively
Early intervention is absolutely key.
The key lies in preventative education for parents to increase their awareness of the early signs, so they can “nip it in the bud” BEFORE behaviours lead to illnesses such as Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
And, prevention and early intervention education (such as the Body Project) that can deliver proven results in helping young people to increase their self-esteem and resilience, so they’re better equipt to understand the “costs” of pursuing unrealistic thinness and the pressures to conform to unrealistic standards of beauty.
If this is something you or your daughter struggles with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me here>>
From the outside unwanted eating habits such as binge eating, emotional eating, and stress eating may seem like it’s solely a food-related problem. That people just need to gain better self-control around food. However, that is simply not true. In this post I discuss how you can stop binge eating by using a mindfulness practice.
How to use mindfulness to stop binge eating
People experiencing binge eating episodes will characteristically eat abnormally large quantities of food in a short period of time. Binge eating feels like the ultimate loss of control. Those who experience it often worry that their self-destructive relationship with food will define their lives forever. However, a recentstudy identifies a path to healing: Mindfulness, in particular – Yoga.
“The study was conducted by researchers at Deakin University in Australia. They found that yoga can help overweight and obese women who struggle with binge eating. The 12-week yoga program included postures, breathing, relaxation, and meditation. All of the practices emphasised mindfulness, or non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of thoughts, sensations, and emotions. The women attended one 60-minute yoga class per week and were encouraged to practice at home for 30 minutes a day. By the end of the 12-week program, the women reported less binge-eating, higher self-esteem, and a more positive body image. The group also showed statistically significant decreases in BMI as well as hip and waist measurements”.
Thankfully, there are many different treatment options: traditional medicine and holistic philosophies, that can help a person break free from binge eating or Binge Eating Disorder(BED). Combining alternative and conventional forms of treatment can be an effective way of overcoming binge eating and BED. I think both have a place in helping people to stop binge eating.
Treatment is usually a collaborative approach among various disordered eating and eating disorder specialists – including your general practitioner, psychologist/counsellor, and a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
Which may include vary but usually combine behavioural therapies, pharmacotherapy, and medical nutrition therapy.
How mindfulness can help you to stop binge eating?
Mindfulness – Originally rooted in Eastern influences, mindfulness teaches the practice or state of conscious awareness of oneself, the present moment, thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.
Binge eating is often a coping mechanism for overwhelming emotions such as sadness, guilt, anger, anxiety and depression. When someone is depressed and they binge eat, it can be hard to know if one condition causes the other or if they’re unrelated. However, it is very common for people to get depressed after a binge. Mindfulness has long been considered an effective supplemental treatment for depression.
Breaking free from binge eating is not just simply learning how to eat “correctly” or have greater self-control around food. Dealing with the underlying layers related with binge eating is vital to finding recovery and being able to successfully manage the symptoms associated with binge eating.
Mindfulness helps a person on numerous levels, including regulating their food intake as they are better able to tune into the natural hunger and fullness cues of the body. Incorporating mindfulness techniques into disordered eating and eating disorder treatment has been shown to reduce binge eating, improve nutritional outcomes, improve weight management and also diabetes management.
Types of mindfulness
Essentially these techniques help individuals reconnect with themselves, something that is typically lost in the vicious cycle that comes with disordered eating and eating disorder behaviours.
10 minutes a day is all it takes to:
Activate a relaxation response
Improve the quality of sleep
Improve control of emotions and moods
Improve coping mechanisms when under stress
More mindful and conscious of what and when we are eating
Have you practiced mindfulness to help you stop binge eating? Did this help you more effectively manage your symptoms of binge eating?