Jul 14, 2014
In a study conducted by Harvard University it was determined that binge eating is the most common eating disorder. More common than even anorexia or bulimia—two disorders which receive much more attention and discussion.
Millions of people struggle with binge eating. Almost 3% of the U.S. population in fact. And here are the 3 main reason why so many people do:
1. To cope with painful feelings.
2. To create the illusion of feeling good.
3. To feel "safe" or shut out the world.
Any of these sound familiar?
Drug of Choice
To millions of people, food can—and has—become the most readily-accessible over-the-counter form of self-medication. The drug of choice. One that's completely legal. Inexpensive. And available 24 hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.
It's the drug-like effect that food can produce—something I call the food trance—that has people making comments like these:
"If I'm all doped up on a food high, nothing else matters."
"In a food trance, I belong. I fit in. I'm somebody. I'm in love. I matter. I'm not inadequate. Happier times are remembered. I'm soothed."
The food trance is the first way binge eating appeals to people. It's mind-numbing. It's immediate. It keeps difficult emotions like depression, anger and loneliness at bay. Some people even manage to "delay" their difficult feelings by making plans to "deal" with them later when they are in a position to binge.
e.g. A tough day at work results in you obsessing all day about what you're going to eat when you get home.
Like most drugs, however, the effects are only temporary. And once they've worn off, you're back at where you started. Worse still, once you shut down your mind too many times with food, binge eating becomes a compulsion.
Simply put, a binge eating compulsion means your mind now believes that you must eat in order to effectively manage your stress.
Not yoga. Not exercise. Not even laughter...
And once this happens, you find yourself in a position where you simply cannot control what you eat—no matter how hard you try.
Upon completing your binge eating episode, another nasty problem presents itself: Regret. Or, as I'll explain, the relief that regret provides you.
Think about the words you aim at yourself when you're filled with regret after a binge. Words like, "failure," "hopeless" and "stupid."
These words can be thought of as a tape your mind plays itself. A negative script it knows by heart. And, unfortunately, this tape is actually a relief to you as it completely diverts your attention away from the issues you're too afraid to face—the very same issues that led you to seek the comfort of food in the first place.
In a nutshell: your post-binge guilt gives you something else to think about. And this is the second, and very powerful way, that binge eating appeals to so many people.
The Binge Eating Cycle
If you're familiar with binge eating, you might know the cycle by heart.
1. You desperately want to binge.
2. You give in to the binge.
3. You feel remorse after the binge.
4. You promise yourself you'll never binge again.
5. You binge again, and hate yourself for it.
Understanding this destructive cycle is the first step in reclaiming your ability to eat sensibly again. That means understanding how binge eating has been benefiting you, and the reasons you've come to depend on it—something we work on in the Shrink Yourself Program.
Once you recognize and understand this, you'll be in a position to do something about it. Merely dieting or calling on your willpower will have no effect in disrupting your binge eating cycle. The reason being is they both fail to address the emotional reasons driving you to the fridge in the first place.
Without this deeper understanding, you're merely throwing paper darts at a brick wall.
You may have an idea of why you binge eat, but perhaps not an understanding on how to stop. You can take my quick Binge Eating Diagnostic to gain the insights you need to end the destructive habit.
And remember my free Pocket Hunger Coach app works 24/7 on your phone, tablet and desktop to expertly guide you past the urge to binge and back onto the road to sensible eating.