It’s always surprising to me when people propose treating binge eating disorder with another diet. Count the calories! Just eat this or that way! Start again next week! As far as I’m concerned, dieting is one of the major culprits that gets people INTO the whole mess to begin with. As someone who struggled with binge eating years ago, who now works with clients overcoming binge eating, and who is certified in eating psychology, there are a few reasons why I believe there’s so much more to overcoming binge eating than just focusing on the FOOD. Here’s three of them.
Why Treating Binge Eating Disorder Requires More than Just Focusing on What to Eat
1. It’s not about the food.
Oftentimes, binge eating arises in intense times of stress, emotion, or transition. And if you look at what’s going on biologically when you binge eat, it makes sense. When you overeat, your body has to switch out of fight-or-flight mode to process an enormous quantity of food; otherwise, digestion would be seriously hindered and inflammation would go through the roof. So a binge, although uncomfortable and stressful to the body, actually counter-intuitively induces a relaxation response in the body in order to calm the system, turn on parasympathetic state, and process the food from the binge.
If you struggle with binge eating, take a look at what’s going on in your life. Are you going through a period of transition or emotion — maybe a move, a break up, or a new job? These can all cause stress that, if unchecked, can lead to binge eating as the outlet. Meaning, if you aren’t releasing your stress or emotions in another way, they could misdirect into overeating. To help this, introduce activities that release your stress or emotions in ways other than food. Because a binge can be such an explosion of energy, it can be helpful to try really active stress-releases like kick-boxing, running, or even yelling into a pillow, throwing rocks into the ocean, or having a conversation that’s been on your mind.
2. Focusing on food can exacerbate the issue.
A second reason why food is not the be-all end-all solution when it comes to healing binge eating disorder is because, more often that not, hyper focusing on food can actually make the binge eating worse. One of the causes of binge eating is restricting food, because it sets off your body’s alarms for famine. From an evolutionary perspective, it makes perfect sense. It’s a protective mechanism to drive people to eat when the food supply has been scarce. So, if you’ve been dieting, calorie counting, or restricting food, those cravings aren’t in your head — biologically, you’re tripping the alarms so all your brain can think about is food.
That’s why when treating binge eating disorder, it’s so detrimental to focus on dieting, and so powerful to re-introduce balance and freedom with food. To remove the labels on foods as good or bad. To embrace cravings instead of avoid, avoid, avoid, binge. To relinquish the pursuit of perfection. To break the mentality around on days and off days. To recognize that nourishment isn’t limited to nutrient-value; that sometimes, a glass of wine with a girlfriend, or a savored slice of cake on a birthday, can be just as nourishing at a social, emotional level, and those are just as valuable as a physical level.
3. Binge eating has a wisdom behind it.
Third, I personally believe that all binge eating has a wisdom behind it. Whenever I am talking with clients, I am always listening for: what is the binge eating asking this person to pay attention to? In what ways is the binge eating trying to get their attention? Sometimes, it can be a call for better stress management practices. Other times, it’s to resolve an issue that’s (literally) eating away at them. To make the call. To have the hard conversation. To stick up for themselves. To change careers or take the leap.
If all you do is throw another diet or meal plan at the binge eating, you’re missing out on the transformation that could be behind it. You’re missing out on potentially an entirely new chapter or next level of your life. You’re missing out on wherever your life is calling you — and that makes someone’s binge eating disorder potentially so much more than a food challenge. It turns it into a teacher, a lesson, and even a gift. That’s always my hope for it, anyway.
Treating Binge Eating Disorder: What Now?
If you struggle with binge eating disorder, I would love to help in whatever way I can, for wherever you’re at in your journey. I struggled with binge eating myself and so I know how frustrating and disorienting it can be, and how much energy, freedom, and possibility opens up once you’re free of it. It’s not hyperbole to say you really get your life back — or even better, a new one.
If you’re looking for some free resources:
Watch my free masterclass: The 5-Step Strategy My Clients Use for Overcoming Binge Eating.
Book a free breakthrough call with me to talk about what will best help you break the cycle in your life.
Download my free guide: How to finally break free from emotional eating and yo-yo dieting.
If you’re ready for more intensive help starting today, join me and other smart, talented, incredible ladies overcoming binge eating in The Binge Breakthrough, my hands-on group coaching program with weekly coaching calls, a self-paced online training program and exercises, and an entire tribe of women who have your back.