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Does Bingeing Mean You’re A Failure?
Why are you bingeing?
There are two possible reasons for your bingeing behaviour. You binged because:
a. You were physically hungry; or
b. You wanted to distract yourself from something you were feeling (an emotion)
Let’s look at each of these situations and look at who or what “failed”.
Bingeing in response to hunger
If you’ve been eating in a calorie deficit, did you go too low for too long? Did you get really hungry? Was something missing from your nutrition plan? Not enough good fats perhaps?
If you’re so hungry you binged, something needs to be addressed in your nutrition strategy. If your goal is to shed unwanted fat, know that varying your caloric intake every few days is beneficial to your metabolism. Keeping your calorie intake lower than maintenance level for too long will put you into starvation mode. Avoid this by using regular exercise to help you create your deficit (ie. do not rely simply on decreasing calorie consumption). Eating at maintenance level for a day or two also helps to boost your metabolism and prevent binge eating.
When you binge in response to hunger, you are not a failure; your nutrition plan failed you. You simply need a better strategy. Yes, your binge is disappointing. You may well feel regret, guilt, self-disgust or even despair. Instead of getting stuck in these negative states, acknowledge your disappointment and embrace your desire to solve this problem. Ask yourself: What can I learn from this situation? How can I alter my nutrition strategy so I can stay sated and shed fat?
Bingeing in response to emotions
Did you eat a ridiculous amount of food and you weren’t even hungry? Did you eat to distract yourself from emotions you didn’t want to feel? This is “emotional eating” – consuming large amounts of food in response to feelings instead of hunger. Usually the food consumed is junk food or “comfort” food. Stuffing yourself with food allows you to distract yourself from the emotion and the context. Typical feelings linked emotional eating are:
Bingeing can distract us from unwanted feelings, like anger
This is a biggie. You can be angry with yourself, someone else or simply with a situation. Many of us are uncomfortable feeling anger and we often have difficulty expressing our anger appropriately. Bingeing can distract us from experiencing our anger – we can smother it with food. Bingeing can also be used to redirect our anger so it is channelled towards us – and specifically our binge behaviour.
Sometimes things just seem “too hard”. You wonder if life will ever get any better. There’s so little joy but eating makes you feel better – for now. Nothing really matters anyway, so why not eat? No one really cares but when you feed yourself, at least someone is being generous to you.
When life feels out of control, it feels scary. At least you can be in charge of what you eat. Focusing on eating also distracts you from your feelings of overwhelm and fear.
No one has noticed your efforts and you feel unappreciated. You might also feel lonely. At least you can acknowledge your hard work by treating yourself to some food.
You have a list of ‘forbidden foods’ that you keep focusing on. It’s not fair; other people don’t like these foods or they seem to be able to eat them without getting fat. Other people can eat these foods so you will too. That feels more fair to you in the moment.
You have no plans – nothing to do and no one to do it with. You’re bored and maybe lonely. There’s always food to distract and comfort yourself with…
You need a better strategy
If any of these – or similar – situations triggered your binge, you are not a failure. Recognise there was an emotion you did not want to experience and your strategy for distracting yourself was to eat food – and lots of it. Your strategy let you down. Ironically, your binge may have led you to another layer of anger, overwhelm or hopelessness. Perhaps these feelings are more acceptable to you if they are in response to you bingeing?
So, you need a better strategy for dealing with unwanted emotions. Ask yourself: What could you do instead of eating? I recommend taking some time to write a list of alternative behaviours. You may like to group specific emotions with specific behaviours. For example, if you are feeling bored, you might paint your toenails or audit your wardrobe and if you are feeling angry, you might dance to loud music or go for a run. You may find you have very specific ideas about the behaviours that will distract you from each emotion.
Alternatively, you may decide you would like to learn to face or sit with various emotions. You could ask yourself: Where do I feel this emotion in my body? What happens when I accept this feeling and breathe into it? What message is this emotion bringing about my life?
As you go through the process of identifying ways of dealing with your emotions, remember your goal is to avoid bingeing. Focus on alternative behaviours and do not get caught up in a debate about whether distraction or conscious acceptance is the better method.
Allow yourself to learn something valuable from this bingeing episode. This can be a defining moment – an “a-ha” moment – where you gain a deep wisdom that you use to change your life.
You may be surprised at the solutions you come up with. You may also be surprised at just how well they work once you try them.
If you would like help overcoming binge eating or emotional eating, contact Victoria Morrison for a free personal consultation.