Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has been defined as a compulsive disorder which motivates someone to eat an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time.
People who binge eat will usually feel out of control when eating and will sometimes throw up or over-exercise to compensate for the guilt they've associated with over eating.
Researchers say that binge eaters are usually overweight or obese, but I disagree with this. I think binge eating is perhaps one of the most common, yet misunderstood disorders around.
I truly believe that most of us have moments where we use food in an unhealthy manner to mask our emotions, and that this disorder is not limited to a particular group of people.
Some of the more subtle symptoms that you are developing an unhealthy relationship with food are:
Insulin is the hormone that is secreted from the pancreas in response to a large amount of glucose (sugar) entering the blood stream. Insulin is a magical hormone that transforms glucose to energy instead of storing it as fat.
If you have been binge eating or simply eating too many carbohydrates for a long period of time, your pancreas will exhaust leaving you with insulin resistance (not enough insulin to break down your glucose for energy).
Therefore, women who have used food as a soothing mechanism for many years are much more likely to be diagnosed with PCOS or other hormonal imbalance disorders as their insulin has been thrown off, therefore disrupting some of their other sex hormones.
In the video below I talk about all the different reasons why we binge eat and explain why this is second nature for us. I explain that we are biochemically programmed to crave food when feeling stressed, sad, angry, depressed, frustrated or in the midst of any other negative emotion that feels uncomfortable and needing to be escaped.
Food has nurtured us from the time we were drinking our mothers breast milk. It helps us to feel safe, calm and comforted in times of emotional turmoil, so it makes sense that we turn to overeating as a way to self soothe ourselves.
Whether you are having wild crazy food binges or smaller emotional chocolate cravings... they are both stemming from the same place. There is an emotion deep within you that currently has an unmet need. When we are unconscious of the unmet emotional need, the easiest approach to the problem is to eat, because we know eating yummy food is going to give us instant satisfaction and will release some happy hormones.
The first step is to become aware of what the emotion is. For some it is that they have too much stress in their life and because they don't know how to reduce their stress they develop comfort eating tendencies. For others they may have some underlying anger or resentment towards someone in their life. Rather than confronting the issue and speaking with the person, they turn to food to make them feel better.
Regardless of why you turn to food, it is being used as a comfort mechanism for your body and your mind. For some, these over-eating habits may of developed at a very young age.
The above exercise isn't about blaming someone else. It's about bringing awareness to your actions by seeing the deeper meaning or purpose behind them. When you identify where a pattern was derived from, it will help you to better understand why it started in the first place. This will help you to cultivate more compassion for yourself and the addictive behaviour as you will understand how it served you during those times of distress.
There is an area of the brain called the amygdala (the centre that controls emotional behaviour and motivation) which when over stimulated with aggression, fear or other underlying negative emotion, it fires off neurons that control your eating habits and behaviour.
A recent study was conducted on rats that showed when the rats amygdala's where overstimulated they would eat their entire days food supply within the span of 20 minutes. The consensus of this study was that humans will too binge eat whatever food they can get their hands on during times of distress.
Rather than looking at binge eating or comfort eating as a bad habit, understand that it is a deep unfulfilled emotional need inside of you that needs some love.
When you feel like you are going to binge eat or you are eating to self soothe, try sending your body some love in another way. Pamper yourself with a self care ritual like a bath, face mask or massage. Go for a walk in nature. Talk to a friend and ask them for a big loving hug. Connect with yourself through yoga or meditation. Do something nice for someone else like writing them an email documenting everything you love about them.
I know it seems easier to go and buy some Oreos and peanut butter and eat it whilst watching an entire Netflix series. But remember this. The more self care and self love you put into the present moment, by nurturing the emotional needs of your body and your mind, the better you are going to feel in the long term.
If you can treat your emotions with the care and love they need now, you will become better acquainted with whatever emotion is triggering the binge eating behaviour.
Once you become better acquainted with this emotional pattern, you will know exactly what you need to do to release or express the emotion in a healthy way. This will prevent further binge eating episodes in the future.
Tune in and see what your body needs.
Perhaps some fresh air, exercise, intimacy, sunlight... there are many things the human body needs in order to remain happy and healthy.
Experiment a little and see what works for you.
Also, remember that none of us are perfect. There will still be times where you slip up, and that is perfectly okay.
The important thing is that you are bringing more awareness to your emotions and you aren't trying to repress them.
Don't be afraid to feel your emotions because they are always trying to serve you best interest.