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Breaking the binge

* Trigger warning: disordered eating and binge eating behaviours

I recently had the pleasure of joining Tiana Skafte @skaftebites on her podcast 'A Change of Perspective' and we chatted about all things binge eating and how to break the binge cycle. If any of you guys have listened to the podcast and wanted some more information to read... feel free to keep reading this blog post.

We talked about binge eating and how this can be confused with overeating - which is a normal part of eating patterns that vary in different situations, especially when we are celebrating something. For example on our birthday, when catching up with friends/family on the weekend we may eat more than usual, on Christmas day, on holidays etc. It's also important to note that for us ladies, when it's that time of the month and our menstrual cycle begins, it is natural for our hunger levels to increase. Eating more around the time of your menstrual cycle is normal and natural! Luckily, our basal metabolic rate (natural burning system) increases when we have our menstrual cycle and can combat the increase in our food intake.

Now that we have talked about the normal and natural occurrences of over eating, let's get back to binge eating. With binge eating, the following things may be experienced;

- Eating a large amount of food in a short period of time

- A sense of a loss of control

- An intense urge to 'need' to eat

- Eating food quickly and past the point of feeling full (feeling uncomfortable)

- Feeling that you cannot stop eating

- Negative emotions during and/or after eating; guilt, shame, disgust, dislike of self

- You start to see your body differently; bigger, enormous, different shape than before

- You may punish yourself afterwards and over restrict your food to compensate.

Binge eating behaviours can be caused or triggered by many different things and it is different for everyone who experiences this. It may be triggered from a response to stress, a negative emotion, anxiety, low self esteem or a general feeling of not being good enough. It can also be a reaction to being over hungry when we have restricted our food intake during a diet and we have deprived our bodies of nourishment. Social media and our environment may also be a trigger for binge eating behaviours. Everyone has their own personal triggers and it is experienced on an individual level.

If you do or have experienced binge eating, know that you are not alone. Binge eating is a really common disordered eating pattern and it affects some people without them even realising. I have personally experienced binge eating before and noticed that stress and family relationship issues were my personal triggers. It can really help to talk to someone about your binge eating behaviours and explore what your triggers might be. Then you have the space to work through your personal triggers, develop healthier coping strategies and break the binge.

The following dietary strategies can definitely help with preventing binge eating. See my tips below;

- Mindful or intuitive eating to reconnect with your body and listen to your body's natural hunger/fullness cues (see my post on mindful eating)

- Ditching the diets! Over restricting your food intake when dieting can cause binge eating. Stop the food restrictions and know that you haven't failed the diet, but the diet has failed YOU

- Avoid skipping meals, eat regularly throughout the day to stabilise your hunger hormones

- Eating slowly - allowing more time to eat can allow you to recognise your fullness in a shorter time frame

- All foods fit approach - if you feel like chocolate... EAT IT! When you cut out certain foods, it's like reverse psychology and our brain will think about it and crave it even more

- Food prep - stay organised with your food and make sure to take lunch, healthy snacks and water to work/school. This way you are more prepared when you are feeling hungry and you can respond by nourishing your body no matter where you are

- Keep a food and mood journal, this is a great way to become more self aware of your personal triggers and any patterns that may be happening for you.

The other strategy is identifying whether your hunger is physical hunger or psychological hunger. Let's break this down below;

Physical hunger:

- A response to our body's need for nourishment

- Rumbling stomach

- Increases gradually

- You can usually wait for food (you don't feel like you need something right now)

- A deliberate choice to eat, there is awareness about our hunger and our body needing nourishment

- A sense of satisfaction after eating

- No guilt or negative feelings associated with the food.

Psychological hunger:

- Hunger makes a sudden appearance

- You want a certain type of food and this may be a comfort food to you

- You need the food NOW (a sense of urgency and panic)

- Your hunger may be in response to a feeling eg. bored, tired, stress, upset

- Impulsive choice to eat

- You eat the food very quickly and don't recognise how much/what you have eaten (not tuned in)

- After eating you don't feel satisfied and you still want more food

- Feelings of guilt, shame and disgust may be associated with eating and your body image

- You feel you 'need' to be better the next time.

It's important to practice becoming more self-aware and recognising whether your hunger is physical or psychological. We can listen to our own hunger levels by first trusting our body and then by tuning in to how we are feeling. Take a moment to stop and reflect on what type of hunger you are having.

Being stuck in the binge is a viscous cycle and it really helps to have enough support and people around you that have your back! Recognising that binge eating is an issue for you and talking about it with someone you trust is the first and hardest step to take. Trust me... I have been there! I can tell you first hand that it is definitely worth taking the first step and talking about it. Once you take this leap of faith, things start to get better and you are taking the steps to becoming the best version of yourself!

It is so important to have the right guidance and support network around you when working on breaking the binge. Get support from an accredited Dietitian and/or Psychologist or even start with your GP who can link you in to the Specialist's. Please feel free to send me a message on my contact page and reach out if this post has resonated with you and you would like to chat further about this.

Other great resources;

The Butterfly Foundation


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