Have you ever woken up to survey the aftermath of a binge? Cookie crumbs on the floor, an ice cream spoon on the counter or a garbage can full of candy wrappers?

Waking up to feelings of guilt, disgust and depression is never fun. The only way you know to remedy the situation is skipping breakfast to compensate for the night before. You know you need to stop, but how? Maybe you've tried following a meal plan or worked on increasing your willpower, but nothing seems to be working. At this point, you have no idea where to begin.

If you struggle with binge eating, I invite you step out of the cycle by raising your awareness. This is the first step to changing any behavior and it's the most important one. If you skip over it, you'll never have an understanding of what you really need to change.

Here are the four reasons we binge:

1. You skip meals or restrict your calories.

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If you allow yourself to get to the overly hungry stage, it's nearly impossible to listen to your body, tune into hunger and fullness cues or stop eating when you're satisfied. Your physical hunger is so strong at this point that you won't care about how uncomfortable you might feel afterwards or what choices truly nourish your body because the hunger you feel from deprivation will override everything. The result is often scarfing down twice as much food as you normally would in an effort to feel full.

2. You deprive yourself of what you really want to eat.

When you hold yourself back from certain foods, you're depriving your body of what it's truly hungry for. For instance, if you label pie as "bad" and never allow yourself to eat it, but then decide to have a slice on Thanksgiving, you're setting yourself up for a binge. More often than not, you'll find yourself spinning out of control and eating way more than is satisfying.

3. You eat mindlessly to avoid situations.

It's very common to use binging as a way to avoid a task or numb yourself to something you'd rather not feel. But binging does not make those uncomfortable situations go away. Whatever you're trying to avoid will still be there after the binge.

4. You turn to food when strong emotions and uncomfortable feelings arise.

If you immediately turn to food after a stressful situation or upsetting conversation, you're most likely afraid of your feelings. Eating to cover up sadness, soothe loneliness or fill emptiness will only distract you from your emotions. The further you try to distance the feelings, the greater the binge.

For the next week, raise your awareness and notice which of the four scenarios you find yourself in most often. Pay attention to when it happens, how frequently and what you feel. Often, an increase in awareness is enough to encourage change.

Then, take it one step further by exploring your ability to listen and respond to your body and emotional needs. Investigate your urge to binge like a detective. You don't have to stop the binge, just get curious. Ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. Am I trying to avoid something?
  3. What do I really need?

Changing a behavior can feel overwhelming at first, so start small and do what feels right for you based on your values. And remember: more often than not, change feels uncomfortable at first. It gets worse before it gets better but those who takes small steps over and over are on their way to finding the incredible happiness available on the other side.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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