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Caught in a Binge – Starve Cycle? You’re NOT Alone...

Caught in a Binge – Starve Cycle? You’re NOT Alone and You CAN Break Free

From personal experience I can tell you there’s nothing wrong or weird or even abnormal about a binge vs. starve cycle. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s the right way to treat yourself when it comes to food, because it isn’t. It’s a destructive way of, mainly, numbing your emotions in order not to feel pain, sadness, frustration, anger, you name it. However, nowadays we tend to treat our food as an outlet, it’s our favorite drug of choice.

Food is everywhere all the time. We have excess to food 24/7. We have nutritious food, like the products our great-grandparents would recognize, and processed foods that are filled with chemicals that will make you crave food even more.

It’s hard to know what to eat, when and how much of which foods. Add a healthy dose of stress; work, child(ren), husband (or wife), family, friends, social media, politics, finance, environmental impacts, etc. And we all crave numbness! We need a coping mechanism and what better way to “shush” our mind than with a delicious chocolate-toffee-nutty-ice cream scoop, carton, make that a 2 liter family pack, just one spoon necessary! Quickly please and then leave me alone!

Sound familiar?

If you wonder whether or not you have an emotional imbalance with food, ask yourself these following questions:

–       Does food and eating consume most of your thoughts throughout the day?

–       Do you think about food even after eating a meal and feeling physically satisfied?

–       Do you feel guilty when you eat certain foods?

–       Do you find it hard to pass up tempting food even if you aren’t hungry?

–       Do you often crave food when you are bored, stressed or feel any other emotion?

–       Do you often feel too full when you’re finished eating?

–       Are you an on-and-off dieter?

–       Do you tend to compensate overeating with a period of denying yourself food for more than 6 hours?

–       Are you sneaky about what you eat and do you prefer to eat alone?

If you answered yes to more than three of these questions, you’ve probably made an emotional connection to food. Instead of seeing food as fuel, there’s an emotional reason for you to eat which overpowers your body’s hunger vs. satiation signals.

You’ve probably noticed dieting doesn’t work. That’s because the problem lies much deeper. It’s not about the food. Chances are that when you do restrict your diet in order to lose weight, you’ll feel deprived, you’ll therefore get huge (emotional) cravings and you’ll have to give in: never underestimate the force of a craving! You’ll overeat, the guilt kicks in and you’ll then eat away the guilt. When you’re overly full and can’t seem to stomach anymore you’ll feel sick and promise to never do this again. Only ‘til the next day (or whenever) when this vicious cycle starts all over again.

There are many forms of emotional eating (in the broadest explanation of this word). It can be that you don’t overeat but you’re constantly thinking about food. It can be that you only binge when you are alone, but can very much contain yourself when it’s not possible to silently binge. It can be that you don’t think about food at all, but you do find yourself eating heaps of food until unpleasantly full and then starve yourself for the rest of the day to compensate. Or the other way around; starving yourself all day so you can pig out all night.

Sometimes it doesn’t always seem like a big deal, but if you look at your eating habits through someone else’s eyes, you’d find it’s not entirely satisfying and healthy either.

If you feel like you need to come to terms with food and you want to stop a vicious binge vs. starve cycle; try the following tips & tricks:

–       Stop trying different diets to help solve your problems. It’s your mindset that’s key to a loving relationship with food.

–       As soon as you feel the urge to eat ask yourself – out loud! – “Am I physically hungry?”

–       If you’re not physically hungry but you do have a craving for something tasty, then ask yourself the question “How will I emotionally and physically feel after eating this food?” & “Is it worth those feelings, and potential weight-gain, to eat this food now?”

–       If you’re not hungry but you’re at an exclusive party with fine wine and oysters and you really just want to eat and accept the consequences. Then by all means, go for it and enjoy every single mouthful! At least you’re conscious of your actions, and a nice bonus; you’re more likely to eat and drink less without even trying!

–       If you decide you don’t want to feel uncomfortably full and guilty after eating; then don’t eat! Walk away from the food and get your mind off of eating.

–       If you are physically hungry; eat and don’t avoid certain foods because they’re “bad”. Food is neither “good” nor “bad” (apart from allergies and/or intolerances). You need to make an effort to give your body all the nutrients it needs, so therefore you need to eat your veggies, fruits, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts, seeds, etc. BUT that doesn’t mean you can never eat fries and chocolate ever again. If you stop depriving yourself from certain foods, you’re less likely to binge on them. Things simply aren’t as exciting if we can have them without being rebellious 😉

–       When you eat – eat with your full attention! Eat because you want to fuel your body and nourish yourself. That also means that little piece of dark chocolate that makes you smile. It however doesn’t mean that second large chocolate bar that made you feel numb at first, but made you cry with guilt a moment later.

–       This is a tough one; try to stop eating before you feel full, but when your feeling of hunger is gone. Is there food left on your plate, safe this for later. If you feel hungry again within 30 minutes, it means you haven’t eaten enough and you can eat some more. Chances are you will be satiated enough until your next meal and you won’t experience that stuffed feeling (+ guilt) you’d otherwise had gotten.

–       And last but not least: nobody is perfect – NEVER STRIVE FOR PERFECTION. Striving for perfection is the only thing you can do that’s going to result in failure, in my books. Luckily that means you’re perfectly capable of anything else! We learn from our mistakes, so we can also learn from our binges or other distorted eating patterns (“mistakes”). If you can embrace your imperfections, you can grow and before you know it, you’ll come to terms with yourself and therefore you can come to terms with food.

Next time I will discuss more helpful ways to keep you accountable and keep yourself from overeating. If you have any questions about this subject you’d like to get answered, please leave a comment below.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Leanne Beyer

I'm Leanne Beyer from Holland, a certified nutritionist with an online weight management practice where I coach people to their natural healthy weight. I combine losing or gaining weight with exercise and mindfulness, because I believe all three aspects: food - sport - mind, need to be in balance! Friend me at www.facebook.com/eatandgetfit

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