Crazy Foodzilla who is about to make an end to the world’s food supply, because no amount seems to satisfy your needs, you´re not necessarily hungry – but empty. And now you´re afraid you developed binge eating disorder? Well… let me tell you about the part that is not addressed enough: Bingeing in eating disorder recovery after a period of restriction.
what is binge eating disorder
It is estimated that approximately 8% of American adults struggle with binge eating disorder. The main symptom is the bingeing: consuming frequently unusual large amounts of food within a short period of time – such as over a two-hour period without compensating for it afterwards (like in Bulimia)
Other symptoms may be:
- Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
- Eating rapidly during binge episodes
- Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
- eating alone or in secret, feeling ashamed/guilty for eating
- Feeling depressed, disgusted, ashamed, guilty or upset about your eating
- Frequently dieting and/or restricting, possibly without weight loss
- decreased quality of life because of the binge episodes
When you are recovering from an restrictive eating disorder, it´s important to understand, what can triggers binges: any kind of restriction and dieting, inherited genes, negative feelings about yourself/your skills and/or your accomplishments, stress, tiredness, strong emotions and poor body image.
Also: most people in eating disorder recovery are experiencing extreme hunger, which is not the same as bingeing, it must be honoured, without restriction, compensation or feeling bad about yourself – otherwise it actually might lead to Bulimia or Binge eating disorder.
reasons you might be bingeing in eating disorder recovery
There could be many reasons why it´s happening. Remember, that binge eating is a mental disorder as well, so make sure to not only focus on the food part of recovery, but also on the mental aspects. The reasons behind your eating disorder. Why you are actually afraid of gaining weight, how your inner child is feeling, which need you are actually trying to fill with food, etc.
I am pretty sure this list isn´t complete, however when you are feeling stuck in your recovery and the bingeing worsens – please reach out to a professional: Therapist, coach, …
you´re not eating enough
This is a very sensitive topic, as “just eat more” is not easy at all, when you´re recovering from an restrictive eating disorder. But when you´re malnourishing your it slowly breaks down it´s own tissue. It even shuts down “less survival necessary functions” to save enough energy to keep your heart pumping. To restore these inner damages (not only to restore weight), your body needs WAY more energy, than you might think.
During the refeeding process, your body utilizes all the energy it gets to heal inner and outer damages and doesn´t store it. So, when you are once eating less or not regularly enough, your body depletes it´s energy reserves very quickly, which can trigger a binge episode.
Black and white thinking
This can occur in many ways. For example labelling food as good or bad, or seeing eating once more as screwing your diet and starting over all again the next day.
The truth is, the only bad food is the one that makes you physically sick. (I am not talking about the nausea in early recovery). And overeating sometimes is just as normal as answering a question in class wrong – it happens.
Overeating is a normal, common experience. You may overeat if you’re feeling bored or stressed. You may eat more, even if you’re full, during special occasions, such as on vacation or during a celebration. Your body will handle the few extra calories on it´s own.
Black and white thinking triggers mental restriction, which can actually cause extreme hunger or a binge episode, as your body fears another famine. So it tries to inhale everything in sight – before you´re going back on your “restrictive diet”.
You´re actually not eating that much
No, I am not invalidating your struggles with this one. I just want to address, that when we are coming from an restrictive eating pattern. We often lost knowledge about how much food we actually have to eat in order to function best.
You´re either underestimating your metabolism, the amount of calories your burning daily and/or your still trying to eat as little as possible. And as I already said – in recovery we need WAAAAY more food than usual.
You´re hormonal system is off track
When your body is short on energy, it only makes sense, that it cuts off certain functions. Like sending hunger and fullness cues by stop producing the hormones, that signal hunger and fullness. You neglected it for some time, so why should your body waste it´s precious energy for this? And when there are no fullness cues send by your body, how are we supposed to actually feel full?
The good thing is: When you´re focusing on nourishing yourself well and restoring your energy levels – they will come back.
Something I want to add: It is common, that it takes quite some while to be able to actually listen to your fullness cues once they come back. It takes practice, patience and compassion. And again: Overeating is not always a binge. It happens.
You are compensating your binges
Okay, so let´s review this: Your body tries to inhale as much food as possible, when food is given to you, to save your life, as it fears another famine. And then you are indeed going to make this happen: Restrict your food intake the next day/on the next meal. That´s a vicious cycle.
Your body needs the energy. Your body can handle calories.
helpful tips to stop
- Eat regularly during the day, like every 2-3 hours to prove your body the famine is over and it gets enough food anytime from now on, so you actually don´t have to inhale the whole kitchen at once
- increase your food intake. I know: scary – but set a minimum of 2500-3000 kcals a day. Better eat more under control, than feeling guilty after a binge. Read about extreme hunger and the results of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, when you want to know more about, why you have to eat this much
- don´t just eat any food – opt for more high calorie foods, carbohydrates and fats. Plenty minerals and vitamins to restore your bodys micro-nutrient resources..
- let go of all food rules
- when a binge happened, don´t compensate for it afterwards or the next day. Keep eating your meals to assure your body, that no famine will follow. Your body can handle the extra energy.
- learn to stop associating your weight with your worth
- be kind to yourself even after an episode. Let it happen, the guilt, shame and self-hate around it is most likely to trigger another one (self compassion)
- follow intuitive eating binge eating recovery coaches on Instagram. My favourites are liveasyouwellnes, binge nutritionist, freewithbrid, the intuitive nutritionist , no food rules
- try to not overthink it. It takes a while to actually be able to not just feel your fullness cues but also honour them and stop when you are comfortably full.
- PS: Livia Sara talks a lot about extreme hunger on her website/blog and on instagram and even has a course about extreme hunger.