From anorexia to binge eating – a fear that accompanies many sufferers during the journey to recovery. What is the difference between extreme hunger and binge eating? Today we want to focus on exactly this topic. I hope this takes some of the fear out of developing binge eating, but also gives you ideas on how to take care of yourself during this difficult time.
Those affected by binge eating disorder suffer from recurring binge eating. They eat large amounts of food in a short period of time compared to most other people and feel like they are losing control of their eating habits. They feel like they can’t stop eating or control what and how much they eat. Unlike people with bulimia, binge eaters do not compensate for their binge eating with excessive exercise, vomiting, or starvation.
The English term “binge eating” stands for excessive, overeating. The English word “binge” means something like “revelry”.
Binge eating episodes are also characterized by:
Now before you are completely sure that you probably slipped straight from one extreme to the other extreme – let’s take a close look at extreme hunger.
Extreme hunger differs from binge eating in that:
Does it matter if it’s a binge or if your body just needs a lot more food right now because you’re recovering from an eating disorder? – not really in my opinion. Instead of worrying too much about eating emotionally, eating too much, eating out of boredom, etc., ask yourself which areas of your life are striving for more fulfilment, how you actually feel, what beliefs you hold about your weight and certain foods and ask yourself how you can take better care of yourself.
What extreme hunger actually is and why it occurs after a phase of restriction, I explain in more detail in these blog posts:
But to go back to it briefly here: Studies – including the Minnesota Starvation Experiment – have shown that extreme hunger (hyperphagia) after a phase of energy restriction takes on a function of autoregulation. It can be assumed that we humans have an optimal predisposed ratio of lean mass to fat mass. This ratio is individual for each person but remains constant throughout life. The extreme hunger usually persists until this optimal ratio has been reached again.
This means that you may have already reached your doctor’s set “goal weight” – which, by the way, you can, and probably even should, go above – but the percentage of fat-free mass has not yet been restored. This can also explain the weight overshoot. The point of this overshoot is that your body has sufficient energy reserves available in the event of the next hunger period and can thus secure your life.
The fear of binge eating is just the surface of your fears. The fear behind it could be that you are afraid of gaining weight, being judged by others, fear of letting go of the eating disorder, taking up more space, fear of giving up control, less recognition and attention, etc.
It’s best to look at your beliefs here: What do you associate with gaining weight? What actually happens when you gain “more” weight? And don’t stop there – go ahead and ask yourself if these fears are rational.
You have unconditional permission to eat. And nothing and no one can take away this permission from you. When you were born you acquired the right to nourish your body and your soul. Why is this so important to understand?
The more we forbid ourselves to have something, the greater the desire for it becomes. By forbidding it (which includes only allowing ourselves 3-4 pieces of chocolate), it becomes something special and MUCH more appealing. The same phenomenon occurs when we say to ourselves: “I’ll eat less tonight” or “I’ll gain weight, but not too much”.
Your body wants to take care of this deficiency in advance, because such food shortages used to be life-threatening. “Quickly eat everything before I get nothing more”.
Most of the time when we give ourselves permission to eat 2, even 3 or 4 bars of chocolate, not just today but anytime we want to, we don’t even want a whole one anymore. The incentive is gone. Then it’s nothing special anymore. It will take a while at first for your body to realize that it can actually trust you, that it can have as much as it wants, but over time a sense of inner emotional fullness and contentment will set in.
Dulloo AG, Jacquet J, Girardier L. Poststarvation hyperphagia and body fat overshooting in humans: a role for feedback signals from lean and fat tissues. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Mar;65(3):717-23. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/65.3.717