Binge Eating: Why You're Doing it + How to Stop
DISCLAIMER: this post contains numbers that relate to weight, calories and BMI. If you are easily triggered by such content, I do not recommend reading!
i ate an entire jar of peanut butter, along with basically the rest of my kitchen for afternoon snack yesterday. i felt nauseous, sick, full, and bloated, but continued and kept eating till i almost threw up. a couple hours later, i had a ‘normal’ dinner in the hopes of ‘starting over’ and pretending it never happened. however, when night snack rolled along, i ate all of the snacks i had restocked up on after grocery shopping after snack that same afternoon. the past couple days have been like this. eating ‘normal’ meals throughout the day, then overeating at snack times and loading up on sugar and fat.
This was something I wrote not too long ago on my instagram page. Bingeing was something I had not experienced in a long time, and the fact that it was happening again made me feel scared and overwhelmed. But why was it happening again? I had been eating healthy, making sure my weight didn’t drop, and had been eating around 2,200 calories for quite a consistent period of time. According to almost all health websites and food labels, the average woman needs about 2,000 calories a day. I was eating above this, so why did my body feel the need to eat around 4,000 calories all of the sudden until I felt satisfied?
Then it hit me: I was restricting myself. I was weighing myself daily. I was not allowing myself to go over 99 pounds (I am 4′ 11″) because my eating disorder forbid me from weighing in the triple digits. Furthermore, I had recently gone to the endocrinologist who had told me my BMI of 20.0 was perfectly healthy. But if I was really so ‘healthy’, my body would not be craving more and I would not be having binge episodes.
So, I increased my calories. I listened to my hunger and tracked what I ate to see how much food I really needed to satisfy myself without having to binge at nighttime. Trust me, I know this is HARD. Listening to your body and eating when you’re hungry and what you’re hungry for is hard sh*t. The first couple days did end in binges, but after about a week of eating anywhere from 2,800-3,000 calories daily, the binge urges started to die down! I no longer craved sweets at night, and I no longer felt the need to eat an entire jar of nut butter. I was eating enough fats throughout my day, and was incorporating sweets as I craved them. I was giving my body what it wanted when it wanted, so it didn’t need to compensate for any losses at the end of the day.
Before you ask me what happened with my weight, I will tell you it went up. Logical, because I significantly increased my calories. However, it did not continue to go up like I had feared. I plateaued at around 101/102 lbs, and now maintain my weight eating between 2,800 and 3,000 calories! This high amount of calories was very hard for me to accept, because our society constantly gives us certain numbers that we need to be sticking to. This is such bullsh*t though, because EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT!
So how can YOU stop bingeing? In the next few paragraphs of this post, I will be highlighting the two main reasons WHY you are most likely bingeing, and how you can stop!
1. You are not eating enough
From personal experience, I know I started bingeing again because I wasn’t eating enough. I say ‘again’, because I also experienced binge episodes when I first started recovery about a year ago. The fact is, that when your body comes from a period of calorie restriction, you may experience extreme hunger(more on this in a later post!). This can seem SUPER scary at first, but the only way for it to die down and for you to get normalized hunger and fullness cues, is to give into your hunger!
What also falls into the category of ‘not eating enough’ is not eating enough of the right food. No, this does NOT mean you are not eating ‘clean’ enough, or ‘healthy’ enough. This means you are not eating enough of certain food groups. For a long time, I had too much protein in my diet. I kept this up for quite a while, but when I experienced extreme hunger in recovery, my binges mainly consisted of fat and carbs.
Something I also struggled with during my recovery was exercise. I convinced myself it was okay to eat a certain amount of calories, but I would purge through exercise and sometimes even through vomiting. Along with laxatives, purging methods such as exercise and vomiting can be triggering your binges. My doing these things, your body thinks it is in semi-starvation mode, and will try to load up on food whenever it gets the chance. This often happens in the form of uncontrollable binge episodes.
I sometimes tried to ‘curb my carb cravings’ by using artificial sweeteners. I ate protein bars, ice cream, cookies, and cake made with stevia or erythritol. By eating these things, your body thinks it is getting carbohydrates because of the sweet taste in your mouth. However, once your body realizes there are no real carbohydrates, you will at one point crave real sweet food and carbs, and may end up bingeing on these things. So, if you want to try to stop bingeing, try to cut out artificial sweeteners!
2. You are not at your setpoint
The second main reason you are (still) bingeing is because you are not at your setpoint. Your setpoint is the weight (range) at which your body will settle if you do not try to manipulate your food or weight in any way. More simply said, your setpoint is like your body’s ‘happy place’. Getting to know where your setpoint lies is actually very simple–listen to your body, and it will settle down where it wants to be–but for us who struggle with or weight and food, this can be a lot more difficult.
For example, stress can play a huge factor for me when it comes to the presence/absence of hunger cues. Because of this, my weight fluctuated a lot when I would eat more or less on certain days. Now that I have reached my setpoint, however, eating has become SO much easier! Sure, I still ‘overeat’ sometimes, but it no longer affects my weight. I finally have found a place where I can eat whatever I want, without worrying that my weight will change!
The fact that my weight increased when I started listening to my hunger and started having binges, meant I was not at my setpoint. My body was telling me I was hungry constantly, simply because it was trying to get me to gain weight! Now that I have gained that weight, my hunger cues have normalized and I do not have binge urges as often anymore.
How can you stop?
If you are struggling with binge eating and want to stop, you have to first ask yourself one question: are you trying to control how much you eat or how much you weigh? If this is the case, you have to stop trying to control these aspects of your life. You are going to need to drop this ‘diet mentality’ and start listening to your body, as scary as that may seem. You are going to need to allow your body to go up to a weight at which you can eat as much as you want, without having your weight constantly fluctuate.
Like I said before, if you are gaining weight eating an amount of food that you’re hungry for, you are NOT at your setpoint! I promise you, you will not gain weight forever. If you listen to your body and nourish it with wholesome, nutritious foods, your weight WILL plateau at one point. You will be able to eat whatever you crave whenever you crave it, and you will be able to trust your body to handle it.
If you have any questions for me regarding this post or the topic of recovery in general, know that I am always here for you. You can contact me through my instagram or my contact page, I’d love to hear from you!