Binge Eaters – Pay Attention
- The Other Side of the Mirror: Body-Image Dependency Disorder in the Fitness Industry
- Food Issues and You: Finally Facing Your Phantom Menace
- MetabolicDamage and the Dangers of Dieting
...and even my latest book The Empowered Woman: Why Food, Fitness and Fatness are Female Issues discusses the mindset of the binge-eater – who is more than 90% of the time female. These are not the only books I’ve written regarding diet, metabolism and eating behavior – but these books go the deepest into binge-eating itself. Also, it is a fact that not only does competing often become the “trigger” for full-blown binge eating disorder and other food issues – but ladies with eating disorders are also “attracted” to competing in the fitness arena, because it is way to “legitimize” their own unhealthy obsession with food, eating and their bodies. So, there is a lot of back and forth chicken and egg influence going on here with how the fitness industry can induce and perpetuate eating disorders like binge eating.
"I was just focusing on losing those last 10 lbs"
...becomes a binge-eating trigger or it may be dieting for an event like vacation, or a wedding, or a class reunion or yes, competing. But inside your mind you trigger a counter-intuitive response. Your intense focus on food and body-weight produces the exact opposite of intended response. You end up seeking relief from the emotional pressure of it all, and since your mental focus is food – that is the emotional place you seek relief. And then it begins. This of course makes you think even more about those last 10 lbs – which is now 12-15 – so you double down on your mental commitment which only produces more emotional anguish. And you measure and judge yourself against all of it. From here on in you are now caught in the vortex of the mindset of the binge-eater.
...and this is a classic commonality. Shame and guilt keep you locked into a mindset of secrecy, even eating in secrecy. What you really need is an outlet for discussing this behavior, but instead the binge-eating mindset tells you that it is so shameful you need to keep it to yourself. Many of you with food and eating issues also consider yourselves role models in the fitness industry – and other people “look up to you” for your body and expertise. This only deepens your fear and shame. This sets you seeking relief from the fear and shame, so you go right where you don’t want to go again. Just like with AA – you need to go and sit and talk/communicate with someone, where you can do so with calm energy. If you don’t – you will continue to eat your emotions and have your emotions eat you in return.
Christmas and Thanksgiving are coming up: you are torn about them. You hate the thought of being around all that food. It scares and intimidates the hell out of you. You know you won’t truly enjoy any of it – because you’ll be so focused on the food and how to resist it. You start thinking of ways you can manipulate the whole thing to be “perfect” on your diet. You don’t realize you are becoming more and more food and eating obsessed. You can’t relax and you won’t relax. The diet-mentality completely owns you at this point. So even if you stay “perfect” while eating in front of everyone else – eventually time-alone comes to you, and you binge eat anyway – often on food you don’t even crave or like.
This is the helter/skelter mindset of the binge-eater. The bottom line is “what you focus on expands” so the more you focus on food and diet, diet and food, the more intense all this becomes as its own trigger to your next binge-episode. What you require is less mental and emotional diet and food focus – but your binge-eating mindset tells you that diet is still the way out and that once you lose this weight or change your body, you’ll stop bingeing. In other words, you continue to lie to yourself in ways that make no rational sense.
"I’m so disgusted with myself!"
This sets in motion the whole self-judgment process and engages the emotional realm in harming ways. Many binge-eaters are in fact perfectionists, and very, very competitive – often using “envy” as motivation to change their bodies. So when self-judgment is the foundation, shame and guilt and disgust for sabotaging behavior will be the outcome. Only, this can’t solve the binge-eating; only contribute to it even more. Self-judgment doesn’t relieve binge-eating, it reinforces it, by reinforcing the mindset that drives it. What you really seek is to move from emotional judgment to rational responsibility. Directed journaling is a great exercise to eventually get you there. You remain disconnected from yourself: So, you binge – then feel terrible, hate on yourself, feel guilt and the mindset of guilt means punishment for what you are guilty for – so you binge again to both punish yourself and relieve your sense of guilt. And you do all this by judging and measuring yourself based on diet-adherence and how much you don’t like your body. But the more you make all of this about diet, your weight, and your appearance -> the more intensely you reinforce self-judgment, which will of course lead to more bingeing. Stop lying to yourself that any of this is a diet-issue! You don’t supplement your way out of binge-eating – you don’t cleanse your way out of it, and you don’t “Paleo or South Beach” your way out of it! And it’s not solved by figuring out food allergies and the rest of the nonsense that only illustrates just how food-focused you are. Thinking at the same level of the problem only feeds and fuels the problem and seldom if ever solves it.
Because binge eating brings with it some kind of emotional pay-off for you. It satisfies an emotion you are hungering for in your real life. It’s not the food, it’s the missing emotional nurturing pay-off that the food is symbolic of. This is what you need to explore – and do so with daily journaling. If you enjoy for the moment that feeling of being stuffed, or gorging on food, then it suggests a level of emotional “empty” or “hunger” and emotional “starving” that is being fed. You are not meeting your true emotional needs in your life, so food and bingeing becomes a surrogate for that.
Because you are still in self-judgment mode – never in self-acceptance mode. This only guarantees it will continue. If you make all this about resisting bingeing or about weight-loss or about dress-sizes you will eventually capitulate because this is not healthy energy driving your behavior. And where the mind is, behavior follows. Stop lying to yourself that this is about food, eating, diet, or weight-control. Those are “effects” not “causes.” The more you tell yourself that your binge eating is about these things, the worse off you will be – mentally, emotionally, and physically. You need to be blunt and honest and ask yourself “What emotional needs you have that are not being met?” “How does binge-eating serve you – and then what are all the real-world costs involved in the reality that you now serve your bingeing. You don’t control it – it controls you. Journal your answers – and do it daily if you can.
Actually it’s putting such a heavy emphasis on your body’s appearance and judging yourself from this filter that continues to contribute to your eating issues. You need to stop thinking of overcoming your binge eating as some kind of achievement or accomplishment you will have. You need to see it more as an addiction like people in AA etc. You have to accept the solution to this is an ongoing process – full of one step forward, two step back scenarios. The question is; are you willing to drop the self-judgment during the relapses long-enough to learn from them. This behavior is always trying to teach you something. And by focusing only on judging yourself in it – you are missing its lessons. Therefore you keep repeating your history till you learn from it. This is never going to be something you “get over” – so get over that kind of thinking. This is going to be something you recover from – if you are fortunate enough to do so.
Exactly right! Now you are speaking the language that can help you – the language of the addict. The language that says I am powerless to help myself in this area. This is a good start, when you surrender the battle and resistance mentality and “accept” the powerlessness of the issue. From here, you need to explore through journaling what your bingeing means, what it means to admit your are powerless over it, and explore what function this behavior has in your life – what needs do you have that are being met by acting out the binge response? You can only explore these areas by journaling. Accept that NO ONE overcomes this on their own. NO ONE. So by trying to keep it secret you only ensure it will be harder to ever deal with.
Do not underestimate the power of directed journaling. Your brain also has an executive decision-making center. And if this area of the brain is exercised enough, it can override emotional impulse. And journaling will engage this area of the brain. Remember, what you focus on expands and since previously all you focused on was food, and diet, and weight, and resisting your urge to binge – you just kept engaging your emotional impulse center – while your executive decision making center of your brain atrophied and remained in darkness. You need to reverse this. Journaling will engage the rational executive-decision making center of your brain, while turning down the volume of your emotional impulse center where your binge-eating urge flourishes.