Therapist Q: “How do you get someone who is binge eating to eat 3 meals a day & to eat normally?”

Coach/therapist role

Ok, so first of all I’d like to speak to the first part of the question and that is – “How do you get someone to...”

As a coach/therapist, it’s not your job to take full responsibility for the client’s healing and transformation. Yes, you show up 110%… yes, you pour your heart and soul into supporting the client, and yes, you take full responsibility for your part in the coach-client relationship but it’s not your job to “get someone” to do anything.

The clients’ transformation comes from them doing the work on themselves as you guide them, love them, support them and hold them accountable with the HOW. This is why it’s crucial (in my opinion) to always be investing in yourself as a coach/therapist with your time, money and energy to keep evolving and growing. Your clients can only go where you go first. You need to be doing your own inner work preferably working with your own coach. Only then are you an energetic match for your clients to want to work with you, pay you and show up for themselves to do the work they need to do to get where they want to be.

Are YOU scared of binge eating?

As a therapist, are you afraid of binge eating? Why or why not? I’m not saying that you are but my intuition led me to ask you this question and so there must be a reason…

Have you fully healed your own relationship with food and with your body? You can still help someone if you haven’t, but you’ll only be able to take your clients as far as you have gone yourself.

So I invite you to explore this question with yourself honestly and reach out if you need help.

What is binge eating?

Let’s get clear on exactly what binge eating is as most professionals confuse binge eating with emotional eating and vice versa. Binge eating and emotional eating are different. Emotional eating often does spiral into binge eating if the client is judging themselves for eating emotionally.

Emotional eating is when someone eats for comfort, to soothe themselves or to cope with life. Studies show that dieters turn to food during emotional regress whereas non-dieters actually typically turn away from food. Pleasure eating can be put into the emotional eating category but I have my own take on pleasure eating which I actually might do an episode on. Let me know if you’d be interested in me doing that!

Binge eating is a rebellion against restriction. Physical restriction, emotional restriction and accidental restriction. It is biological and cannot be controlled with willpower long term. Binge eating is actually a healthy response to restriction.

Binge eating isn’t the problem, restriction is.

And so to eradicate binge eating, all forms of restriction need to be removed, meaning full permission from oneself to eat all foods in any amount. Over time when the client is following the correct education and support, binge eating falls away naturally.

You cannot stop binge eating by trying to stop binge eating… that only KEEPS you binge eating!

I’ve spoken a lot about what causes binge eating in previous episodes but I will reiterate briefly here:

Physical restriction

This is the easiest to spot out of the different restrictions and is pretty self-explanatory. Physical restriction is when the client wants or desires a certain food but doesn’t allow themselves to have it. This can look like only allowing themselves to have chocolate on a weekend, cutting out food groups such as carbohydrates and not allowing themselves to have the cake when they actually want it.

Our job as coaches/therapists is to get to the root of why the client is restricting. Most of the time it will be due to fear of weight gain – which can be rewired – but for some, especially those with a restrictive eating disorder such as anorexia, it can be a way of “coping with life.

Emotional restriction

This is the sneakiest type of restriction and is 9 times out of 10 the reason why clients might say “I’m not restricting but I’m still binge eating.” And so the question isn’t “Are you emotionally restricting?” it is, “WHERE are you emotionally restricting?”

Any behaviour that is driven by the goal or hope of weight loss is “emotional restriction” and therefore will create an equal and opposite reaction aka binge eating which I like to call reactionary eating.

Emotional restriction can look like…

  • “Overachieving” at recovery and challenging yourself to eat the thing (for me it was Nutella) with the hope that if you eat enough of it, you won’t want to eat as much in the future (whether that’s for health or weight-related reasons) AKA your goal of eating the thing is so that you eventually DON’T want to eat the thing…
  • Eating the thing but wishing you didn’t want to eat the thing… not fully owning your desires around food.
  • Any form of rule around when you eat something eg- I can eat as much chocolate as I want but only in the evenings or only at the weekends etc.
  • Not buying it to keep in the house because you’re afraid you’ll eat it all.
  • Justyifng what you’re eating in any way eg- it’s my birthday, I’ve been to the gym etc.
  • Having any kind of judgment toward your food choices – even positive judgment – as if you feel “good” because you said no to dessert today, automatically births the opposite to that – feeling ‘bad” for having dessert whenever you do decide you want it.
  • Eating what you want but feeling fearful of potential weight gain – this is the most common as most of the above point to this underlying fear, which is why body image work and set point weight understanding is CRUCIAL to food freedom work.

Our job as coaches/therapists is to use our coaching skills and personal experiences to help the client by being a “detective” to help uncover where they are emotionally restricting and to support them through that… usually with body image work and letting go of deep-seated beliefs.

Accidental restriction

Accidental food restriction can happen when someone unintentionally limits their food intake or avoids certain foods, leading to inadequate nutrition and potential health problems. This can occur due to various reasons such as:

  • Needing to cut out gluten for health reasons and not replacing gluten products with gluten-free ones leaving you lacking carbs.
  • Underestimating how much food you actually need each day due to diet culture conditioning. Eg fasting until lunch and only eating some fruit and yoghurt for lunch.
  • The same goes for the level of fullness you are comfortable with. Often dieters have a strong negative reaction to feeling full and so they tend to undereat at each meal.
  • Busy schedule or lack of time to prepare meals leading to skipping meals or inadequate food intake.
  • Limited access to food due to financial constraints or lack of availability.
  • Digestive issues or food intolerances leading to avoidance of certain foods.
  • Changes in appetite due to stress, medication, or illness.

Any kind of food restriction can lead to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, and other health problems. And so as I said it’s the restriction that needs to be discovered and let go in order to stop binge eating (which as I keep saying, requires deep body image work).

3 meals a day

I recommend each of my clients eat at least 3 balanced and delicious meals a day if there in recovery from a binge eating disorder. Anorexia recovery clients need to eat more because they NEED to gain weight ASAP.

Eating three balanced meals a day is important in the recovery from eating disorders for several reasons:

  • Restoring a regular eating pattern: Eating three meals a day helps to establish a regular eating pattern and promotes a healthy relationship with food. This can help to reduce anxiety and fear around eating and shows that there is enough food which reflects safety and enoughness.

  • Providing adequate nutrition: Eating three meals a day ensures that the body is receiving enough energy and nutrients to function properly. This can help to improve physical health and mental well-being.
  • Improving metabolism: Eating three meals a day can help to improve metabolism and gets your body fired up and working again. It can also improve energy levels and reduce fatigue.
  • Supporting recovery goals: Eating three meals a day is an important part of many eating disorder treatment plans. Following a structured meal plan can support recovery goals and help to maintain progress over time.

As a therapist/coach, have your clients report back to you daily or at least weekly when you meet with them. This helps hold them accountable for nourishing themselves and getting into the habit of doing so.

Normal eaters…

The last part of the question was “How to get a client to eat normally?”…

What is normal eating?

Normal eating is a way of eating that is flexible, enjoyable, and nourishing. It involves listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, eating a variety of foods, and not feeling guilty or ashamed about food choices. Normal eating also involves being attentive to the social, emotional, and cultural aspects of food and eating, and being able to adapt to different situations and environments. It is important to note that normal eating can look different for each individual, as everyone’s needs and preferences are unique.

Normal eaters do not try to control their food!

To me, normal eating is easy, relaxing and pleasurable. I’ve only been able to get to where I am now due to the inner work I’ve done over the years to heal my relationship with food and my body.

If you – the reader – would like help with your relationship with food and your body then explore the different ways you can work with me here.


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