Why am I still “bingeing” when I have stopped physically & mentally restricting?
Mental Restriction can be extremely sneaky so get extra curious to notice where you may still perhaps be “restricting”…
Any behaviour that is driven by the goal or hope of weight loss is “restriction” and therefore will create an equal and opposite reaction.
This 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)
- Eating the thing but wishing you didn’t want to eat the thing
- 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 an opposite to that – feeling ‘bad” for having dessert whenever you do decide you want it.
Allowance creates space for choice
I don’t care what you eat or don’t eat, I care about how you feel about what you eat or don’t eat.
It’s your relationship with your food choices that matter most.
The best way to create this is through neutrality and listening to your body.
From a place of ALLOWANCE and NEUTRALITY, you can make a relaxed choice by choosing whatever feels best for you at that moment. Each moment will be different.
One day you might choose to have a slice of cake during your coffee date with a friend and another day you might choose to have a panini with salad instead because you haven’t eaten yet and you want to ensure you’re nourishing yourself and have energy for your meeting in the afternoon.
One evening you might choose to eat a tub of ice cream in front of the TV simply because it feels good and another evening you might choose not to because you’d rather not go to bed super full that night and you want to ensure you get a good nights sleep as you have a busy day the next day.
Just double-check that mental restriction isn’t creeping into your thoughts around your food choices.
Remove the word binge
Let’s play with the assumption that you are not mentally restricting yet you are still “bingeing”…
The word “binge” is a judgment in and of itself and so I recommend that you remove the world binge from your vocabulary (and the word should whilst you’re at it). The word “binge” naturally has a heavy feeling of “wrongness” associated with it so therefore it makes no sense to use the word in recovery.
Let’s swap it to “eaten past fullness” or “ate a lot of food” or even “I continued eating even when I didn’t really want to”
And what’s so bad about doing any of those things…? (if you think that it’s not “ok” to eat a lot of food or to eat past fullness etc then that’s a judgment aka mental restriction that can take a look at)
What evidence do you have that eating that amount of ___ isn’t ok for you?
Now let’s assume that you really have stopped restricting in any way and you don’t see “eating a lot of food” or “eating past fullness” as bad in any way, it’s just neutral to you yet you’re curious as to why you seem to be eating 300g of chocolate every night…
I experienced this myself which is why I used chocolate as an example.
What evidence do you have that eating that amount of chocolate isn’t ok for you?
That question was asked by one of my previous coaches (Dr Jillian Murphy) and really got me thinking…
What evidence DID I have that that wasn’t ok for my body? I felt good eating it. I slept well. My digestion was fine… I had absolutely zero evidence that eating that much chocolate each night was not serving me… only the fear of my future health from all the things I had read about sugar…
In fact, when I didn’t eat chocolate in the evening, I didn’t sleep as well, I experienced a slightly uneasy feeling (probably due to previous trauma of not allowing myself chocolate) and I was hungrier the next day!
Turns out, eating 300g of chocolate each evening was good for ME!
As I experimented with eating MORE in the day WITHOUT the goal being to eat less chocolate but instead to ensure that I am getting enough nourishment, I naturally ate less chocolate in the evenings.
Some evenings I eat a lot of chocolate and some evenings I don’t. My body knows what it’s doing and I just allow my instincts to run the show.
So ask yourself “what evidence do I have that eating __ is not serving me?
And if you do have evidence that what you’re doing is not serving you (eg- you can’t sleep at night due to the sugar rush) then you can approach this from a foundation of weight neutrality and HAES.
In my opinion and personal experience, there is an element as to why you may still be “bingeing” when you are definitely not restricting in any way (even though there is nothing wrong with “bingeing”). Here is my analogy…
Imagine a male dog who hasn’t been castrated.
When a female dog is in heat the male dog’s behaviour around the female is driven by his biological drive to reproduce.
Take my dog, Hero, he is 3 years old and hasn’t been castrated. He walks nicely on his lead, however, this morning he started pulling desperately to the point of him choking on his collar just to get to a dog that was walking in front of us. This dog was a female dog in heat. He dragged me to the dog (who was very pleased to meet Hero!) and Hero automatically began to sniff and lick in places that we humans would deem inappropriate – at least until we had been taken on a couple of dates first…!
He then proceeded to attempt to mount the female dog who thought she would make him work for it first so started flirting with him, spinning in circles and making some funny yelpy dog noises!
I let the female dog and her owner go on their way in front of us and made Hero wait with me. At this point, Hero didn’t even want a dog biscuit that I offered him. He was solely focused on the female dog. His behaviour was driven purely by his natural biological instinct and drive.
Now, let’s imagine that we had Hero castrated (don’t worry Hero, we won’t!) and after a few days, we came into contact with another female dog who was on heat.
How do you think he would behave?
He would have zero biological urge to drive his behaviour yet he might act in a similar way as before because his brain is habitually wired to do so.
Over time, when he stops feeling the urge that is driven by his biology, his behaviour will be more like a male dog who was castrated at an early age and therefore he wouldn’t act in the same desperate stressy way to get to a female dog in heat.
Fitting this into the context of “bingeing”
In regards to you still “bingeing” – even though you’re not restricting – this can be due to your biological wiring.
Think about it, you’ve attempted to restrict/been dieting for __ many years and so therefore your brain is wired to “binge” due to your biological response to restriction!
When we restrict, our brain increases our hunger hormones and reduces our satiety hormones and therefore drives us to eat high-fat high sugar foods and to eat past fullness because of the famine it thinks we are in.
ANY TIME you don’t eat the amount of food you truly desire to eat … aka ANY TIME you “hold yourself back” from eating what you’d really like to if you weren’t scared of weight gain or health implications, your brain interprets that as;
“There is not enough food in our environment, therefore, we must eat all we can now and hoard anything we can.”
And so over time, this becomes habitual. It isn’t until your body feels truly safe that there is enough food and that there is no impending restriction that you can then start to fully RELAX into knowing there is and always will be enough.
From that place of safety and relaxation, you can then start to ask yourself “do I actually want to eat this?” knowing that you can literally eat whatever the f it is you want in any amount you want. You can then experiment with serving sizes eg – putting chocolate into a bowl instead of eating it out of the wrapper or buying smaller bars of chocolate instead of family-size bars.
You can also just ask yourself that magic question from earlier; “What evidence do I have that eating this is not serving me?”
Either way, ALLOWANCE ALWAYS CREATES SPACE FOR CHOICE and if you’re still “bingeing” and not restricting, give your body and yourself time to trust that the food won’t be taken away again and there is always enough should you want it.
Emotional eating is different to binge eating yet they can be both intertwined. When we eat emotionally, we are eating to change our emotional state whether that’s boredom, seeking pleasure, numbing sadness etc (which is also 100% ok!)
Ultimately if you can learn through practice and by the body image work I teach, to relax into whatever your food choices look like, that will bring the most peace. Then, food just becomes food. It will lose the power it has over you, you’ll have zero biological urges driving you to eat and feeling “out of control” and you’ll be able to enjoy food for what it is… a pleasurable part of life that holds no morality to it.
If you’d like to be personally coached through this process to food freedom and body love, explore the different ways you can work with me.
I look forward to getting to know you.