What causes binge eating?
"I can't even count the number of times I've obliterated my diet with a binge session. One second, I'm floating along just fine, four days into a successful low-carb lifestyle. The next? I'm standing alone in a dark kitchen, eating a sleeve of Ritz crackers and cream cheese with a spoon.” - Rachel Hollis
You hate that feeling...you know the one where you feel as though you have completely lost control...almost as though you have gone into a strange trance-state and someone else has taken over your body and is encouraging you to...eat and eat and eat and eat - until you feel uncomfortably full..guilty...horrible...embarrassed. So why is it that you are so in control when it comes to so many areas of your life and yet you just can’t get in control of your bulimia or binge eating?
I am often asked by clients what has caused their bulimia or binge eating. Of course, a range of factors play a role in whether someone develops binge eating or bulimia. Yet for many individuals, binge eating or bulimia starts after a period of extreme dieting or after following some form of restrictive meal plan. There is a part of the brain that responds to this starvation/restriction by encouraging an individual to eat...and eat...and eat...and eat. It is quite a primitive drive and its purpose is of course, to protect the body against starvation. Eventually an individual comes to enjoy the feel good hormones that are released through the process of binge-eating and the more times they engage in this behaviour - it slowly forms into a habit or an automatic response in certain circumstances.
The types of circumstances that may make an individual feel more inclined to binge eat include when they have eaten a food that they deem “naughty” or “bad”. When they are feeling a bit full from slightly over-eating, they may then be tempted to binge. When they have starved themselves all day and are feeling extremely hungry in the evening, they may also then be tempted to binge. Again - the more times they turn to binge eating in these circumstances - the more they hard-wire their brain to automatically turn to binge eating going forward.
However, the good news is that behaviour change techniques (involving for example, certain types of hypnotherapy and NLP), which work to break unhelpful subconscious habits down, work so well to reverse the pattern of binge eating. Just as habits can be formed - they can also be unlearnt - and new, healthier habits established in their place. In addition, there is a part of our brain (the pre-frontal cortex) that acts like a filter on our automatic habits - allowing us to decide whether we act upon those instinctive urges and also enabling us to consciously start building up new habits. Basically - there many techniques that can be used to reverse this habit that leaves you feeling so guilty and out of control.