Am I bingeing because I have no willpower?
“I realized that I couldn’t knowingly look to food for a way out when it had so clearly led me here. It wasn’t hunger that beckoned me to eat more. It wasn’t my stomach that needed to be reconciled. It was shame. It was guilt. And food can’t remedy such things” ― Andie Mitchell,
Many people struggle with binge eating. Binge eating describes a state of eating large volumes of food and feeling out of control around food. If you have experienced binge eating, you may have found yourself bingeing when alone and may then have felt shame or guilt after eating too much. Many people don't talk about or seek help for their binge eating because of this shame and guilt. Many people also think that it is a personal failing that they can't control themselves around food. They think that they just have no willpower and just need to "get it together". But the reality is that binge eating disorder is a psychological condition. It can be effectively treated with the right psychological treatment and tools. YOU ARE NOT BINGEING JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO WILLPOWER.
For each person, the reasons driving binge eating will be different. But some common drivers of binge eating can include:
1.HAVING A VERY RESTRICTIVE DIET
Many people that find themselves bingeing have spent years dieting on-and-off. Some may have just recovered from anorexia and others may have just been on a calorie-controlled or restrictive diet. Others may have been restrictive around their diet in the past and have (at that past stage in their life) learnt the habit of bingeing.
2. HAVING LOTS OF FOOD RULES
The world of nutrition is very confusing and there are a lot of different messages out there around what we should and should not eat for "good health" or to "stay lean". This can often lead to people developing lots of food rules e.g. they may ban or limit foods such as dairy, gluten, sugar, grains, carbs, fruits... or anything else. If these food rules are too strict and inflexible, they can sometimes trigger bingeing. If you have one of your banned foods, you may then think "well I have ruined it now, so I might as well go crazy".
3. USING FOOD AS A COPING MECHANISM
For many food becomes the main tool that they turn to when they are stressed, sad, bored, lonely or anxious. This can mean that when going through a difficult period, bingeing can become a crutch that gives some relief or release.
4. BEING STRESSED, DRUNK OR SLEEP DEPRIVED
There are some things that can make us much more likely to give in to the pleasure-seeking part of our brain. This part of our brain drives us to seek out things that make us feel good in the short-term, such as fast or sugary food, alcohol, and smoking. If we are very stressed, tired or drunk, we are much more likely to give in to this part of our brain and just seek out short-term pleasure, promising to "be good again from tomorrow".
5.HAVING A BAD BODY IMAGE
Our food choices are very connected to how we feel about our bodies. How you choose food often reflects how you believe your body should be treated. For example, if you feel bad about your body, you may make choices to punish your body for not being "thin enough" or "good enough" such as very restrictive diets or over-eating/ binge eating (because "what's the point in even trying").
6.THE MESSAGES YOU RECEIVED AROUND FOOD GROWING UP
The messages you received about food through your early years and teens can then shape your relationship with food in adulthood. Some of the patterns playing out around food for you could be patterns you learnt from those around you when you were younger.
7. LEARNING THE HABIT OF BINGEING
Someone may have picked up the habit of bingeing many years ago and now just fall into this pattern on autopilot. If this sounds familiar, you may find it hard to find any emotional or other trigger for the behaviour.
8. LOW MOOD OR ANXIETY
Our mental health is very closely connected to our food choices. Some people feel low or anxious and feel unable to eat. Others feel down or anxious and may instead use food as a way to self-soothe or numb.
Many people blame themselves when they find themselves binge eating. However, the condition is rarely just a simple case of someone "not having enough willpower" to eat less. If you have experienced binge eating, please do remember that it is common, that there is help available and that you can have that hope for recovery. It is a psychological condition that can be successfully treated.
If you would like some help with binge eating, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in a free consultation.
“Your relationship with food is one of your earliest and most meaningful relationships. It’s also a relationship you will have for the rest of your life. It might as well be the best relationship that it can be.” - Unknown