Why Do I Binge Eat?

As humans, we love to feel in control. We love to plan for our future, any sort of uncertainty can make us feel anxious and we like to know that we can shape the path ahead. So when we then feel as though we have no control over a certain area of our life, this can lead us to feel very low and anxious. This is often especially the case when we feel that we have no control over something such as our food choices - which is "technically" something that we should be able to control.


Binge-eating for this very reason can have a negative effect on someone's mental and emotional health. If you are struggling with binge-eating you may:

- feel very out of control around food or certain types of food and notice that once you start eating you can't seem to stop;

- eat large volumes of food or more than what you would like to eat in one sitting;

- find yourself eating faster than usual or eating to the point of feeling uncomfortably full; and/or

- eat in secret or when others are not around in order to hide what you are eating.


Firstly, if you are struggling with binge-eating, as a psychotherapist and nutritionist that specialises in treating issues around food, I can reassure you that binge-eating is much more common than you would probably ever realise. Often it is something that people are doing in secret and feel embarrassed about - so there isn't much open discussion on the topic. Secondly, I also want to reassure you that there is nothing wrong with you for binge-eating. There are in fact some straightforward explanations for why you may find yourself binge-eating and here are some of those common causes of bingeing:


1. An extreme diet, detox or weight loss

I very often notice that binge-eating first starts after a period of extreme dietary restriction or weight loss. The brain and body have interpreted this diet/restriction/weight loss as a period of starvation and so they are then very concerned with keeping you alive/getting enough food to prevent starvation. You may start to notice that you have obsessive thoughts about food and also that once you start eating, you just can't stop. You can see how, if you had really been through a period of famine/starvation, this would be a very helpful survival mechanism because it would force you to seek out food and then to get you to eat plenty just in case another famine came along soon. Very few people realise that those extreme diets/fasts can drive binge-eating and just how harmful those restrictive diets/fasts/extreme weight loss plans are for their mental and physical health but also for their relationship with food long-term.


2. A habit that runs on loop

Whilst binge-eating often starts as a response to a diet/weight loss - eventually it can then become a habit that just plays out on loop in certain situations or in response to certain triggers. For example, your brain may just learn that whenever you feel low you binge or that whenever you are home alone for the evening you binge. In these circumstances binge-eating is basically just like a learnt pattern of behaviour and I tend to find carefully crafted hypnotherapy is very effective at changing this pattern of behaviour.


3. Low mood