There’s a common perception that binge episodes are directly related to a period of FOOD restriction. Often, it’s a pretty reasonable one to make. Think about it here: if we’re restricting significantly throughout the day, this actually signals a response to our brain that we need nourishment! If restriction goes on for too long, this signal gets louder and louder, and thus our ability to control our food intake feels like it’s non-existent. And while this can hold truth for many individuals, it is not the ONLY form of restriction that is always involved here.
The most common response I hear when I ask an individual “what does food give you during a binge?” is that it brings them comfort. It brings a sense of happiness, and unfortunately short-lived happiness. And then we look at their life as a whole. Each aspect of it: work, family, relationships, the way they view themselves, their self-care routine. The list goes on here.
Binging doesn’t necessarily have to result just from restricting actual food. Rather, it can stem from restricting ourselves from enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction in other areas of our lives. If you’re eating “normally” throughout the day (balanced meals, no forbidden foods), and are still binging at night, take time to examine all other aspects of your life.
For example, picture Susan here. Susan wakes up every day at 6 am because she has to put together Billy and Bob’s lunch for school. She typically works an 8 hour day which sometimes turns into 12 hours. She eats her lunch at her desk, while still responding to emails. After work, she comes home to an unprepared dinner and kids hyped up on too many fruit snacks. Susan is exhausted. Yet, she does the laundry, kisses husband goodnight, and finds herself in the kitchen with the company of the food in the pantry.
As you’re reading that example, it’s pretty clear that Susan’s life is not so much restriction from food, but rather the time she gets to herself. Her life revolves around the responsibilities she has for others, versus taking time to support herself. She’s essentially restricting herself from getting the support, time, and self-care that she may need. Food becomes an escape, or a way to feel fulfilled.
Look at the bigger picture here.
Where in your life are you feeling that your needs aren’t getting fully met?
And pay attention what YOU personally do when these needs aren’t met. For me, it was restriction. It was never ultimately about the food. Rather, it was other areas in my life that felt disorganized, out of control, or less than perfect. And food ended up becoming the “thing” to control and to focus on. Similarly with binging, it can stem from things going on externally to you that ultimately impact you internally.
When you binge, use it as a way to learn more about yourself. What happened throughout the day that may have triggered you? Did you feel like you were not emotionally supported by your loved one? Did you feel self-doubt throughout the day at work? Feeling restricted from enjoyment with friends? Or perhaps restricted from feeling a sense of confidence?
It could be food, however, my guess is the restriction is also going on elsewhere that we may not even be immediately aware of.