Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge, Part 5

This is Part 5 of the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

You can read the previous posts to this series by clicking on the link above.

Part 1 presented the idea that binge urges follow periods of dieting (under-eating).  Part 2 listed physical and mental signs of under-eating.  Part 3 gave samples of what under-eating might look like and Part 4 offered suggestions for eating more (eating enough) to reduce urges to binge.

In this final post for this series, Part 5, I will write about urges to binge after you are eating enough.  I wrote about this in the previous Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting, Part 4.

Take a moment to read that post as it supports what is being written now.

For those people who have stopped dieting, are eating enough, and are still experiencing urges to binge, it is worth exploring something that will be very annoying for only a little while:

Urges to binge may have become a normal signal your brain sends to you in multiple situations that have nothing to do with needing to eat more.

It may be a habitual urge your body experiences.

Here is why:

Your first binge is truly an act of physical survival.  Your body is starved from under-eating, so your brains sends you overwhelming urges to eat.

You respond by eating as if it has been weeks since you have had a bite of anything.  It can feel frantic, rushed, right, and wrong all at once.  You can feel relieved and regretful at the same time, proving binge eating to be a very complex behavior.

After your first binge, you return to your usual senses, and likely to a period of under-eating to compensate for eating so much.

This perpetuates the cycle of binge eating, and it is all it takes to turn one act of binge eating into a habit.

Binge eating is a habit.

The next time you binge, it might be for the very same reason as the first time–under-eating. And the next time might be the same as well.

But now the brain is establishing connections between you and your environment when you binge eat.  Now it is not only about actually needing food, but also about whatever is happening in your life when you binge.

This could be, but is not limited to:

  • A time of the day.
  • A day of the week.
  • When you are alone and able to binge.
  • When you have eaten a particular food and then binged.
  • Before an activity.
  • After an activity.
  • Near a holiday.
  • When you visit specific people.
  • At a specific restaurant or cafe.
  • At a social event.
  • After a period of stress.
  • During a celebration.

It also connects binge eating with how you feel emotionally when you binge, and this could be:

  • Sad
  • Scared
  • Lonely
  • Frustrated
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Happy
  • Relaxed
  • Nervous
  • Tired
  • Wired
  • Stressed
  • Confused
  • Indecisive
  • Rebellious
  • Hungry
  • Full
  • HIlarious

Do you see that signals to binge eat can be sent in any context once its habit is established?

You could be stressed for an exam or happy about an upcoming party and feel an urge to binge simply because your brain tied the two situations together from a past experience.

At this point it might seem like a lost cause to try to stop your habit, because it interferes with so much of your life, but don’t lose hope. You can change any habit at any time, no matter how long it has been taking place!

I hesitated to list all of the times and feelings you will encounter that may have a memory of bingeing tied to it because it is basically all of them, if you have been bingeing for a long time (or even a short time).  I wanted to list them to show how varied they are and how they really have nothing to do with the urge to binge.

Because urges have become a habitual signal you feel, your brain will continue to send signals to do something you no longer need (and haven’t since you resumed eating enough) when you encounter a time or feeling you had when you were dieting and bingeing until you stop obeying them.

This is why it will be very frustrating when you decide to stop binge eating.

Eating more throughout the day will certainly help to reduce urges to binge, but if you have a history of binge eating, like I did for 10 years, you are going to have to do more than just change your diet to include more nutrient dense food.

You are going to have to decide to not give any credit or additional thought to the urge to binge.

This is so important for stopping binge eating.

When you experience the urge to binge and you are not physically hungry, do nothing about it.

Don’t try to figure out why you have the urge.  Don’t feel badly about it.  Don’t try to manipulate the urge to mean something more than what it does.  It is just a habitual urge you feel.  Don’t assume it means anything.

The minute you start to engage with the urge is when it starts to influence you to act on it.

It does this by using your own language to convince you that you really need to binge.

You might say to yourself, “Just one bite won’t hurt“, or “I have been so good all week, so I deserve to have this“, or “I need a little fun in my life“, knowing that you don’t really want one bite (you want them all), and you’re not a dog who deserves treats, and if you wanted to have fun, you could go fly a kite.

Have you ever said these things to yourself before a binge?  I have.  They are pretty silly, but very common to think (or even say aloud) in response to an urge to binge.

If you start to engage in this thinking, you will likely binge–unless you put a stop to engaging with the urge right away.

When you hear yourself thinking about giving into an urge to binge, decide to recognize what is happening, accept it as something you will not do, then move on with your life.

This is not white-knuckling it or using willpower to not notice your urge to binge.

This is just not giving the urge your attention or respect.

It’s a meaningless feeling and it doesn’t deserve any more of your time.

Try it once.

Prove to yourself that you can do it.

Celebrate each time you do.

Then do it again.  And again.  And again.

It gets easier, and urges start to lose their intensity.  The come, they go, they are forgotten.

Will you try this?

It will be very difficult at first.

But only at first.  Just like any new habit, it becomes second nature soon, and it becomes simply what you do.

If you have been eating enough food for your body and you are experiencing urges to binge without being physically hungry, it may just be a habitual signal your brain is sending you, but it doesn’t mean anything, and it doesn’t have to be obeyed.

Begin to replace the memories you have bingeing with healthy and positive memories.

They add up quickly.

Will you try this?

It might change your life forever.

Leave a comment if you try this, there are so many people who can benefit from your courage!

This wraps up the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.  I hope it has been a practical source of information, and I hope you feel ready and inspired to stop dieting and stop binge eating.

You can do this!

Image from Etsy.

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Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge, Part 4

This is Part 4 of the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

You can read what has been posted so far by clicking on the link above.

In Part 1, I wrote about how under-eating can lead to urges to binge.  Part 2 went over the physical and mental signs of under-eating, and Part 3 gave examples of what under-eating might look like for the average person who wants to eat healthy, but very well might be under-eating and experiencing urges to binge.

Part 4 will offer suggestions on increasing your eating to reduce the urge to binge.

It seems crazy to suggest increasing how much you eat when we are bombarded with the message to eat less.  Eating less has its place, and is an effective way to lose unwanted weight, but eating less is not usually the most effective approach for those who are caught up in the habit of binge eating.  Eating less is usually what triggers the actual urges to binge, increasing the likelihood of binge eating.

It is worth considering removing the period of dieting (under-eating) that leads up to urges to binge as a means to experience less binge urges.

This is a practical approach, but may be very intimidating or even scary to the person who is used to under-eating and bingeing.

I suggest exploring this approach as quickly or slowly as it appeals to you.  The reason for this is that our actions tend to follow our thoughts (beliefs) and if you do not believe that eating more will reduce your urges to binge, you likely will not enjoy the process of eating enough and you might not stick with it.

This does not mean that eating more is not an effective approach to reducing binge urges because it certainly is!

It only means that eating enough will be frustrating and uncomfortable for you if you do not believe that it is a plausible practice.

Bingeing is a physical act that requires physical action to end, but all physical actions begin as a thought, often subconsciously and emotionally.  Putting the effort into ending binge eating requires both a physical and emotional change in approach, so go easy on yourself as you explore the two, and get comfortable with your own growth, no matter what its speed.

Some benefits of eating more throughout the day besides experiencing less urges to binge are:

  • Feeling more satisfied after meals.
  • Feeling more satisfied after snacks (if you need them at all).
  • Experiencing less anxiety around food.
  • Experiencing freedom to think about more than just food and eating.
  • Reduced discomfort from dieting.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Increased focus.
  • Increased sexual desires.
  • Improved moods.
  • Improved digestion (assuming you are bingeing less or not at all).
  • Increased ability to eat along the usual meal schedules of those around you (this is more of a convenience).
  • Bingeing less (and not at all).
  • Less regret, guilt, and shame attributed to bingeing.
  • Weight loss (if it was needed).
  • More stable hormones.
  • Freedom to enjoy your life without the burden of binge eating.

So, on that positive note, here are some ways that you can increase your eating which will reduce your urges to binge:

  • Increase the portion sizes of your meals.  If you have two eggs for breakfast, try adding an extra egg (or two).
  • Add new foods to your meals.  If you have eggs for breakfast, try adding some avocado or some spinach, or some olives, or fresh fruit.  If you have yogurt, try adding some macadamia nuts.
  • Add healthy fats to your meals.  Fats will keep you fuller longer and definitely add to your satiety levels.  You can experiment with olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, butter, ghee or even lard (best from organic sources).  No need to worry about the extra calories from a serving of fat–extra calories are the whole idea in this experiment!
  • Increase the amount of protein you eat at each meal.
  • Add some satisfying carbohydrates to your meals.  Carb have gotten a bad wrap over the last twenty or so years, but provided you do not base your entire diet on them, they can be a very beneficial addition to your diet (especially if you exercise or are a female with hormonal imbalances).  Try sweet potatoes, white potatoes, yucca, carrots, beets, white rice, bananas, or plantains.  I generally advise sticking with vegetables and fruits as your carb choices simply because gram for gram, they are more nutritious than grains and legumes (but do not feel that you cannot have grains or legumes!).

These are only a few ideas for increasing your food intake so that you are eating enough and experiencing less urges to binge.

You do not have to follow this advice, as it is always your choice how to go about this, but you will probably find it relatively easy to increase your food intake with healthy, whole foods, and you will probably find them delicious.  Your meals will become more palatable, and you will feel satisfied, calm, and able to go on with the rest of your life as they are digesting and providing you energy.

I caution against adding processed foods and foods high in sugar to your diet as you increase your food intake.  The reason for this is that these foods are known to not satisfy, not leave you feeling calm or clear, and do not offer benefits to your digestion, skin, joints, and mental well-being.  For someone who has dieted and binged, healing what has been damaged will do wonders not only for the obvious physical reasons, but for your mental health.

Know that you may choose less than healthy foods to increase your intake and it will have no impact on your morality–only your physical and mental health.  You can still stop urges to binge with less than healthy foods, but it might be more difficult.  This is for you to determine.

Mathematically, implementing a few of the ideas above each day can increase your calories by as little as 100 or several hundred.  If this frightens you, remember that if you are dieting and bingeing, you are eating very little followed by periods of eating amounts that are far too much for anyone.  Eating increased portions throughout the day, and not bingeing, always ends up being less food over the long-term, than dieting and bingeing.

Remember that trying to maintain a diet of 1,600 calories or less is likely what got you into the cycle of dieting and bingeing.  Do not feel guilty about increasing your daily calories.  Most people do best on at least 2,000 calories a day.  If this sounds crazy, think about how crazy dieting and bingeing has felt.

It is worth trying something new.

Experiment with this if you are currently dieting and bingeing.  You might come to enjoy this way of eating and you will certainly enjoy less urges to binge.

In Part 5, I will write about bingeing even after you are eating enough.  Bingeing begins as a way for your body to receive enough nutrients after a period of starvation, but often becomes habitual.  The good news is that habits can be changed so read on as we continue the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

For now, leave a comment if you have tried any of these ideas and let us know how they have helped to reduce your urges to binge.

Image from Tumblr.

Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge, Part 3

This is Part 3 of the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

You can read the previous posts by clicking on the link above.

In Part 1 I wrote about how dieting (under-eating) can lead to urges to binge eat.  In Part 2, I listed the physical and mental signs of under-eating.

In Part 3, I will write more specifically about what under-eating might look like on a plate.

This is difficult to write because everyone needs a different amount of food and sometimes eating very little is the natural way for someone to eat and it does not lead to urges to binge.

This post is only exploring under-eating with urges to binge.

If you experience urges to binge eat and you have been dieting for any length of time, it is worth considering that you do not eat enough.

So, what is not enough food?

An egg for breakfast, a salad with half a cup of tuna for lunch, a banana with a tablespoon of almond butter as a snack, and broccoli with a chicken leg for dinner.

This is about 600 calories.  This is not enough.

How about two eggs for breakfast, a bigger salad with a cup of tuna for lunch, a banana with two tablespoons of almond butter as a snack, and broccoli, a sweet potato and two chicken legs for dinner.

This is about 1,030 calories.  This is not enough.

Ok, how about three eggs for breakfast, a bigger salad with a cup of tuna and half of an avocado for lunch, a banana with two tablespoons of almond butter and a soft boiled egg for a snack, and broccoli, a sweet potato with a tablespoon of coconut oil, and two chicken legs for dinner.

This is about 1,460 calories.  This is still not enough.

Are you surprised that so much food is so low in calories?

Or do you think sample meals number two and three are not low in calories?

Over the last few decades, we have been told to limit our calories and increase our fitness to lose weight.  We’ve been doing this, but overall our weight has not decreased or even stabilized. Rather, it has gone up.

Many attribute this to the vast supply of processed foods available today (processed foods lack nutrition so despite being higher in calories, people tend to eat more food in general on a processed food diet because the body is never satiated–this leads to weight gain).

While there certainly is a direct correlation with increased processed foods and increased weight, most of the people who are not eating enough are not eating a diet made up of low nutrition, processed foods.

They are generally health conscious eaters, aware of nutrition ,and attempting to put quality ingredients into their body.

These people want to eat the right things, and not too much of them, and are likely to diet as an attempt to maintain or decrease their weight.

They might follow a meal plan from one of the samples listed above.

For most, none of the samples listed is enough food.  For most, all of the samples listed above will lead to urges to binge eat because they are two low in calories and nutrients.

They are starvation diets.

Starvation diets are diets extremely low in calories.  In today’s magazines and diet books, 1,460 calories diets are commonly preached for weight loss, but remember the Minnesota Starvation Experiment of 1944-1945? In this study, over thirty men were put on diets of 1,570 calories per day and most of them suffered extreme consequences.

Here is an excerpt about this experiment (taken from the link found above):

“Subjects had to be male, single and demonstrate good physical and mental health (largely based on the newly developed Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). They also had to show an ability to get along well with others under trying circumstances and an interest in relief work. The final 36 men were selected from more than 200 volunteers and in November 1944 made their way to the University of Minnesota to begin their service.

The research protocol called for the men to lose 25 percent of their normal body weight. They spent the first three months of the study eating a normal diet of 3,200 calories a day, followed by six months of semi-starvation at 1,570 calories a day (divided between breakfast and lunch), then a restricted rehabilitation period of three months eating 2,000 to 3,200 calories a day, and finally an eight-week unrestricted rehabilitation period during which there were no limits on caloric intake. Their diet consisted of foods widely available in Europe during the war, mostly potatoes, root vegetables, bread and macaroni. The men were required to work 15 hours per week in the lab, walk 22 miles per week and participate in a variety of educational activities for 25 hours a week. Throughout the experiment, the researchers measured the physiological and psychological changes brought on by near starvation.

During the semi-starvation phase the changes were dramatic. Beyond the gaunt appearance of the men, there were significant decreases in their strength and stamina, body temperature, heart rate and sex drive. The psychological effects were significant as well. Hunger made the men obsessed with food. They would dream and fantasize about food, read and talk about food and savor the two meals a day they were given. They reported fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy. Interestingly, the men also reported decreases in mental ability, although mental testing of the men did not support this belief.

For some men, the study proved too difficult. Data from three subjects were excluded as a result of their breaking the diet and a fourth was excluded for not meeting expected weight loss goals.”

What do you think of this?  Knowing how this effected over thirty healthy men over sixty years ago, why are we advised to eat 1,600 calories a day (or fewer) by popular voices?  It seems like the very opposite of what would be good for us, especially when you factor in fitness (which is becoming more and more intense and chronic every year!).

Extreme dieting–not eating enough–has consequences.  If kept up for too long by anyone (which is going to be a different set time for everyone), it can have serious implications on your body and your mind.

I realize there are people who seem to do just fine on very low calorie diets.  They appear healthy both physically and mentally.  They do not have obsessive thoughts about food, about their body, and they do not have urges to binge.

This post is not about them.

This post is for anyone who is trying to maintain a very low calorie diet with urges to binge.

Consider the effects of not eating enough.  Consider eating more.  Perhaps it will change your life for the better by reducing urges to binge eat.

In the next post, we will go over how you can begin eating enough.

What do you think about very low calorie diets?  Have you tried to maintain one?  Did you notice increased urges to binge?  Do you think the sample meals listed above are too low in calories?

Your comments are appreciated, it helps us all make sense of the issue.

And, if you were wondering, almost every single “healthy” lunch you find in your grocer’s freezer aisle is not enough food.

This is why the vending machine down the hall is so appealing every day at about two or three o’ clock.

Image from Flickr.

Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge, Part 2

This is Part 2 of the Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

You can read Part 1 by clicking on this link.

Eating enough.  Eating enough.  Eating enough.

If you say it enough times, does it make any more (or less) sense?

In the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting, I wrote about eating more throughout the day to reduce urges to binge.  Bingeing is often the result of dieting (under-eating). When you under-eat, your brain sends signals to you to eat, and not just eat, but overeat in a panicked, rushed, and uncontrolled manner–known as binge eating.

Often, bingeing involves eating foods that you have restricted while dieting and in very large quantities (but not always).  It is often done alone, in a short amount of time (but it can be with others and it can be drawn out over a day or a week or longer), and it is often followed by feelings of regret, shame, and guilt.

It is usually followed up with a period of compensation which may be self-induced vomiting, over-exercise, laxative use, or fasting.

After a period of compensation, a vow to never binge again may me made, and then a submissive and obedient return to dieting–extreme under-eating, may take place.

All to repeat itself again, and again, and again.

This is the nature of dieting and binge eating.

If you are in the habit of binge eating, it is worth taking a look at its issue holistically. Binge eating is generally not an isolated event.  It is usually preceded by a period of dieting, proceeded with a period of compensation, and then preceded again with repeated dieting.

So, what if you did not diet?  What if you removed the period of under-eating that led to your binge eating?

Take a moment and think about what your life might be like if you were not caught up in the cycle of diet, binge, diet, binge.

Does it sound too good to be true?  Does it seem impossible?

Take another moment to think about life not on a diet.

Does it seem scary?

This post is about eating enough, not about quitting your diet, but please know that the two go hand in hand.

If you are dieting, you are probably not eating enough (Dieting, on this blog, always refers to under-eating.  Your diet refers to the types of foods you eat.  There is a difference, at least for the purposes of this blog).

Reducing urges to binge is very hard if you are under-eating.

So, how do you know if you are under-eating?

Often under-eating occurs when adhering to a diet that extremely restricts calories. This is most diets and the signs that I share below show up for most people.  Not all, but most.

Below are signs that you are under-eating.  Please note that some of the physical and mental signs are the same, since our mentalities often reflect our bodily health.

Keep in mind the below lists are only some of the signs of under-eating and that they are rooted in sustained dieting (under-eating).  This means that they might not show up immediately.  They might take a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.  They might show up in a few days.  It will be different for everyone as each dieter starts their under-eating from a different set point.

Here are some of the physical signs:

  • You do not feel physically full or satisfied after meals.
  • Snacks, which serve to sustain you in between meals, don’t alleviate hunger.
  • You think about food more than when you were not dieting.
  • You feel hungry more than any other physical sensation.
  • You wake up in the middle of the night hungry.
  • You have lost weight very quickly.
  • Your sexual desires have lessoned (or seemed to have disappeared).
  • If you are female, your menstrual cycle has become irregular or has stopped.

Here are some of the mental signs that you are under-eating:

  • You think about food more than when you were not dieting.
  • Activities that used to interest you don’t seem very special anymore.
  • You talk about food more now than when you were not dieting.
  • You have stopped relating to others unless it is about your diet.
  • Your sexual desires have lessoned (or seemed to have disappeared).
  • You worry about upcoming events not aligning with your diet.
  • You suffer from depression, anxiety, panic, or fear when making decisions about food.

Like I mentioned, these are only some of the signs of under-eating.  They may present themselves rather early on or they may take awhile, but they are almost always inevitable the deeper someone gets into dieting.

Also, note that the signs for under-eating are often (but not always) the same as the signs for binge-eating.  Remember, the two commonly go hand in hand.

Do any of the signs look familiar to you?

If so, can you remember a time in your life that these signs did not characterize you physically or mentally?

Were you dieting then?

Please take a moment to really give these questions a good thought.

This post is only exploring how dieting effects us physically and mentally.  It is safe to do so, and may help you understand your approach to food better, so try not to brush it off thinking that it doesn’t apply to you.

I did that for years and it prevented me from breaking free from dieting and bingeing.

If you suspect that you are not eating enough and you have regular urges to binge eat, it is highly likely that you are not eating enough.  Your body is excellent at informing you of what it needs so pay attention to how it is directing you to eat, even if it is saying to binge eat because even this signal is meaningful to explore.

In the next post, we will talk about the actual act of under-eating.  What might it look like?  How it is different from simply eating less?

In the meantime, what did you think of this post?  Do you agree with the physical and mental signs of under-eating?  Have you experienced any of them?

Leave a comment to start a conversation!

Image from She Walks Softly.

Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge, Part 1

It’s a new week!

Hopefully you had a nice weekend and are already off to a good start.

Last week I posted the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting.  You can read it by clicking on the above link.

What did you think about it?  Does it seem too simplistic to say that urges to binge eat are caused by dieting (extreme under-eating)?

Is it enlightening to think that you can reduce binge eating by ensuring you eat enough throughout the day or is it confusing?  Perhaps years of dieting and bingeing have you left you unsure about how much is enough?  Maybe poor digestion due to disordered eating has caused your intuition with food to be a little (or alot) off?

I had a difficult time knowing what was enough food after years of restricting and bingeing.  It was confusing to read so many different takes on how much I should be eating and it was intimidating to increase my portion sizes without it leading to a binge.

I’ve been there!  I know!

Maybe you would like to eat enough food to lesson your urges to binge, but you aren’t sure how or where to start.

Or maybe the whole idea sounds crazy!

This week I want to explore this idea more.  What is enough?  What is too much?  How do you know?

These are all legitimate questions for someone who has not eaten enough in a long time, who has dieted, restricted, and binged.

It might seem scary to change the way you have eat, but remember that this is a positive change and is very effective in reducing urges to binge.

It also might feel exciting, which is great because you will be much more inclined to stick with eating enough if you believe it is a helpful approach to lessoning urges to binge.

So, let’s get started with this Series: Eating Enough to Reduce Urges to Binge.

Please feel free to leave comments about your experiences with eating enough or to ask questions.  We can all learn from each other!

 

 

 

Image from WSJ.