This is Part 3 of the Series: Binge Eating is Caused by Dieting.
If you haven’t already, read Part 1 and Part 2.
In Part 3, we will talk about eating enough food to lesson frantic urges to binge eat.
It is my opinion that binge eating is caused by dieting–extreme food restriction and that if you did not have the urge to binge eat, you never would.
Binge eating is an action and requires obeying signals from the brain to uncontrollably eat large amounts of food, usually in a short span of time, usually on the foods you have restricted (but not always), and usually alone. It is often followed by feelings of regret, shame, and guilt, and a period of compensation (voluntary vomiting, over-exericisng, laxative use, or fasting) known as purging.
Binge eating’s nature is cyclical and it quickly becomes a habit.
Here is the cycle of binge eating:
Extreme dieting (food restriction/not eating enough), urges to binge, binge eating, compensation (purging), repeat.
Note that binge urges follow the act of not eating enough. It is my opinion that by eating enough, binge urges will be dramatically lessoned. If you continue to eat enough and lesson your urges to binge, you will binge less. If you binge less, you will compensate less, and if you compensate less, you will be more likely to sustain eating enough.
So, what is enough?
This is difficult to determine on this blog post because everyone’s “enough” will look different, depending on their weight, height, activity level, genetic coding, and metabolism. It is generally accepted that a six and a half foot and very active man needs to eat more than a five foot two and fairly active woman, but it is less accepted that the five foot two woman needs quite a bit more than she is eating now (provided she is a dieter).
Your most basic metabolic needs (your resting metabolism–energy needed to be in bed all day) is about ten times your body weight. If you weigh 130 pounds, you need 1300 calories simply to stay alive.
Just to stay alive! Forget about anything else. Getting up to make coffee, catching the train, sitting at your desk to work, and definitely forget about any fitness routine.
Dieters are recommended to eat a very low number of calories each day, generally between 1200-1600. I’ve seen these numbers published in magazines, on websites, and in books. These numbers are dangerously low to sustain over time. They are almost always not enough for anyone and will cause the brain to signal urges to binge because it believes (rightfully) that it is starving.
When I dieted (under-ate), I believed that I should be full and satisfied on about 1500 calories a day while maintaining an intense fitness routine. I could manage to eat so little for a short amount of time (a week, maybe two), but then I would experience intense and distracting urges to eat everything in sight. It felt strange, because I was health conscious and desired to eat nutritious foods, but when the urges to eat came, it was as if all my education and goals went out the window. I would binge eat until I couldn’t eat anymore, regain my senses, and vow to get back on track with my low calorie diet.
And by now you probably know how that went.
I tried sustaining a low calorie diet for many years and found it frightening to imagine eating more to lesson my urges to binge. I thought I would become a glutton, gain too much weight, or live a very sloppy life.
This is irrational because when you calculate all of the calories consumed during my binges for the week and added them to my low calorie days, my calories were always more than if I just ate enough food without dieting and bingeing.
Let’s say I tried to eat 1500 calories a day all week. By day seven, I eat my normal 1500 calories but then binge on 3000 calories. If I were to add my calories for the week, they would average to 1930 calories a day.
That may not sound so bad, but let’s say I binged twice in the same week. Now my calories averaged at 2360 a day.
It was my experience that the more I dieted, restricted, and binged, the more I did it. It was habit, and it escalated in intensity and frequency so that my binge days increased over each year and completely undid all of my very low calorie days.
If I were to simply eat more each day, let’s say 2000 calories (still debatably low), I would not only feel much fuller on any given day, but I would end up eating less than I did when dieting and bingeing.
This advice might sound far from everything you have read about losing and maintain weight, and it is, but we are slowly inching closer and closer to changing our beliefs about calories in and calories out and as we do, all of the old numbers we have been a slave to will lose their credibility.
Of course the only way to know for sure if eating more will lesson binge urges is to try it for yourself. I’m not a fan of absolutistic thinking, so you won’t hear me saying that eating more is the only way to stop binge eating, but I will say it’s a very effective way to lesson binge urges, and the likelihood that you continue to binge eat.
You have probably heard that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.
That was my approach with dieting, restricting, and binge eating. I felt like a crazy person as I tried to fix the same problem by doing the same thing that was not working.
Eating more (enough for you) and not bingeing is possible and it will reduce stress that you may feel around food. As you binge less (and not at all), your health will improve. Your body will feel better and your mind will be free from all the focus and energy that bingeing requires.
Why not take a look at how much you are eating over the course of a week or two and observe if you are experiencing urges to binge. If you are, try adding more nutritious foods to your meals. There is no need to count calories or be obsessive about it if you don’t want to. Accept that you won’t do this perfectly. Some days you will eat enough, some days less, some days more. Start small, if you like, until you are comfortable with larger meals. Choose foods that will nourish your body, eat in a way that is kind to yourself, and then note the intensity and frequency of your binge urges.
You have nothing to lose–except that which you already don’t want!
The next part of this series will explore resisting urges to binge after you are eating enough.
What do you think about eating more throughout the day to lesson binge urges? Have you tried this approach?
Share your experiences by leaving a comment!
Image from Qomics.