Why Can’t I Stop Bingeing?

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the UK, accounting for 50% of all cases. At current estimates, this means that somewhere between 625,000 and 3 million individuals in the UK have binge eating disorder. Unlike other eating disorders that affect women more than men, binge eating disorder affects women and men equally and of all ages.

Why can’t I stop bingeing?

You probably think of binge eating as one of uncontrollable eating where we lack the self-control and discipline to eat “healthily”. This isn’t the case. Up to 90% of all binges are the result of restricting your diet beforehand. The other 10% are an attempt to soothe our emotions.

In this blog, we’re going to focus on the binges that are caused by restricting your diet.

Binge eating is a vicious cycle that starts as soon as you’ve finished bingeing.

Phase 1: You’ve just finished bingeing and now you feel horrific. You’re uncomfortably full and feel sick but, must worse than that, you feel absolutely disgusted and ashamed with yourself. “How could I do this AGAIN?!?”

Phase 2: You resolve to do better. You’re going to start eating healthily again. “This time I’ll do it, I’ll lose weight and feel more confident!”

Phase 3: You stick to your guns and go on a diet, forcing yourself to stick to meals that you believe are healthy. You start off feeling great, but pretty soon you’re starting to feel hungry.

Phase 4: Your brain and body have noticed the reduction in food and are worried that you’re going into a famine. In response, they lower your metabolism to save energy and increase your hunger to prompt you to look for food.

Phase 5: You’ve stuck to eating “healthily” for as long as you can, but your brain and body have had enough. They’re more interested in keeping you alive and so take control, starting a binge.

Uncovering the Root Causes

You now know that the majority of binges are caused by restricting your diet so the next question is ‘why are you restricting your diet?’

The logical, and normally correct, answer is that you want to lose weight. 

We get it. We live in a society that prizes thinness. Everywhere you go you’re bombarded by messages about how you should look. Friends and family make comments that make you feel ashamed of yourself. Your GP is recommending that you lose weight for your health.

The drive to lose weight is MASSIVE! So you pick one of the thousands of restrictive diets that are available and do your best to stick to it. The sad reality is that it’s never going to work, your body simply won’t allow you to lose too much weight too quickly. You can lose weight, but it needs to be very slow and gradual so that your body can adjust.

Lets Interrupt the Binge Cycle

Reducing the risk of a binge is fairly straightforward once you know how: you just need to eat regularly. 

What this looks like in practise is eating every 2-3 hours when you’re awake, and certainly leaving no longer than 4 hours between meals and snacks.

Lets say that you normally get up at 7am and go to bed at 10pm. A regular eating schedule might look like this:

  • 7:30am – Breakfast
  • 10am – Morning Snack
  • 1pm – Lunch
  • 4pm – Afternoon Snack
  • 7pm – Dinner
  • 9pm – Evening snack

This looks pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, most of our clients can struggle to implement a regular eating routine straight away. There are various reasons for this: they’re still restricting, emotions are getting in the way, and they aren’t prepared for eating regularly.

If we ignore the emotional triggers, the biggest challenge is being prepared to eat regularly.

Simply put, this means that you need to actively plan your meals and snacks and, this is the crucial bit, go and buy the food that you’re going to eat. The majority of our clients who struggle with eating regularly do so because they haven’t planned far enough in advance and haven’t bought enough food. They run out of snacks (it’s always the snacks that get them!) and try to wait until their next meal (welcome restriction)!

Reduce Your Binges

You now know that most binges are caused by restriction. You also know that you should eat every 2-3 hours, with a maximum gap of 4 hours, while you’re awake.

Take some time to sit down and plan your meals and snacks, including calculating how many you actually need, and then go and buy them. Start eating regularly and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your binges will reduce.

Unfortunately, eating regularly is the easy bit of recovering from binge eating disorder. The harder bits are dealing with the emotional triggers and your beliefs about how your body should look. Because these are so big and complex we recommend getting therapy to help you, so that your recovery can be completely personalised to you. All of our therapists are skilled and experienced at helping clients to recover from binge eating disorder. Contact us today to discuss starting treatment and getting your recovery on the path to success.