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Can’t stop Binge Eating? An Eating Disorder Psychologist Explains Why

Updated: Apr 28


How much of your time and energy is spent trying to ‘be good’ with your diet and exercise? Your day starts off well, sticking to your 'healthy eating' plan for most of the day. You try to ignore those hunger pangs, keeping yourself busy and distracted. However the evening rolls around, you are exhausted and STARVING. Your healthy dinner doesn't even touch the sides and your mind becomes consumed by thoughts of; “what else can I eat?” and you start to crave everything you have told yourself as ‘off limits’.


So you just have ‘a taste’ of that chocolate. But before you know it, you are 2 bars down, plus whatever else you can get your hands on. Then you finally snap out of this trance and PANIC! “What have I done?” “Why can’t I have enough willpower to control myself?” “How am I going to get back on track?” Then sets in the guilt and shame as you blame yourself for not having enough discipline, willpower or self-control. So, you decide that the solution must surely be even greater levels of control! You set stricter rules for yourself, to try and get back on track. However, this creates so much internal pressure and anxiety which eventually results in the same thing happening all over again.


eating disorder psychologist Sydney

 

Working as a fully recovered eating disorder psychologist, many of my clients ask me 'why can't I stop binge eating?'. They often feel hopeless and blames themselves for not being strong enough, or for doing the wrong things. In this article I want to explain to you some of the reasons you may be stuck in the binge eating cycle. Because there is a reason why this is happening and it has nothing to do with you not being strong enough or not having enough willpower.


Since you can’t heal a problem you don’t fully understand, let’s start by defining what binge eating actually means. Despite attempts made by the dieting industry to prove that diets work, research has shown that 95% of diets fail with individuals gaining the weight back within 2 years and sometimes even more. It is also widely evidenced in scientific literature that binge-eating is primarily a symptom of dieting and attempts at controlling food and weight.


Therefore, binge eating is primarily a reaction to food deprivation.


Following overly restrictive diets can create a sense of scarcity around food. This triggers primal survival response in the body and mind, leading to increased food urges and cravings. Psychologically, food deprivation can lead to feelings of deprivation, guilt, and anxiety around eating. You may find yourself obsessing about food and experiencing intense cravings that are hard to ignore. Physiologically, prolonged food deprivation can disrupt the body's natural hunger and fullness cues, leading to dysregulated eating patterns. When food is scarce, the body may activate mechanisms to conserve energy, such as slowing down metabolism and increasing hunger signals. This can create a heightened sensitivity to food cues and a tendency to overeat when food is available, leading to binge eating behaviours.

Recovering from my own eating disorder led me to becoming an eating disorder psychologist. After a cruel comment was made about my looks I decided to embark on my first diet at just 16 out of shear embarrassment. I started skipping meals, cutting out carbs and avoiding eating with others. Unfortunately. just three years later I had developed anorexia and then bulimia, cycling between food restriction and binging daily. The more I tried to control my food the stronger this cycle became. I thought there was something wrong with me and I was ‘broken’. It wasn’t until years into my healing journey, that someone finally suggested that perhaps my bingeing wasn’t just a response to difficult emotions or “neurological junk” in my brain. Perhaps my binges were a response to countless years of dieting and feeling deprived around food, as a result of innumerable attempts at weight “control throughout my life.


Ultimately, the only way to stop binge-eating is to *truly* let go of dieting, which is not always easy in a culture that constantly tells you your life’s happiness depends upon you eating (and looking) a certain way.


Fear usually comes up.


 Most of my clients ask; “but if I stop dieting, I’ll just eat and eat and eat FOREVER!” “I’ll put on so much weight and I will end up unhappier and out of control than I am now!

The fear of letting go of your current ways is likely due to a deep fear of weight gain and what how you would feel if you put on weight; not good enough, unlovable, unworthy etc. This is the core of what needs to be addressed to help you fully recover from binge eating.



The thing is, how long are you going to put yourself through this, causing yourself so much pain over and over again? I know you want to change but if you look at how your current approach you may find that it is holding you back rather than helping you to move forwards in your recovery. The definition of insanity is; “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.


So, what if you opened yourself up to recovery and explored a different approach and solution to your binge eating? Remember, this has nothing to do with how strong you are, how much control or willpower you have.


 

If you are interested in taking that next step and are ready to speak with an eating disorder psychologist in Sydney please get in contact with Hannah Myall, who has also fully recovered from an eating disorder and has since spent the last decade helping individuals and families work towards eating disorder recovery.




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