A Guest Article by Bonnie Roney, RD/LD
Trigger Warning: Diet, Nutrition, Eating Disorders, Binge Eating
Women all around the world struggle with their relationship with food. I know this because as a Registered Dietitian with a virtual private practice, I have helped women all over the world improve their relationship with food and eat without guilt, stress and shame. And I’m sharing this here to normalize difficult behaviors around food, like binge eating, that affects so many women.
Our relationship with food is personal and private. Perhaps you’ve watched your friends or family eat and wished you could “eat normal” like them. Maybe you worried that others would judge you if they knew how out of control you were around food when home alone. Or maybe you’ve kept your history of binge eating a secret, because you don’t think anyone would understand what you’ve been through.
Healing from trauma, such as binge eating, takes time. And I want you to know that you are not alone if you are trying to heal your relationship with food and stop binge eating. Women reach out to me on my Instagram at @diet.culture.rebel on a daily basis, for support and guidance as they try to repair their relationship with food. Binge eating affects women of all ages, body sizes and backgrounds; there is nothing wrong with you if you struggle with this. So no matter who you are, or where you are on your binge recovery, I want to share three tips to help you finally heal from binge eating and find peace with all food.
- View food as a form of self-care
We literally need food to survive. It isn’t going anywhere. Food gives us energy, is part of many celebrations like cake at weddings and can be used for comfort such as with chicken noodle soup when you’re sick. Getting to eat a variety of foods for various occasions like weddings or holiday dinners is pretty awesome when you think about it. Food is part of our everyday life and you deserve to be able to enjoy it without guilt, shame or fear of a binge.
Instead of viewing food as the enemy, make peace with it. Ask yourself how you can use food everyday to add value to your life, give you energy and support your health. One recommendation I like to give many of my clients is to eat consistently. More often than not, I see so many women going long hours without eating. Eating consistently is important for many reasons, but a few include having consistent energy throughout the day and avoiding extreme hunger. Doing this and eating regularly will decrease the likelihood of bingeing by avoiding ravenous hunger that triggers many into a binge.
Try considering your preferences when you make food choices too. Binge eating strips so many of their basic right to enjoy food, and has them preoccupied with foods they do or do not trust themselves with. This can lead to feelings of deprivation, stress and anxiety around food. Instead of focusing on fears around food, try asking yourself what sounds good. Here are a few questions to guide you when you are making a food decision: do you want something fresh or comforting? Light or hearty? Cold or hot? Crunchy or smooth? When you tap into your preferences and honor what you want in the moment, it will help you feel satisfied with the food that you eat. And when you feel satisfied, you are less likely to binge.
- Stop Restricting Food
Binge eating is often fueled by some form of restriction. (Yes, you heard that right.) A lot of people find this surprising since the act of binge eating feels so out of control and opposite of restriction. However, restriction, whether it’s physical or psychological can both add fuel to the fire when it comes to binge eating.
Let’s talk about physical restriction first. When I used to struggle with binge eating, I always felt like I needed to skimp on food after a binge to “make up” for the damage I did. I rarely ate breakfast and would eat a very light salad at lunch consisting of a few lettuce leaves, carrots and fat-free dressing. By the time I got home each evening, I felt ravenous. Feeling this desperate for food always triggered me into a binge, and I felt powerless to the food in my kitchen. I even binged on food that I didn’t like much, like leftover mediocre cold pasta. I felt like I blacked out in between the first bite and the last which made me feel guilty and embarrassed. My “willpower” and “discipline” were always sabotaged by my inability to stop eating and losing control with food.
When I became a Registered Dietitian, I learned that I wasn’t meeting my body’s basic biological needs by restricting so much food during the day. My binges were largely in part to
the fact that my body just needed the extra food. My body’s biological needs would override my “willpower” to not binge, because my body knew it needed to eat what it could before I restricted food the next day. Looking back on this experience, I know that my body had my back the entire time. It didn’t feel safe and did what it needed to, to get the amount of food it needed to feel safe. Our bodies are amazing if you ask me.
Now that’s talk about psychological restriction. This can sound like, “I’ll cut out carbs when I start my diet tomorrow,” “I’m not eating cookies again after this binge,” or “I’m going on a sugar detox.” Restrictive thinking like this can fuel binge-like behavior, just like physical restriction can. There is actually a term for this called The Restriction Pendulum. And it means that your body has a natural response to deprivation. The further you pull your pendulum to the side of restriction, the more it will swing back the opposite way with equal or greater force. And this is exactly why so many women struggle with binge eating after physically or mentally restricting food.
I know it can feel scary to give yourself permission to eat all food, especially when you feel so out of control with it. But trust me on this one, it’s absolutely necessary to heal from binge eating.
- Get support
Like I mentioned earlier, our relationship with food is personal and private. Many people are embarrassed or ashamed about their binge behaviors and often don’t talk about it. This can make healing from binge eating a lonely and isolating journey.
I know it can feel scary and uncomfortable to ask for help with binge eating. You might have fears holding you back and wonder, “will this work for me?,” “a part of me enjoys binge eating,” or “does anyone else binge as badly as me?”
As scary as it feels, I want you to ask yourself what’s scarier: struggling with binge eating for the rest of your life, or taking a leap of faith to get support and live the rest of your life binge-free?
While it’s possible to heal from binge eating on your own, it’s a lot faster and easier to do it with the support and guidance of a professional. Simply talking about your experience with binge eating is therapeutic, and my clients say having a safe environment to talk about their journey helped them tremendously as they worked towards a binge-free life. And for many of them, my coaching environment has been the first time they’ve ever talked to anyone about their struggles with food.
Having support means having accountability, too. Working through food fears, like allowing yourself to make peace with your binge foods and eat them without bingeing, can feel scary at first. Having support, guidance and accountability from a professional like a Registered Dietitian
is key. This will give you a clear path to work through so you can take the steps necessary to stop binge eating.
It is possible to heal completely from binge eating and you deserve it. By viewing eating as a form of self-care, not restricting food and getting the support you need, you can enjoy food and eat without bingeing. If you believe you can overcome this, you will. Life binge-free is worth it!
Education and Professional Associations:
- Bachelors of Science in Dietetics, Florida State University
- Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN)
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
Photographer credit: Jake & Katie Co