Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Emotional/Binge Eating

Is it just me or is this topic of concern for FAR TOO MANY women!?

Finally learning to not only lose weight but to successfully keep weight off has meant that I've had to address these issues head on. When you have spent your life turning to food for comfort, pleasure, distraction, something to do etc when this option is taken away, you feel quite naked and its confronting to say the least.

I've come a long way but I'm wondering whether anyone can say they work past these issues entirely and never give them a second thought. It is my opinion that food addiction exists and that it is just as serious as any other addiction- perhaps more so because you can't give it up entirely.

Absolutely any emotion can trigger it emotional eating whether positive or negative. I would say that everyone emotionally eats from time to time because no one eats solely to fuel their body, only at times when they are physically hungry. Therefore, it can range from minor to extreme and is only a problem if it affects the person's health or wellbeing. I wouldn't say that I struggle with emotional eating to a great extent as I have learnt to separate emotions or circumstantial 'opportunities' to eat from physical hunger- eating regular meals and drinking enough water can greatly assist with this and remember, just because its somebody's birthday doesn't mean they will get offended if you don't eat their birthday cake, you CAN celebrate without food. More often that not, you can find other much more effective ways to satisfy an 'emotional craving'. We've heard them all before eg if you are bored, lonely- call a friend; stressed- take a break and so on.

Binge eating seems easier to define (eating a very large quantity of food in one sitting with a sense of loss of control- minus the purging) but much more difficult to deal with. Experts seem to define this as an eating disorder if episodes occur in the realm of at least twice to three times per week. This one I am sad to admit has been quite relevant to me in the last few years. The 98% of the time that Im in a logical headspace I do not why it happens to me at all, it is not until the compulsion strikes. It is an overwhelming urge to eat NOW and FAST.

A while back, the very wise Liz Nelson gave some advice on the sources behind a binging/diet cycle that I held onto:

1. The first is not enough food, especially carbohydrate when you're back to eating healthy food. I've mentioned it before but cut out carbs and it comes back to bite you on the bum (literally because your serotonin levels drop too low and in order to get them up naturally we crave carb (and often why docs prescribe SSRI type antidepressants for this problem).

2. Secondly it can have a psychological root - I liken the diet /binge cycle to an all or nothing attempt to gain "control". You're either being "in control (strict diet)" or out of "control (bingeing madly). Key to bringing this under control is to examine where the ALL or nothing mentality is coming from. It's a learned trait, which means it can be unlearned - changing your thinking requires a lot of work. If you are working hard at being more even but still slip every now and again, you're still ahead as long as you are stepping away from the ALL or NOTHING thought patterns.

3. The other thing that may be setting off the bingeing cycle is being intolerant of something in your diet. Processed sugars are a biggie for me - sometimes a paleo style detox can really help you smooth things out whilst you work on everything else.

I can relate to all three of the points above. Before I started following an effective meal plan and was just dieting myself silly all over the shop I would have fairly frequent episodes. However, as discussed by a a previous post this just seems to rear its ugly head when I have planned a 'cheat meal'; lacking the ability to control it.

I know I give myself a hard time about all these things but I am keen to deal with these issues (as much as is possible) early because I don't want to live my whole life struggling- bigger fish to fry! Further, if I have a family, especially daughters- I would want to model a healthy relationship with food.

So thank you Liz for helping us identify the issues and giving us something to think about and to (continue to) work on. I have heard nothing but good things about the style of coaching Liz takes with her clients who go on to compete successfully and in a healthy manner.


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