So what triggers binge eating?
Trigger 1: Getting ravenous
When we’re overly hungry and finally gain access to food, it’s natural to eat faster, more quantity and with less awareness and control than we’d like. For someone with a binge-eating problem, being ravenous is a tremendous liability. And we see this scenario often because individuals who binge eating also tend to eat irregularly, skip meals, restrict/diet. Some people “save up” by delaying eating only to over-eat later in the day.
Trigger 2: Messing up
Often people who binge actually tend to over-control their food intake much of the time. Rigid, rule based eating invariably lead to “mistakes” – many people refer to “being bad” or eating too much or the “wrong” thing – which prompt extreme, all-or-nothing thinking – i.e. “I might as well just throw in the towel and start over tomorrow.” At Columbus Park, we call this the “F*** Its.” Feel free to fill in the gaps!
Trigger 3: Negative mood states (feeling down, bored, lonely)
Food is pleasurable and often very soothing. It is normal and natural at times to use food as a means of comfort, soothing. The problem is when we default to over-eating as a primary method of self-soothing or distracting. This tendency is very common in binge eating disorder.
Trigger 4: Feeling fat
Individuals who binge-eat tend to have higher levels of body dissatisfaction and body preoccupation. Negative feelings about one’s body may lead to extreme dieting (which then leads to over-eating), low self-esteem, depressed mood, isolation.
Of course, there are many other triggers to over-eating or binge-eating and each individual’s unique picture is important to understand thoroughly. Treatment is structured to combat triggers to binge eating primarily through strategies to support regular, consistent, flexible eating and skills to cope effectively with negative mood states and problematic self-talk. In a future blog, I will outline some of these strategies. Stay tuned.