Eating vs. binge eating….how can they feel so incredibly different? Both involve consuming food. Both are driven by hunger. But one is complicated by the messages of diet culture, our society’s glorification of under-eating, and a lost connection with the body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.
Eating is defined by the action: “I am consuming food. When I feel full I will stop.” It feels finite, biologically necessary, and satisfying.
Binge eating is defined by the state of mind: “I am consuming food in a state of panic and I don’t know if I can ever stop.” It feels scary, shameful, and completely out of control.
Maybe you live in fear of that next inevitable binge…but what if you made the conscious choice to reframe your mindset around food — to reject the fear and shame, reject the notion of control, and simply eat until you don’t feel like eating any more? A mentality of restriction perpetuates binge eating, but a mentality of permission defuses it. When you say to yourself “I am allowed to eat whatever I want, in whatever quantity I want” (and really, actually mean it!) a binge becomes becomes plain old regular eating, poof, just like that.
The simple but revolutionary act of eating freely takes away the power of the binge. People eat. So what?
Redefining your mind’s relationship with food is the first step toward redefining your body’s relationship with food. If you see eating as inherently negative — a weakness, a cheat, a sin, something that must be monitored and managed — you will continue binge eating.
But if you see eating as inherently neutral and natural and necessary — no good or bad foods, no good or bad portions — binge eating can just be eating, defined by the action, not by the state of mind.
Will you eat a lot? Probably! Transitioning from restrictive eating to intuitive eating can feel like tripping onto a treadmill. But with practice and patience, you’ll find your footing.
Let me be super clear here: binge eating is NOT all in your head. My entire purpose for writing this blog is to shout from the rooftops that there is a biological basis of binge eating. You are NOT binge eating because you lack will power or self control — you are binge eating because over years of dieting, your body has come to believe that you are at constant risk of starvation.
Changing your mindset first will give your body the opportunity to readjust. When you eat freely and without restriction, you release your mind from a mindset of scarcity and show your body, day by day, that your food sources are secure, as your hormones slowly realign to their normal state.
While your body will need a few months to readjust out of starvation mode, a change of perspective can turn a binge around in mere moments.
Diet culture teaches us that feeling full is the most sinful thing in the world. But in reality, it’s a gift that our bodies give us. When we allow ourselves to feel full without fear, we can fight our way out of the nightmare of binge eating.