Binge Eating & Emotional Eating
Are you finding yourself struggling with these habits while working toward body comp goal? Are these habits holding you back from your goals and you’re feeling like the goal is becoming impossible?
Excessive Food Consumption
Eating an unusually large amount of food in a discrete period (e.g., within two hours).
Loss of Control
Feeling a lack of control overeating during the episode, often experiencing a sense of being unable to stop.
Consuming food quickly during a binge, not savoring or enjoying it.
Experiencing distress, guilt, or shame after the binge episode
You want to improve body composition, but know binge eating and emotional eating is a challenge for you.
Specifically, you’re aiming to lose body fat and gain muscle mass - you should know that these goals can have both positive and challenging effects on your relationship with food, potentially influencing binge eating habits. Here’s how:
Restrictive Diets: Striving for a leaner physique may lead some individuals to adopt restrictive diets. This restriction can trigger intense cravings and, in some cases, lead to binge eating episodes as a response to perceived deprivation.
Emotional Associations: The emotional pressure associated with achieving body composition goals, especially in a society that often idealizes certain body types, can create stress and emotional discomfort. Emotional distress may contribute to using food as a coping mechanism.
Perfectionism: Individuals with a strong desire for a perfect physique may set unrealistic standards. Falling short of these expectations can result in feelings of failure, potentially triggering binge eating as a way to cope with disappointment.
Structured Eating Plan: Working towards body composition goals often involves adopting a structured and balanced eating plan. Having a well-defined nutrition strategy can reduce impulsive eating and promote healthier food choices.
Increased Awareness & Mindset: The focus on body composition goals may enhance awareness of eating patterns, leading individuals to pay more attention to their nutritional choices and overall intake. a flexible mindset that allows for occasional indulgences without guilt. This flexibility can help individuals overcome rigidity and fear of deviating from strict dietary rules.
Prioritized Food Choices: Pursuing body composition goals may encourage individuals to choose nutrient-dense foods that support muscle building and fat loss, contributing to overall well-being.
and BINGE EATING are
THE SAME THING?
Control: Binge eating is characterized by a sense of loss of control during eating episodes, while emotional eating may involve a conscious decision to use food to cope with emotions.
Quantity and Frequency: Binge eating involves specific criteria related to the amount and frequency of food consumed, whereas emotional eating is a more general term for using food as a response to emotions.
Diagnostic Category: Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a recognized eating disorder with specific diagnostic criteria, while emotional eating is a behavioral pattern that may not always reach the level of a diagnosable disorder.
Know the difference, but accept the similarities
Binge eating and emotional eating are related concepts, but they represent distinct patterns of eating behavior. Here’s a brief differentiation between the two:
Definition: Binge eating involves consuming large amounts of food in a short period while feeling a lack of control over the eating behavior. Emotional eating refers to using food as a way to cope with or soothe emotions, particularly negative ones, such as stress, sadness, or boredom.
Quantity: Binge eating episodes typically involve the intake of an unusually large amount of food, often more than most people would eat under similar circumstances. Emotional eating may involve eating moderate amounts of food or specific comfort foods rather than the excessive amounts associated with binge eating.
Frequency: Binge eating episodes occur regularly, at least once a week for three months, to meet the criteria for Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Emotional eating can occur sporadically in response to emotional triggers.
Emotional Response: Binge eating is often followed by intense negative emotions such as guilt, shame, or distress. Emotional eating is driven by the desire to comfort or distract oneself from emotional discomfort, but it may not necessarily lead to the same level of distress as seen in binge eating.
Understand Your Goals and Build Trust in the Process
Gain a deep understanding of your body composition and performance goals. Knowing your specific goal(s) will help tailor course for nutrition and mindset that aligns with these objectives - it also helps set appropriate, healthful, expectations and boundaries if necessary.
Establishing trust is crucial - it won’t just happen though. Develop a strong rapport with your circle of support, creating an environment where you feel comfortable discussing struggles, positive takeaways goals, and concerns openly is crucial.
Educate on Nutrient Requirements and Address Nutrient Gaps
Providing education on the essential nutrients the body needs for optimal performance, recovery, and overall health has been a game changer and you should do this for yourself if you haven’t. Emphasize with yourself the role of Prioritized nutrition in achieving sustained energy levels, strength, and enjoyment.
Close the Gaps! Identify and address any nutrient gaps in your current eating patterns - restriction will always lead to rebellion. Ensure you are meeting your macronutrient and micronutrient needs through Prioritized food choices.
Structured Food Options and Including Favorite Foods
Collaborate on creating structure - food choices, meal plans, food prep, shopping, that incorporates a variety of nutrient-dense foods (looking at you protein, fiber, and beneficial fat). A regular eating schedule can help answer hunger, stabilize blood sugar levels, elevate mood, and reduce the likelihood of binge eating episodes from a biological hunger standpoint.
What are your non-negotiable? Ensure the nutrition plan includes foods the you enjoy. A sustainable approach to eating incorporates pleasure satisfaction.
Mindful Eating Habits, Indentifying Triggers, and Gradual Changes
Encourage yourself with mindful eating practices, such as paying attention to hunger and fullness cues (both are normal and not an emergency, focus on the five senses with each meal, eating slowly, and keep satisfaction in mind. Mindfulness can help reduce impulsive eating behaviors, and reducing guilt and shame.
Identify triggers that contribute to binge eating episodes (be aware of time of day, who you are with, what you are doing, time of year, how you feel - there may be obvious patterns). Understanding the emotional or situational factors can help develop coping strategies.
Emphasize Self-Compassion and Celebrate Victories
Foster a sense of self-compassion - progress does not come with perfect solutions and even the best solutions don’t always solve a problem. Understand that setbacks are a normal part of the journey, and perfection is not the goal.
Celebrate progress beyond the scale. Recognize achievements related to:
Improved energy levels
Mood changes and stability
Improved sleep and rest fullness
Performance goals & recovery
Blood labs (sugar, cholesterol, etc)
Clothes fitting and body movement
Seek Professional Support and Accountabilty
I encourage you to seek support before attempting to work on all that’s been mentioned or before. Reach out to mental health professionals, Therapists, or Registered Dietitians with expertise in disordered eating if needed. Just know
- you are not alone -
Schedule regular check-ins to assess progress physically and mentally, address challenges, and make necessary adjustments to the nutrition plan. You will have much to celebrate and challenges to work through - just know there are solutions and people that want to support you through it all.