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Stop Emotional Binge Eating

I want to have an honest conversation with you about the food you eat, the way you eat, and your thoughts about what you’re eating on a daily basis.

Do you feel stressed about food? Do you worry about eating too much or about what you eat?

Here’s the thing, you don’t have to be overweight to feel overwhelmed by food. And the reality is, a lot of people have a really unhealthy relationship with the food they eat. People sometimes eat because they’re happy, sometimes they eat because they’re sad, and sometimes they eat when they’re not hungry at all – it’s a compulsion. And when the relationship you have with food starts to feel like it’s out of control, that’s when it is. That’s when the yo-yo dieting kicks in, and when people try to take a quick fix approach to an issue that actually runs a lot deeper than all of that. 

Here’s the definition of compulsive eating, sometimes also called emotional eating, stress eating, or food addiction: compulsive eating describes frequent – if not regular, but more on that later – episodes of uncontrollable eating. It’s when an individual continues to eat food long after they feel full and even to the point of making themselves feel sick.

Compulsive eating may sound similar to other eating-related disorders you may have heard of before, like Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Anorexia Nervosa, or Bulimia. According to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, the National Eating Disorders Association, and other experts in the space, binge or compulsive overeating include some or all of the following and happen with a fair amount of regularity, about 3 times per week:

Eating faster than usual

Eating past the point of fullness

Eating when not physically hungry

Eating alone or in secret

Feeling upset or guilty after overeating

Feeling that you are abnormal

For more on the classifications and qualities of these various types of eating disorders, I recommend giving this article a read: Binge-Eating Disorder and Compulsive Overeating: Are They the Same Thing?

My personal definition of compulsive eating lives somewhere in between all of these symptoms, and it’s the severity that determines the ultimate diagnosis and whether or not it is classifiably a disorder. But enough with the technicalities, let’s talk about what the heck this means for you and why you may be suffering from compulsive eating. 

Compulsive Eating: Where It All Begins

Dieting Doesn't Work

This might come as a surprise to you, but compulsive eating really stems from a belief, or a fear, that you won’t get enough food. It’s a survival thing, and it usually starts when we’re kids. 

Here’s the thing though, most people, especially in our Western society, will not starve. Quite the opposite in fact – we have access to too much food! But our emotional selves – our inner child, the animal inside all of us, and the genetic composition that makes us who we are – is not quite so rational all the time. The good news is – we can all be tamed.

The bad news is, the ‘training’ we’re all exposed to is not the taming we need at all. 

So, what to do in lieu of listening to our inner animal? We’re told to diet, and to limit ourselves to the point of deprivation. But guess what? Those animalistic, child-like thoughts, they’re still there. And guess what happens when you keep restricting yourself and telling your inner kid, “No! You can’t have that.” You’ll listen to yourself most, or some, of the time, and when you don’t, you’ll eat – compulsively. 

This makes food feel unpredictable. You might even feel like a maniac when these episodes of compulsive eating happen. “Why did I let myself eat that?” you might wonder, and if you’ve ever eaten compulsively before, I’m sure this inner dialogue will sound familiar. 

Eating Disorder Caused by Childhood Habits

Doing the opposite of compulsively eating and making yourself hungry does one thing – that inner animal starts to roar and rear its beastly head. It wants more food. Severely limiting yourself actually compels you to eventually do the opposite – overeat, a lot. 

Because hunger is such a powerful feeling, it makes the habits you’ve formed around food – usually starting in childhood – go haywire. The signals in your head get crossed and it causes you to have bouts of compulsive eating. It’s emotional, it’s not rational, and it’s most certainly not based in the reality of our situation – which is that we have access to plenty of food.

We need a more enlightened way to our food habits. Yes, we’re animals, but we’re also pretty smart. We can create a healthy relationship with the food we eat, because we know we will have access to the food we need and want. 

Here’s how to change the dialogue you’re having with yourself about food: eat whatever the heck you want to!

To break compulsive eating patterns and the bouts of hungry spells that usually accompany these episodes, I’ve created the concept of Weight Loss Enlightenment. And it’s about limiting beliefs – that is, limiting beliefs you have around the feeling, or fear, of being hungry. In short, you can’t trust your hunger, so we have to retrain ourselves to think differently about food. 

I call it the yoga of weight loss practice, and it’s all about regaining trust with yourself, and with your hunger, or the lack thereof. It’s how you heal the vicious cycle of compulsive eating. It’s also why I don’t like to call compulsive eating a disorder – because it’s really about the lack of trust you have with yourself, and you can retrain your mind about how to think and feel about food. Trust me, it’s how I went from a binge eater to a Buddhist Monk and an award-winning personal trainer. 

You can trust yourself to eat anything, but first you have to start seeing food in non-binary terms. When you do, food is no longer good or bad. It’s just food. This is a huge realization for most people. Trust yourself and your hunger so that you can eat food without guilt – this is called unconditional eating. It doesn’t matter what it is – it’s just food. 

To round things out, I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes around unconditional eating, or intuitive eating:

“Intuitive eating is based on the premise that our body instinctively knows how to nourish itself and maintain a healthy weight. That becoming more connected to our biological hunger and fullness cues is a far more effective way to attain health, rather than following a strict diet.” – Dr. Jamie Long 

Are you ready to have a different relationship with your food? Let’s schedule some time together, and let’s start to change your mindset. 

From binge eater to Buddhist Monk to award-winning personal trainer, Jared Levenson has helped close to one hundred chronic dieters to the scientific and spiritual path of Weight Loss Enlightenment (Yeah-it’s a thing and it works!)

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