When it comes to binge and emotional eating, one thing that quickly becomes evident is that it’s not about the food. When sitting down for some ice cream only to realize that another container has disappeared, what’s abundantly clear is that this is about what the food represents.
How can I be so sure?
Well…because when first starting to eat the ice cream, it may be a delicious and enjoyable experience. But when we reach the end of overconsumption, that’s not the case anymore.
Usually after larger quantities, there are feelings of discomfort, perhaps pain…as well as emotional consequences like guilt, shame, and disgust.
In other words, on the timeline of eating, an experience that began as pleasurable ends painfully.
So why continue? Back to the original point…it’s not about the food.
The Purpose of Overeating
When overeating or binge eating, it’s quite common to ‘check out’ or dissociate and continue to eat despite the fact that pleasure has faded. This is because the food is ‘filling’ another purpose.
So what is that purpose? That’s the million-dollar question.
Here at Green Mountain’s Women’s Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, we focus on helping clients uncover the roots of their eating behavior. I often ask our participants, “what’s it doing for you?” or more pointedly, “what if you couldn’t have the food, what would be missing for you?”
These are hard questions that can also harbor a lot of difficult emotions in and of themselves.
But when we can understand what role food is filling, that’s when we can make sense of needs we may have that aren’t being met.
Here are some responses we’ve heard:
- If I didn’t have my pint, I’d just be sitting all alone at home with nothing to do.
- I’d have to try to connect with my partner and we don’t do that anymore.
- It’s better than going out and trying to be social.
- How would I handle my anxiety?
It’s these fears that bring it all to light. Food has become a friend, a partner, a protector…perhaps even a form of self-medication.
A life free of binge & emotional eating is possible.
We understand the feelings that women with binge & emotional eating experience…and we can help you address those feelings and move toward a healthy relationship with food, body, and self.
Meeting Our True Needs
So now what? Now it’s time to truly get our needs met.
Overeating and binge eating is an attempt to meet the needs that aren’t being met in a way that doesn’t really work so well, only leaving us with continued unmet needs and adding more guilt and shame.
Instead, we can ask ourselves, “how else can I get protection / partnership / connection / symptom relief in a way that truly addresses the need?”
The answers are usually somewhat simplistic, though also rather disappointing. It’s at this point that we need to shift out of “all-or-nothing” and into a more middle-ground approach.
Finding That Middle Ground
Of course it would be great if all of our needs were met, exactly the way we want them to be, at the moment we need them, by the people we hope will meet them – this is the all. But in reality that doesn’t happen, leaving us disappointed and turning to food to cope – this is the nothing.
Instead, a middle-ground approach would entail finding just one thing that will address the need even in the slightest…so the need is actually, directly being met.
Sure, it may not be the whole need, exactly at time, by the exact people, in the exact way, but it is being met to some extent and perhaps that can be good enough for now.
The idea is that if we find just one thing to address the need directly, we actually feel empowered in having met our own needs, little by little…as opposed to turning to food out of resentment or disappointment that it didn’t happen at all.
What Does the Middle Ground Look Like?
Perhaps that middle ground could be:
- Accepting just one invitation to address loneliness
- Putting just a little bit of self-care time into the day to address feeling overwhelmed
- Spending one evening with your partner trying to reconnect
Maybe doing just one thing that truly meets your needs directly will provide friendship / connection / symptom relief and the momentum needed to help you start to move in the right direction….little by little.
Being Her Now
If you find yourself putting off meeting your needs in a way that supports your health and happiness,waiting until you reach that number on the scale, or that dress size, consider our free #BeHerNow mini-course series.
In this 4-week email series, you’ll learn how to make changes to your thoughts and behaviors so that you can live a fulfilling and meaning life now. Don’t wait – it’s time for you to #BeHerNow.