Bringing Binge Eating Out of the Dark
Updated: Nov 8, 2018
Binge eating thrives in the dark.
It's rarely talked about. Yes, we joke about it, about eating the whole tub of ice-cream while our co-workers laugh with understanding, or gaining 10 pounds over Christmas, or eating a whole box of Halloween mini chocolate bars, but our jokes are hiding our pain and struggle.
Binge eating and overeating seeps it's away around every part of our life. It changes our mood around our loved ones, it shifts our motivation, it takes our energy and steals our attention. It points to emotions and willpower and lack of control as a way of staying out of the spotlight, shifting the blame away from itself- anything not to be seen for what it is. In the shadows it strengthens its ability to manipulate us until we are sure that it's a personal failure of ours and ours alone.
But it's not a personal fault. It's not only you who hears the chips or cookies calling to you from the cupboard. In fact, 3.5% or women and 2% of men are currently diagnosed with binge eating disorder in North America. That's almost 2 million people here in Canada and 18 million in the US. And that's only for official diagnosis. Millions and millions and millions more are struggling with symptoms of binge eating that do not fit the diagnosis. This is not a personal problem. It's one of a modern food system and processed foods which have high reward values in the brain. It's one of 'evolutionary mismatch', a term used to describe human traits that were once responsible for keeping us alive, that are now manipulated by our modern world and tend to lead us away from survival rather than toward it.
Think of the brain mechanisms that were needed to direct us to and remind us where to find palatable food as we evolved in order to survive. These same mechanisms are now sending us again and again to stimulating modern foods with the evolutionary notion that the more palatable the food, the better it is for our survival. If the modern result of weight gain happens, our desires shift to the social pressure of weight loss. And if that same evolutionary survival-based brain senses a lack of food or 'famine', it will steer you back toward the exact foods you want to avoid, due to their high reward value in the brain, or the perceived notion that they are necessary for your survival.
Shining light on binge eating begins dissolving it immediately. In the light it weakens, and loses momentum. It's in our awareness, curiosity and understanding of our struggles where we can regain our power and find some traction. It's in taking the time to understand the brain, the effects of modern food, and our human characteristics that makes the struggle lose its 'personal-ness'.
Unfortunately, the diet industry maintains that understanding these concepts holds no value and we should solely focus on the food and our ability to meal plan and control what we put in our mouth. The diet industry's worth is an estimated $7 billion a year in Canada, and $65 billion a year in America. We are spending a combined $72,000,000,000 (BILLION) each year trying to get some control of what we eat, while the true causes remain hidden. Wow.
So what we require is a bridge to move toward this light. Traditionally that bridge was therapy, where eating struggles were seen a way to cope with emotions or regain control in a life that was lacking firm ground. These days, that bridge can be any number of neuroscience books about the brain and food, books about binge eating, respectable blogs, educational YouTube videos or websites. It can also be a therapist who has moved away from the traditional model of binge or compulsive or overeating therapy into one based on thought-work (perhaps CBT), mindfulness, food and brain research, and a deep understanding of our modern food system. Or in my case, a coach who has personally travelled this road before, who can teach you why you turn to food from many different scientific, brain, and thought-based perspectives, and can help move you through your struggles toward peace with food.
Blaming ourselves for our behaviours with food is the opposite of taking responsibility. Although it feels useful to shame and guilt and bully ourselves into forward action, most people don't work that way. Most people work by rationally understanding their struggles so they can let go of the personal blame game and finally feel like they have some ground to stand on.
Recovery is not found through control, or the specific food we choose to put on our plate. It's in our commitment to understanding, to staying conscious and curious, and learning about ourselves as humans- our evolutionary traits, what drives us to modern food, our neuro-chemicals and more, where we will find our way out. It's in our ability to move into our own corner and have our own back, to stop blaming ourselves and agree that we may need answers, we may need help, we may need something more than the tools we currently have.
Instead of dividing ourselves in two- the one who shames and bullies us and the one who is shamed and bullied, we need to step into ourselves and become connected. This means being willing to slow down and notice ourselves- to take our habits and desires out of the dark, to share our struggles with others, to be honest about how we feel, the mental anguish we experience, the truth that we don't know how to help ourselves.
Walking around this world pretending that we don't struggle, laughing off our pain and minimizing our wounds doesn't help anyone. A culture that clearly struggles with food, yet finds it taboo to discuss the emotional pain of binge eating with those we love, needs some changes. For 4 years I didn't discuss my struggle with food- it was my life, it was somehow normal for me. And when I finally did open up about it, it was short lived- I went on my healing journey, and then stopped talking about it for the next 10 years. It wasn't until I decided to support others in their struggles that I found my voice about this topic. And this voice is necessary in this world.
If you're ready to speak up for yourself, and stop hiding in the shadows and suffering alone, please reach out. You can email me any time to talk, or book a free call at www.calendly.com/andrealussing.