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  • Writer's pictureAndréa Lussing

First Things First: End Binge Eating

When I talk about Peace with Food, I'm really looking at the whole picture- all the ways that our relationship with food is incongruent with how we want to be with food. But the reality is that our relationship with food is like any other long term project: we have to do the first things, first.

So when it comes to ending binge eating, it's important to separate our eating habits into two distinct groups:

One group is our binge eating- those intense urges, the anxiety that is present until the food is found and/or finished, the out-of-mind state that comes directly from the survival and habit area of the brain signalling over and over that you have to consume that food.

The other group is the not-so-awesome eating, the I-wish-I-didn't-eat-that feeling, the knowing that you could be eating healthier. However, eating mindlessly, grabbing snacks, looking through cupboards, eating too much at a party- that is all very different from a binge. Discerning between these two eating experiences in your life is very important. When we toss the two together in one bucket, we have an overwhelming job of healing everything all at once. But that's never the way progress is made. No one accomplishes all of their New Year's Resolutions. No one has a life make-over all at once. Sustainable change happens one step at a time.

When you're able to distinguish between binge urges/binge eating, and other food habits that may not be so desirable to you, you can prioritize your goals and stay focused on just one thing. In this case that would be ending binge eating and binge urges.

Ending binge eating entails become familiar with binge urges, become curious and aware of how they arrive, what they feel like, the manipulation of their promises for the pleasure you'll get, and so on. Then, with a little support and training, you can recognize that binge urges are not a rational choice, they're not 'you'- they're an unconscious emergency signal and habit pathway coming from your lower brain, which is pretty convinced that getting and eating the food is life or death. When you become comfortable with the fact that your brain is tricking you, you can start doing the real work- laying the foundations to support yourself to ride out the urges and learning tools to help you peacefully manage those urges.

In time, and without being rewarded (by a binge), the signals and pathways in the brain will quiet down and eventually stop all together. It's just like a child- once you are firm in your choice and say no to them over and over, they finally get the message that no means no and they stop asking. So this is goal #1. Becoming the parent of your brain, and saying no again and again until the message is loud and clear. And the best thing about goal #1 is that throughout this process, you'll actually have built up new 'muscle' in your higher brain which will help you with other pesky eating habits you may wish to deal with at a later point. Or maybe you'll realize that you actually love eating chips while watching TV or grabbing a pint of ice-cream with a friend. Once your binge urges are gone, you may realize that eating is not all or nothing, good or bad, black or white. Normal eaters navigate the grey area of imperfect eating daily, and one day, you can too.


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