Eating More For Binge Eating Disorder
Let’s talk about eating more for binge eating disorder.
In other words, can increasing your volume of food or calories have a positive impact on your battle with binge eating disorder?
This is something I have been a bit up and down on recently, but my experiences have been surprising.
Strict Dieting And Binge Eating Recurring
I mention it in every post but in March 2022, I had an abdominoplasty and gynecomastia procedure to remove the loose skin on my chest and abdomen after my weight loss.
In preparation for that, I decided to go on a strict diet and drop my calories to 1800-1900 per day, which is low for most adults, let alone for an active and reasonably fit male.
I need to point I was never told to as part of the preparation. In fact, I was told to try to stay at the same approximate weight.
But I thought to myself if I can get that bit leaner, I can really maximise results from the surgery.
So I decided to be extra strict.
This made my binge eating disorder worse than it had been for a while. It was a low-ish calorie target anyway. If I went even a bit over that, the floodgates on my eating would open.
I didn’t have any substantial blowout binges and don’t think I gained much or any weight during this time. The days where I stuck to that diet were very low in calories after all.
But my binges were more frequent than they had been in a while.
Loss Of Appetite And Surgery Recovery
During the surgery recovery process, my appetite pretty much disappeared. I just wasn’t hungry and really had to force myself to eat.
My body had been through a lot and nutrition is important for recovery so I knew I needed to just suck it up – literally and metaphorically.
But that was a bizarre experience as forcing myself to eat isn’t something I had ever really had to contend with before.
On the flip side, I wasn’t all that hungry anyway. So binge eating disorder wasn’t an issue because my mind wasn’t turning to food.
As my recovery progressed and I was more active and returned to exercise, my appetite did return.
Return Of Binge Eating
When I was able to exercise again, my default assumption was that I would have gained weight because I didn’t exercise for weeks beforehand.
So I thought I need to follow a strict diet again.
And you probably know how this goes.
My binge eating disorder popped up again, very quickly.
Again, they weren’t daily and weren’t all that huge for me in terms of the number of calories. But the behaviour pattern was definitely binge eating disorder and it was more frequent than had happened for a while.
Most of my binges did peak at around 2700-2800 calories during this time. For many people is just a normal day’s eating. But when I am aiming for 1800 or 1900 calories, that is 50% more. And something I felt like I had no control over when it started.
I don’t think I gained fat during this. I was still exercising and most days I was still hitting my target calories. It’s hard to tell because my body was still swollen during recovery.
But, based on how my clothes felt, I don’t think it happened.
However, I definitely lost some weight. I lost a fair amount of muscle tissue and a lot of strength.
I hadn’t lifted weights since Covid as I was training at home, but from the date of my surgery, I had done no strength training at all for 8-9 weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully expected that and I knew it would happen going into the procedure but it was still not fun to witness and experience.
Eating To Gain Muscle
I had spent years battling body image and my relationship with food. And it was a lot of slog for not a huge amount of muscle gain.
So watching it wilt away was not fun.
And it is an uncomfortable truth for someone who has spent most of his life in weight loss mode that muscle gain and strength development typically requires getting comfortable with eating a. bit more.
It doesn’t have to be an out-and-out weight-gaining bulk or anything like that.
But you do need to fuel yourself so your strength develops, and your muscles adapt and grow.
And getting used to not seeing the scales continuously head downwards is tough.
Since I started losing weight, any notion of weight gain was a horrible idea and it always made me cringe.
And every time I tried to bulk or gain muscle, I quickly backtracked to go back into weight loss mode.
But I also hated how much strength I had lost. Strength gains don’t come easy to me in the first place.
It took me years to get to that and I really didn’t want to give that up.
That was enough to convince me to very gradually start increasing my calories again.
I was only going to do it as long as I was consistent with my training and my strength was continuing to increase.
I started from a base of around 2000 and increased to 2200. A 10% increase in calories sounds like a big jump but I know based on my exercise and general activity levels that my maintenance calorie level is around 2200-2400 somewhere so I knew I had some wiggle room to play with.
I got comfortable at 2200, then as I was making progress, I increased to 2400.
When comfortable at 2400 I increased it to 2500. And at the moment I have upped it to around 2600.
I haven’t consistently tried to hit that level of calories since my last attempt at bulking back in 2018.
So it has felt like alien territory.
And it was difficult at first. There was some fear, guilt and self-loathing at first. Plus it felt awkward trying to just encourage myself to eat more.
But my performance in the gym has improved quickly, my strength has increased a lot and I am feeling good. Given I had lifted weights since Covid lockdowns started, so early 2020, getting back up to 90% of what I was lifting at that stage, in just a few weeks, has felt empowering.
And my size hasn’t really changed much. I haven’t gained weight, and my clothes mostly fit the same. The one exception is my arms, as my biceps seem to have grown a little bit so I am not complaining here!
At the moment 2600 calories feels the right level for me. I am making progress in the gym and it isn’t causing me to gain fat.
We’ll see how things go in the coming weeks and months.
Eating More And Binge Eating Disorder
All of that is a long story that brings us to the point I wanted to make here.
Since I consciously focused on increasing my calories, I have not felt the urge to binge eat at all.
I’m eating more, I feel fuller, I am better nourished and I am giving my body what it needs. There is a purpose to my training and nutrition.
And I guess there is a positive spin on my motivation – I am doing this from a point of view of wanting to grow and develop again, instead of trying to shrink or tear myself down.
Weight loss can often start from a negative self-perception of being flawed because we’re at a certain weight. The mindset when you have a positive motivation and perspective, like wanting to develop, is very different.
It has given me a sense of fulfilment with training and nutrition that I haven’t felt in a long time.
So in my case, eating more did definitely help my binge eating disorder.
But it wasn’t just eating more. It was a combination of eating more, finding fulfilment in training and nutrition and just generally approaching my body with a much more positive perspective.
And yes I know talking about feeling positive about your body after cosmetic surgery is hypocritical. That is something I am still working to unpack for myself, but I do definitely have a new sense of confidence and positivity about fitness now that I didn’t have (or couldn’t give myself) before my surgery.
Does Eating More Fix Binge Eating Disorder?
Eating more has definitely helped make my binge eating disorder more manageable – to the extent that I haven’t had to think about it much.
But I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s a cure-all. Not by any means.
Binge eating is something I still very definitely need to be mindful of and it does still lurk occasionally as dull background noise. But the moments I have been feeling stressed where a binge might normally have been triggered, food hasn’t really come into my thoughts.
I am not turning to food for comfort or as a way to sedate or manage how I’m feeling.
I scroll travel posts on Instagram instead, which isn’t necessarily better for me. But in terms of diet, nutrition and binge eating disorder, I haven’t needed to turn to food so it isn’t having the same impact on my physical health.
And yes, I am trying to replace that with another better habit instead of social media scrolling as well.
So Can Eating More Help With Binge Eating Disorder?
First of all, when I refer to “eating more” in this context, I am being very specific. Listen to the cues and signals your body is giving you. Fuel yourself appropriately, and make sure you feel nourished.
If you are ticking those boxes, then yes, in my experience at least, eating more for binge eating disorder can definitely have a positive impact.
What also helped was the sense or purpose and fulfilment I found with my training. It helped change the relationship and the link in my mind between emotions and food. Food started to have a specific purpose, and that meant I was less likely to want to turn to it in moments of stress.
I am definitely not a psychologist by the way so this could be 100% wrong. But from my own view, I think that is what happened to me.
It has started to change my relationship with food and when I would normally have used food to help me deal with stress or emotional discomfort, it doesn’t seem to serve that purpose for me at the moment.
I already mentioned I haven’t replaced it with a much healthier habit, but at least I have been able to move away from feeling the need to binge eat for now.
Can Eating More Help You?
Before we go any further, it’s time for my normal disclaimer.
Binge eating disorder is a genuine mental and physical health condition and you should seek out professional help if this is something you are dealing with. Nothing I say or do on this blog or anywhere else should be seen as professional advice or a valid substitute for professional help.
Plus, just to emphasise it again – I have zero qualifications in treating or diagnosing eating disorders.
What I am sharing here are my own thoughts from my own experience.
First of all, it does depend on your relationship with food.
If you have a very strong emotional link with food and a heavy emotional reliance, that link is much harder to break. So eating more throughout the day or changing how you fuel yourself might not have the impact on binge eating disorder that you want it to have.
If I wasn’t able to find a purpose or goal in my training, my relationship with food might never have changed. And there’s a good chance that eating more wouldn’t have worked for me.
But I am nourishing my body in a way that I haven’t done for a very long time. I am not drawn to food for emotional reasons as much.
If your binge eating is coming from another emotional source – so absolutely nothing to do with your body or food – then again, it might not work. Because how you have fueled yourself will have no bearing on your conscious or subconscious thoughts when turning to binge eating.
Eating More For Binge Eating Disorder
So in terms of eating more for binge eating disorder, those are my thoughts. If you can change your relationship with food and find some kind of purpose that food becomes a part of, it could have a positive impact.
That is definitely the experience I have had – so fat at least.
If binge eating is triggered by something else, then it’s less likely to.
But as I mentioned, and will continue to mention, I am not a qualified professional. Please do speak to someone more qualified to give specific advice if you have any further questions.
If for any reason you’re unable to access professional help then yeah, I guess maybe eating a bit more or fueling yourself a bit better might be worth a try. Listen to your body’s needs, focus on nourishment, and see if that helps. Even if it is just a small step like a few extra vegetables or a piece of fruit.
And to emphasise once more – I am not a professional. But if you want an empathetic listening ear or want someone to help point you in the right direction for getting some help, please do feel free to reach out.