What Causes Binge Eating Disorder And How I Got Mine Under Control
We’re talking about what causes binge eating disorder, and I’m also going to share with you the number one thing, which I found helped me get my binge eating disorder under control.
Let’s Define Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder can loosely be defined as follows, from the NHS website:
The consumption of a large volume of food in a short span of time, to the point of feeling uncomfortably full.
Within that, there’s a huge amount of room for interpretation because “a large volume of food” will be different for different people, and “a short span of time” will be different for everyone.
And of course, “uncomfortably full” will also be different for everyone.
It’s also possible to eat like that and it is not necessarily a disordered eating pattern, it just is something that you planned.
If you have seen anything to do with the fitness industry, you will definitely have heard of or seen cheat days or cheat meals, for example.
I’m not qualified to explain the psychological or neurological conditions in the brain which trigger a binge or cause binge eating disorder.
But what I can say is that seems to be pretty common when two specific factors coincide.
These Two Combined Can Cause Binge Eating Disorder
First of all, an emotional relationship with either food in general or specific foods can end up setting you up to use food as a coping mechanism further down the road.
Usually, this will come from a history of dieting or past food restriction of some kind. Not always, but it seems to be a pretty common trend.
And number two is going through a period of stress or some kind of emotional trauma.
Because of that emotional relationship with food, it can become a source of comfort when you are going through that period of stress.
It can just help you deal with the emotions a little bit better at the moment.
But then what sometimes happens is that the behaviour pattern of eating for comfort when you’re stressed gets ingrained in the mind.
And that’s something that gets carried forward, even if the cause of that initial stress has passed, because your brain starts to get wired, to think, “Okay, some kind of emotional distress, need some comfort. Let’s go for food.”
So food becomes a coping mechanism and that can gradually lead you down the road to binge eating disorder.
What Caused Binge Eating Disorder For Me
So this is my story of what caused my binge eating disorder.
I have now dieted down to what’s a much healthier weight for me, but I grew up obese. From my heaviest to my lightest, we’re talking around 140 pounds difference.
During that period of dieting, I tried several diets and it led to different emotional relationships with different foods.
All of that is a topic for another time and another post.
Throughout that, I used to have cheat days when I was less than perfect on my plan. I would throw it all out the window and have whatever I wanted, which was basically a binge anyways.
At that time there was no sort of emotional link to it. I could basically have that binge one day and then get back on track the next day. There was no more thinking about it or dwelling on it.
I didn’t develop binge eating disorder at that point, but there was this pattern of bingeing in my history. Plus the emotional period of food restriction.
When My Binge Eating Disorder Started
When it really became an issue was when I started a new job in the middle of the pandemic and I was working directly with the CEO.
This particular CEO was probably one of the most unpleasant people you could ever hope to work with.
So doing that five times a week, day in, day out in the middle of a pandemic, because I needed the job, my stress levels were completely shot.
Friday nights became kind of my little bit extra, my little “treat”.
As my stress levels increased, that little treat became bigger and bigger until it became basically a binge.
And then from a binge that was largely patterned and regulated at once a week, it started to become twice a week. And then it kind of got to three times a week and sometimes four times a week.
I left that job after about three or four months.
But then I was in the position where I was looking for work again. Plus we were still in a pandemic.
In fact, I’m in the UK. We went into the second and third lockdowns around this time. I was feeling completely lost.
My immediate stress levels were down because I wasn’t dealing with the CEO every day. But my general stress levels were still pretty high. So while I wasn’t bingeing as much, it was still happening.
How I Got My Binge Eating Disorder Under Control
Fast forward a few months from then.
I’m in a new job, which I absolutely love. And my binge eating is completely under control.
And like I said, the number one thing which helped me get it under control, I wanted to share that.
For me, it was finding something that gave me a lot more enjoyment and a lot more fulfilment than the comfort I got from any binge.
In my case, it was running.
I used to run a few years ago when I was a bit younger and I got it back into it recently.
And the feeling I get after a good run, that endorphin high – there’s no binge and probably no food, which has given me any kind of emotional high on the same level as a good run.
Binge Eating Is Under Control, Not Eliminated
I do need to add that my binge eating hasn’t fully stopped.
My last binge was actually only a few days ago. But it’s made it a lot more controllable, a lot more manageable.
My binge frequency has gone down a lot.
When I do have a binge, rather than that binge itself being three, four, or 5,000 calories, it’s 1500 to 2000 at most.
And the reason that worked for me I guess in my case because the way I feel has a direct impact on how I perform when I run.
So if I have a binge, then I’m feeling bloated, lethargic, heavy, and lacking energy, and that’s going to mess up my run.
So now when I feel that craving to binge, it’s much easier to control my self-talk. I can ask myself “Okay, you’re going for a run. How do you want to feel when you run?”
And even if that doesn’t stop me entirely, it slows me down a lot.
How To Deal With Binge Cravings
The cravings when you feel a binge about to happen, are irrational, impulsive, and immediate.
What causes binge eating disorder for you might be different to what caused it for me.
But having a mechanism in place, which is actually going to help you slow down makes a big difference. It will help take the “edge” off of those so you can have that conversation with yourself.
For me it was running, for you, it might be something else.
It doesn’t even, it doesn’t have to be something active.
You might find your artistic side and look at trying colouring or photography. It might be writing. It can be whatever works for you to give you that sense of joy and fulfilment.