One of the biggest questions I receive is how I actually stopped binging – how I stopped shoveling copious amounts of food in my mouth in a very short period of time, and either throwing it up, or letting it sit in me. Because you see, I did both, depending on the day and how I was feeling.
The answer? I stopped binging because I took matters in my own hands and got help, through therapy. I also enrolled in a yoga teacher training, I started reading books, and I started openly talking about my story to others. But when it came down to the actual food component of a binge, I was finally able to stop binging through this concept called Intuitive Eating.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard this concept thrown around a lot lately. It’s all over the wellness world, and people are starting to turn to Intuitive Eating and ditching diet culture, which makes me OH SO HAPPY!
But to answer the question of how I believe that Intuitive Eating actually stops a binge, we first need to talk about what Intuitive Eating is (and also what it isn’t).
Intuitive Eating is about listening to your bodies internal hunger cues when it comes to making decisions about what to eat. Intuitive eaters don’t adhere to meal plans, or other prescribed diets or food rules (e.g., a common one is that carbs are to be avoided). Instead, when the hunger strikes, an intuitive eater would stop and ask themselves one question: what does my body need in this very moment to feel good? The intuitive eater would then eat food around what would make them feel their best, rather than following prescribed diet rules or even their own made up diet rules.
For someone that struggles with binge eating or bulimia, the idea of Intuitive Eating sounds really scary. Why? Because it sounds like one big free-for-all, that encourages stuffing your face all day long with anything and everything you crave. But, with the exception of the “honeymoon phase,” which I will describe a bit below, I disagree. I believe deeply that Intuitive Eating actually helps stop binges.
The reason why I believe that Intuitive Eating helps stop binges, is because binge eating (and even bulimia) often stems from a biological deprivation of food. In analyzing my own past behaviors around food, I told myself that I could not ever eat cookies, cakes, ice cream, because they would lead to weight gain. You see, these were rules that I created in my own head. And because I followed my own food rules and avoided these foods at all costs, the cravings for them were OUT OF CONTROL.
Because I didn’t allow myself to enjoy these foods, my entire existence was centered around food. Every thought of my day involved food to some degree – what I was going to eat for breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner, planned perfectly to avoid those “off limits” foods. This deprivation stimulated a massive urge to binge – and once I started binging, it was game over. I ate all those foods, and more, shoveling them down my throat as if it was my last meal.
Summed up succinctly by Isabelle Foxen Duke:
Makes sense, right? If you respond to your hunger signals when they arise, instead of denying your natural, biological instincts around food, you begin to develop a healthier relationship with food, because you discover exactly what it is that your body needs to be satisfied and thrive.
To someone new to Intuitive Eating, it sounds like someone is giving you permission to eat what ever it is that you want – and that’s TRUE. With Intuitive Eating, all foods are on limits – there are no prescribed rules about what you can and can’t eat in terms of the food itself.
Because of that, people that are new to Intuitive Eating might binge on things they always tried to skip! I like to call that the “honeymoon phase” – when people are testing the waters and eating foods they previously denied themselves. In my case, I most definitely ate lots of donuts and ice cream for about a month. It felt so freeing! But, I didn’t feel good physically. I was irritable, moody, and had no energy. I definitely wasn’t thriving.
But after about one month, something started happening. I naturally started craving more nourishing foods. I actually started craving greens, veggies, protein, and suddenly I didn’t really want the donuts and ice cream as much anymore. And part of it is most definitely mental – knowing that all foods are on limits sort of took away the power and allure.
And so, over time, I naturally stopped binging on copious amounts of food and I stopped purging too. The urge simply went away.
Now, I always want to keep it real and make it clear that these changes didn’t happen overnight. Changing the actual way that I ate took a few years, especially as I worked through the emotional component of eating in therapy. And by “emotional component,” I mean learning how to let go go dieting, diet mentality, and all the food rules I created in my own head. That can take years, and sometimes I still catch myself saying terms that are part of diet culture! It’s a process of learning and unlearning.
So give yourself grace, and know that with the right tools and dedication, you too, can have a healthy relationship with food. It’s not just about figuring out how to get in touch with natural hunger cues, it’s also working on the emotional component and combating diet mentality – it’s hard.
I hope this article resonated with you! Make sure to leave a comment below with your thoughts and follow me on Instagram!
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Thanks so much for sharing with us. I am convinced that I have an eating disorder and started looking for a therapist. I am a bit lost as to who to look for, what specialty? Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks, Nichole and I happy you popped up on my Facebook one day.
Hi Sonya, I am sending you my love. I recommend looking at Psychologytoday.com and searching under “specialty” to include eating disorder treatment.
I just found your blog and LOVE this concept and your story. I’ve never had a true eating disorder, but I do struggle with urges to binge eat and then beat myself up for eating such “bad” foods. With an anxiety disorder, I’m working to let go of control on things in my life, like a certain number of servings of vegetables or proteins in a day, and I’m really interesting in trying this way of eating! Huge kudos to you for your recovery and new approach to food and life!
Melissa, thank you so much for reading this post and for sharing bits of your story. I am sending you so much love, and I’m cheering you on!! xo
So grateful to have found you & your blog! You’ve changed my life with one suggestion, “get a therapist”.
I look forward to following you & sharing your story, suggestions, & RECIPES!
With gratitude & much love!
Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for the sweet words! That means so much to me that I’ve been able to have that impact, and I’m so grateful for your support!