why people binge eat

Jessica Penner, RDNutrition, OvereatingLeave a Comment

Why people binge eat

If you’re looking for a new way to reshape your thinking about food, into a healthier attitude that makes it easier to eat the right foods for you, check out this story. The twist ending will drive the point home!

A snake darts across your path and your camel is spooked. The last thing you remember is being bucked into the air. You wake with a sore head, no camel in sight, and nothing around you but sand dunes, heat waves, and wind.

“Just get back to the group,” you think.

You try to retrace your steps, but the wind has obliterated them. You worry that you’re walking in circles. Try not to panic! Heart pounding, cortisol racing through your body, you stumble desperately until the freezing darkness falls.

Suddenly it’s light out and the scorching heat is back. You haul yourself to your feet. Each step is a reminder of how far you’ve already walked, but you walk on. Time slips away. Your food and water are gone. Another night and day…

Suddenly you see it glistening in the distance. A mirage?

Shaking your head, you rush forward. An oasis?! With a renewed burst of energy you race to the water and plunge your head in to take a deep drink.

When you finally look up, a stranger’s kind face is holding out a platter of food. You eat and eat, gorging yourself on the nourishment your body craves. Suddenly, fullness sets in.

Guilt and shame follow in hot pursuit.

“You are trying to lose weight, where is your self-control?” you ask yourself. “For once in your lifetime, why couldn’t you control your eating? What’s wrong with you?” You sink down, miserable that you allowed yourself to eat so much.


Does this reaction sound ridiculous to you?

Of course it is. Anyone who goes without food or water is likely to eat more than their stomach can comfortably hold when they get the chance. It’s the body’s natural response to being starved.

But you don’t find it ridiculous when you do the same thing.

This is exactly what happens when you go on a diet. Your body starves. It desperately wants to eat! It doesn’t know that you just want to fit in your skinny jeans, it thinks you’re in danger of dying. So, when your level of self-control drops (as it inevitably will…think holidays, parties, lonely nights), you binge eat.

Dieting leads to binge eating

This study found that teens who reported dieting were much more likely to engage in binge eating at a follow up interview two years later.

Think of someone who has starved themselves from 130 pounds to 90 pounds. 90 pounds is a low weight, and is very likely not healthy, so it makes sense for the body to fight to regain those 40 pounds.

The same phenomenon happens to the person who drops from 240 pounds to 200 pounds through extreme dieting. Even though their outward appearance may not scream “starving person,” their insides are. Their body is feeling the exact same panic as the 90 pound body.

While there are other causes, cravings and binges are often the result of not eating enough throughout the day! It’s important to listen to your hunger. You will be fighting an uphill battle against cravings if your body is not getting the calories and nourishment it so desperately needs.

Find recovery from the dieting cycle

If you’ve been stuck in a dieting cycle, here are some basic principles to recover from the dieting:

  • Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking up
  • Eat at least 3 meals a day, snack in between if you feel hungry
  • Chose real whole foods as much as possible
  • Fill up on veggies and fruits
  • Enjoy treats in moderation

In case you’re worried that I’m saying it’s impossible to lose weight, I’m not! I help people lose weight all the time. Dieting is just not the way to accomplish it. I recently interviewed a participant who had just taken part in the I Quit Overeating online program I run. I summed up something she had just said by stating “isn’t it nice you don’t have to hate yourself to lose weight?” to which she responded “it’s fantastic! I didn’t think that was possible!”

I help people rediscover the joy in eating and having a healthy relationship with food. Through that process they learn how much food their bodies need and the excess weight gradually falls off until they find themselves in a zone that’s just right for them. Best of all, they don’t have to fight their hunger off to get to this place of freedom and joy!

If you’re interested in learning more, please check out the program here.

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Why people binge eat

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