The Binge - Learning why you lose control
Usually I wake up starving. Not this morning. Why?
Because I overate last night. Again.
This isn’t something that I do all the time. Maybe once or twice a month.
It often happens when I’m at a party or event where there’s lots of food, or when I have one treat late on a weekend night and end up eating my chocolate stash until I feel sick.
I love the taste of the food. I just love all food.
But I don’t like how I make myself feel bloated, sick and uncomfortable. I don’t like how I feel like shit afterwards and my body suffers.
I’m lactose sensitive for god’s sake and chocolate is the worst! My tummy hates it.
Why do I do it to myself? Well this is something I’ve been curiously exploring for the last couple of months.
It all starts with the concept of a thought triggering an emotion triggering an action.
So my action is overeating and I know when I do it but what is the emotion driving it and what is the thought driving that?
I’m struggling with the emotions side but I’ve got some ideas about the thoughts that I want to share with you. I can’t give you answers about this but if you struggle with any sort of craving or behaviour you lose control over this might help x
The Power of Free
I love free shit. Like, it’s free! What’s better than that?
Half of my life is made up of clothes and objects people have given me.
My flatmate Pete does not like my love for free shit. Every time I bring home a random tennis racket or pillow, all he can see is the space they take up in the cupboard he is forever clearing out.
Boyfriendo calls me a scavenger.
This also applies to food.
If I’m at an event or a party or even getting leftover sandwiches from a meeting at work, I will eat as much as I can, even when I’m not hungry because I feel like I’m wasting something free if I don’t.
A few weeks ago I got a free breakfast at an event and I had one of everything because I needed to try it all. So I left feeling overfull.
Then an hour later at work an email went round.
“Sandwiches in reception if you’re feeling peckish.”
Was I feeling peckish? Ah no.
Guess who was down there immediately?
I LITERALLY STILL FELT FULL AND I ATE A PLATE OF SANDWICHES!!
Because they were free.
Being pescatarian is good in some situations because what I can eat is restricted.
But also, nobody likes the beetroot hummus wraps or sweet potato flatbread so there’s always lots for me on that sandwich trolley.
What panics me even more is that our receptionist is super quick at throwing out any food that she thinks has been sitting out for too long. So I eat more because I don’t want it wasted! Basically my stomach is the rubbish bin and It somehow makes me feel better knowing this.
At a party or event, it’s a little different. I feel like I don’t get that type of food all the time and if it’s there, I need to try at least one of everything. And then I feel like I won’t get it ever again so I need to eat more.
Another thought I have observed when I’m chowing down on everything in sight is a scarcity mindset which I have created for myself.
Less than a year ago, I was unhealthily skinny and obsessed with my body image. I didn’t have an eating disorder and I didn’t look like a skeleton, I was just a couple of kgs under my natural weight and an unnecessarily ripped little gym rat.
I did some coaching mindset work on that and am much better (another blog post perhaps?).
But to maintain my size, strength and muscle, I ate very healthy and very controlled. Lots of fruits, veggies, wholegrains and protein. Minimal junk, minimal sugar.
So when I did have a treat, my mindset was that after it, I was going to ban sugar again for at least a week, maybe two.
This creates scarcity.
I must eat as much as I can now because I’m not going to get any treats for a while.
And because I never have treats, I need to try ALL of them because this is my only chance to do it.
So I eat that one biscuit and a piece (or four) of that chocolate and some honey roasted peanuts at work. And then I come home and eat a little bit of everything that’s in my treats stash.
I also often have the thought that if I eat EVERYTHING in my treats stash, there will be nothing left to tempt me. Better to eat it all now then to have it sitting there for another time.
Scarity goes hand-in-hand with the next thought that I often have when I start eating all the foods…
The “fuck it” mindset
I have this because of my restrictions on myself. Sugar is banned. But if I eat sugar then I’ve broken my ban so fuck-it, might as well eat as much as I can.
I’ve already failed so why not fail massively.
Now I know intellectually that breaking the ban and only eating that mini snickers is far better than adding a chocolate biscuit, some fudge, a mini Twix, Crunchie, Twirl and Flake, and half the leftover Lindt bunny I’ve had since Easter.
Buuuut the fuck-it mindset wins every time.
Because its little pal Scarcity is saying –
“You’ll be banned from this again tomorrow so just go for gold. Get it out of your system.”
And failure. What have I actually failed at? Just a standard I set for myself which isn’t backed by anything. Expectations I have that I believe are the best choice for my life but could be totally wrong.
But I failed so fuck it! See ya later self-control!
Now I want to touch quickly on deprivation. For anyone on a diet, deprivation is a thought and feeling that often comes up. You can’t eat something so you are deprived.
Deprivation means “the lack or denial of something considered to be a necessity”.
Necessity. That’s food.
But if you have access to other foods that are good for you then you aren’t truly deprived.
When I’ve banned sugar for a week or two, sometimes I feel deprived. When I am aware of that thought, I’m going to try to remind myself of the above definition. Are you truly deprived of a necessity?
Life is short! Have some bloody fun!
So treats are clearly not a necessity but I’m also all about enjoying life.
I’m not saying don’t eat or do anything that isn’t a necessity. You’d be living the most basic, outrageously boring life and not getting involved all the fun we have all around us!
But if you are about to do something that you know is going to make you feel like shit and it’s not a necessity, don’t do it!
So where to from here?
I still have a lot more work to do. I struggle with sugar big time. It’s very clear that nutritionally it isn’t good for you and creates cravings for more of it.
It acts like a drug for your hormones.
Nobody should be eating it every day.
But if I make a rule that I shouldn’t have it, will that still result in a scarcity and fuck-it mindset?
And if I just say that I can have it whenever I want, will I have it every day?
I’m experimenting using this as a little mind trick. Whenever I have a scarcity thought, I say to myself “You can have this any time you want, do you really want it now? Maybe have it tomorrow if you feel like it”.
Often I don’t feel like it the next day as that craving and thought has gone.
As we learn in mindfulness, nothing is permanent. Let yourself feel every emotion and be reassured that it will pass. You learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Knowing that those feelings are not there forever.
I need to be comfortable with the thoughts I have, the emotions they trigger and the craving desires.
I need to be comfortable with the conflict between my thoughts and my body.
I’m also trying to trust my body to eat intuitively. I know that some weeks I feel like sugar everyday and other weeks I have no desire for it and just want veggies.
For now, my goal is to observe my thoughts with curiosity and kindness.
Curiosity is key.
It removes judgement and opens yourself up to learn.
It means if you do lose your shit a little and binge eat, over-exercise, get super drunk or whatever you struggle with, you see it as a lesson and something to improve on for next time.
Acceptance that it has happened but using your new knowledge to create new behaviour next time, even if it’s just a small shift.
Knowing your thoughts
This is the core of all my coaching and mindfulness. Awareness first, then empowerment to change.
I now have the awareness of the overeating action. My awareness for my “why” is growing each time and I’m proud of that. The empowerment is coming with that as I learn to make choices instead of my default to inhale everything.
The most important thing is that I am kind to myself and I’m always learning.
And that’s the most important thing for you too.
If you are struggling with any sorts of cravings, impulses or actions that don’t contribute to the life you most want, observe them with kindness and curiosity.
And then focus on making changes to the thoughts behind those.
Awareness then empowerment.
On Tuesday I have an event where we’ll have canapes, a three-course meal and then as many chocolates as you like to finish. I know I’m going to leave feeling sick. I might even pocket a few chocolates for later but eat them on the tube on the way home.
Then I’ll feel terrible because I’m physically ill and I’ll probably have the shits the next day.
But even after all I’ve just written, how aware I am of this coming situation and how I know this is all down to my thoughts and self-control, I’ll still do it.
I’m going to try not to, and maybe having you pals in my mind will help me.
I’ll keep you updated x