It’s such a dirty two words isn’t it. As soon as we hear it or say it or read it its like this immediate cringe, as well as distant from it. Like we don’t want to own it, admit it, we want to just keep it hidden, and that’s how it continues to have its power over us, and keep us paralysed.
This blog we’ll tell a story,
We’ll start out with how binge eating (or BE for short), has permeated our culture by taking a trip down memory lane, and the gender stereotypes, social constructs and re-affirmed ideologies of attractiveness and coolness perpetuates BE.
We’ll then go into how our culture also encourages subconscious living, and not being present, in control, in the now, and how this = bingeing.
We’ll explore various reasons for why we do it, how we’re genetically programmed to binge, and how food companies hijack our dopamine pathways to cause us to over consume and crave binge-y foods.
And then, we’ll finish up with strategies and resources to break free from the devil cycle.
So, based upon my studies in uni on gender stereotypes and sociology, as well as just living in 21st century Westernisation, it’s a pretty simple equation to see how binge eating is so prevalent and under discussed, even amongst friendship circles and within family and romantic relationships (which makes me sad that we feel we have to hide from those we love, out of fear of rejection, judgement and shame, BRENE BROWN COME FORTH).
I did a Google search, and of the reported 4% of the Australian population, 47% of them had a binge eating disorder. Taking the top place as the most prevalent. (Eating Disorders Victoria, 2016).
But also, who the fucks even going to take these surveys and be like “yep that’s me”, half the time, we may not even be aware that what we’re doing is bingeing, we just sit down, chuck on Netflix, and eat for a few episodes, regardless of palate fatigue, fullness, we’ve just like checked out for the night and don’t really care.
But then we realise we’ve eaten way too much, feel super guilty, stare at ourselves and allow the shit self talk to start. And then whether our poisons laxatives, not eating the next day aka fasting, or just making a weekend/week/month out of it and then beat ourselves up because we’ve stopped nourishing ourselves and looking after ourselves and although we can see the effects, whether it’s through our skin, our mood, our energy, our sleep, dreams / nightmares, anxiety, or bowel movements, we then find it difficult to find the motivation to let it go, and move forward towards eating for optimisation.
It’s this subconscious participation that is where we can interject and disrupt the cycle.
As soon as you become conscious, realise what you’re doing, you can check yourself. As soon as the conscious comes online, you’re accountable. You have to own it. Own your shit. Face it, and be like “okay why the fuck am I doing this?” am I bored? Is it just filling a space? Is it a habit (if yes, then when/why? Childhood? Eating everthing on my plate? Scarcity mindset?), the only way we grow is to call ourselves out on our own shit. Stop hiding from these parts of ourselves that we give subconscious control too. Because if you can’t admit, accept, change and grow from it, it’ll forever be something that holds you back, lurks in the background of your relationships, experiences and ego.
So my strategy, learned from Mel Robbins (check her interview with Tom Bilyeu "Why Motivation is Garbage") is the 5-second rule. You interject your habit, and count down from 5 - 1, and then at 1 you’ve got to make a conscious decision – like keep eating, or stop. And usually, because you’ve shaken out of the subconscious habit, you’re like damn i am full.
So, jumping back in time, although guys also experience binge eating, I feel its definitely much more prominent amongst women, and I feel this stems from cultural norms, aestheics and gender stereotypes that still resonate today.
“Traditionally” circa the 1920’s, when ideals of beauty worshipped the petite, small, thin woman, ads, campaigns and the social norm of women not eating, or eating only small amounts, in order to achieve these ideals was prevalent. This also co-existed with marriages layered with secrecy, hidden behaviours, and obedience and so, the secret binge eating society began haha. Women ate and drank their feelings, as Iliza Shlesinger calls is “secret single behaviour” SSB things we do when no ones around. We used this SSB as an outlet, a way of escape, self-sabotage, and could’ve revolved around ideas of self-worth, self-esteem, and beauty (coz I’m just speculating here).
And then couple this with the abundance of media of body ideals, coupled with over processed and refined foods, that are made to hijack your dopamine and reward centres, taste like god, and leave you on a brief high before you plummet. It’s like a fucking recipe for disaster.
We’re constantly being told we need to be thinner, curvier, lighter, tinier, cuter, but also be sexy, care-free and womanly enough to eat a burger and doughnuts with your boyfriend. And its like WHAT. HOW DOES THIS MAKE SENSE. And so, we play this balancing act, of restricting, so we’re feeling good and skinny / fit, and then we go HAM.
Christmas and Easter are also prime “accepted” examples of gluttony / bingeing (sadly I have gluttony tattooed on my back lol 7 deadly sins). But these occasions are accepted, but then we see the rebound effects and dumb media posts like “time to detox post Christmas” “skinny flat tummy tea to help me shit out all that chocolate” its like fuck offffff.
But it’s been nearly 100 years, and yet these behaviours are still super prevalent. And we hide it just as good. It’s deemed shameful and it literally cripples us. It’s crazy how many of us do it, and keep it this secret, which eats away at us, and we hurt ourselves trying to “restore balance”, because we attach our worth, quality, appeal, appearance to it.
Like interject real talk, but my ex (who I still love, respect and we’re friends) was aggressively obsessed with shaming me about it, because maybe he was obsessed with me being tiny? Like it was this weird double standard. Like okay so you can have your fucking KFC and chips and ice creams and chocolate, but fucking heaven forbid if I eat 3 bowls of oats, PB and some loving earth chocolate haha, OATS ARE LIKE CRACK IM SORRY. And he’d like fight me over it and make me feel soooo shit about it. And so, what did I do. I did it when he wasn’t around. I was like fuck yah aha. And so even more distance creeped in, because I wasn’t being open or transparent because he judged me so hard for it and was like disgusted over it.
And we all binge eat for different reasons. Whether it’s boredom, out of an old habit from when we were younger, if we weren’t allowed certain foods, and we carry these habits into adulthood, where when we eat these “treats” / hyper palatable food - we usually binge on junk / carbs / sugary / delicious foods, because we don’t get them all the time, another Jedi mind trick of scarcity mindset, so we act as if it’s the Last Supper, and we eat way more than we would if we ate them every day (or maybe not coz our DNA get’s hijacked by them food companies which we bout to explore).
Whether we binge because we want to just zone out, self-sabotage, we feel we deserve it, others encourage us to by their own actions and behaviours, it’s a companion behaviour e.g Netflix / movies, or because we swing so far into restriction, that we swing so far the other way.
This is all a result of subconscious existence. We’re not being present. We’re just rolling through on autopilot, “same shit different day”, jus getting through, you know. And when we’re on autopilot, we check out. We make shit decisions. We don’t pay attention, we’re muted, dulled and just existing, without living. Which is fucked. So we need to wake up. On all levels.
Wake up, put your conscious brain in control, be actively aware of what you’re doing, so that way, you’re experiencing it. You’re doing the life thing. And how many of us consciously binge and over eat?! Like no, coz we’re turned on to all the hormonal and body signals that we’re full, satisfied, satiated, completed, donezo, we g.
So be conscious, when we’re eating, put down your phone.
Don’t eat in front of a tv
Pay attention to your food, your chewing, pay attention to what you’re doing.
Our society encourages zombies, because we’re complacent, obedient, and easy to sell the binge-encouraging foods too. Because we’re not demanding more of ourselves, we’re not owning our shit and having goals. We’re satisfied staying parked. And that doesn’t sit well with me, nuh-uh. We all have to take responsibility and create the life we want, and we need to be consciously and actively participating in life to do that.
So let’s wake the fuck up, and take control.
So as humans, dopamine (our reward/pleasure chemical) which also regulates appetite, mood and learning (you already see how this is working against us) is released and hits the receptors amongst the dopamine pathway in our brain and makes us FEEL SO GOOD. So, when we eat these binge eating foods – you know, the highly palatable, over processed, sugar, fat and salt goodness, dopamine is released and we feel good, we learn that these foods make us feed good and this gets burned into our memory and subconscious.
And then we have the palate changes and cravings that are also associated with BE. When we’re constantly used to these over-processed hyped up foods, everything else tastes boring. We don’t get that same experience, and again, we learn, and tend to always want and thus crave (because our micro biome is also hijacked) these foods, and round and round we go!
UNTIL we decide to interject and physically, consciously make changes, not thinking that will power is the answer because its not. That part of our brain in younger than our lizard brain, which holds all the dopamine power.
Food companies pour so much money and “research” into discovering what perfect combo causes the dopamine hit – like think of the hyper palatable delicious creations like cronuts, white bread, pop tarts, tim tams, pizza etc etc.
These pretend foods tend to be lacking fibre, proteins and beneficial fats, so we don’t get the hormonal signals that we’re designed to get when we eat real food. We also lack the micronutrients, so our bodies like “I haven’t gotten what I needed”, and all of this creates the perfect storm for over consumption.
And then we attach this to the easy, convenience of attaining these foods. They’re cheap, easily available and can literally be delivered to our door.
And then, further, we’ve passively created and enabled a society that celebrates, and deems these foods as cool. We’ve been marketed to desire these foods, and attach ideas of celebrity, coolness, acceptance, and significance. Like eating Ben and Jerry’s is cool, we snap it and post it up, and like my legit giant fucking moon shot mission is to make that shit, not cool, because it’s making us sick and sad and dull. And to make eating real foods fucking cool, like Zebra Dream and homemade nicecream come at us.
So my strategies, be conscious. Don’t be afraid to stand in your essence, own your shit. Shine light on the dark. Talk to others about it, and realise you’re not alone. You don’t have to punish yourself, or treat yourself because you’re not a dog as my client said haha.
Count from 5 – 1 and interrupt the autopilot. If you have trigger foods / times / places, interrupt them also.
Don’t keep the foods in the house, be with people / call people / whatever.
Have designated areas for eating and watching, that are separate.
Phones down, brains on when eating.
Wait 10 minutes, ya still hungry go for it.
Real food replacements for your fave snacks, like yo try making coconut cream nicecream and eating it all, YA CANT COZ YOULL BE SO SATIATED BY DA FATS N GOODNESS.
Explore where the habit comes from, did your parents encourage you to eat everything on your plate? And practice something different.
Do the work on the underlying issues that exacerbate BE, what are you trying to avoid?
And my fave of all, live in the abundant mindset. Realise that, at any time, you can have whatever you want. You can always have more of whatever it is you binge on. We live in such a connected time, so it’s not a scarce commodity. So even just realising that, takes away it’s power, because it’s not special.
I hope this helps.
E aka TMN aka binge eating explorerer and experiencer