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Let's talk about binge eating

Have you ever had a binge, where you feel completely out-of-control with your eating? It often feels frantic, or even primal. Almost as if it's a race against time to get as much food in your mouth as possible. It can be embarrassing and shameful. It can make you feel like a complete failure.

I promise you that you are not alone. While binge eating is definitely not "normal" eating behaviour, it is extremely common.

Binge eating is actually a very important mechanism that your body uses to protect you from starvation. And your body can't differentiate between starvation due to famine or self-imposed starvation due to dieting. Your body doesn't know that you are choosing not to eat. All it knows is that you aren't eating. When you deprive yourself of calories despite your body sending increasingly intense requests for food, your body becomes a primal, food-seeking machine.

Your body is determined to obtain food because it is literally trying to save your life (I know this seems dramatic, but remember, your body doesn't know that there is food everywhere and that you aren't eating by choice.) Often you will find yourself reaching for high fat and high sugar foods as your body is trying to get as many calories as quickly as possible. While not normal eating, this is a very normal response to food deprivation.

Because binge eating is a direct reaction to calorie deprivation, I prefer to think of binge-eating as "compensatory eating" instead. When your body is not receiving adequate calories, you will experience compensatory eating to make up for all of the calories that you've been missing.

Think of it like sleep. If you are up super late one night, you're very likely to sleep in the next morning. This is another compensatory behaviour. The difference is that we don't think of this as "binge sleeping". It's much easier for us to wrap our heads around the need to make up for lost sleep by sleeping more. The same goes for breathing; if you're under water for a minute, you're likely to come to the surface gasping for air. Again, we don't call this "binge breathing".

It's only because we attach morality to our eating habits that we have trouble seeing compensatory eating in the same way that we would see sleeping in or gasping for air. In each case, the body is simply compensating for a lack of something that it needs (food, sleep, or air).

So, how do you stop compensatory eating? Well, how do you stop sleeping in? You go to sleep at a reasonable time the night before. How do you stop gasping for air? You don't put your head under water for long stretches of time. And how do you stop compensatory eating? You feed your body adequately and consistently.

If you want to stop the compensatory behaviour, you need to stop the deprivation. Stop the dieting. Feed your body well and you won't have a need to binge any longer.

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