If you’ve ever found yourself binge eating, you’re certainly not alone. But if your decision to scarf down an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting has you feeling badly about yourself, take heart. At least one expert says the kind of food you are eating is partly to blame.
What causes you to binge eat?
Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere says eating binges "can be primarily triggered by stress, anxiety or depression," and are a form of self-medication for these emotions. "During an eating binge, people reach for comfort foods that produce serotonin," he explains, which "helps elevate mood, as well as focus.”
But as “7 Pounds in 7 Days: The Juice Master Diet” author Jason Vale points out, what someone is eating too much of may be what is causing the binge in the first place. “It's not so much that people overeat as a response to emotion,” but rather, “they eat certain things as a response to emotion,” he explains.
When people experience these emotions, they “always turn to refined sugars and refined fats, in much the same way a smoker will turn to nicotine,” Vale explains. “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘I've had a really bad day, give me an apple!’?”
“With food, only refined sugars and fats will give the false feelings of satisfaction, as it quickly raises sugar levels, thus ending the empty insecure feeling caused by the last 'hit' of junkie food,” he adds. “This is the reason why people turn to junk food and not apples during moments of stress, anger or depression.”
How can you recognize a binge?
If you are "losing control, feeling very desperate, very anxious or sad, you can usually recognize you’re in an eating binge," Gardere says. Yet, Vale points out that sometimes, a binge can be difficult to recognize.
“We actually require nowhere near the amount of food as the average person eats every day, so it could be argued that the vast majority of people binge to some degree,” he says.
So how can you stop a binge?
According to Vale, the best method is going cold turkey by removing “junkie-type foods going into your bloodstream.” He suggests looking for label-less foods to achieve a leaner body, clear the mind, and ultimately, stop a binge before it starts.
Gardere also suggests several coping methods when you feel a binge coming on:
- Limit your access to "comfort foods." Do not place a high caloric or all carbohydrate-type foods in the front of the refrigerator or the front of the kitchen cabinets. Instead, replace them with healthier foods.
- Do not begin to eat until you are calm. If you are feeling very emotional, whether it's anger, depression or anxiety, find any other activity aside from eating.
- Practice portion control. You can pre-arrange your meals with the exact amount of food that is healthy and does not cross into bingeing.
- Reach out to others. If you feel like binge eating, instead of reaching for that cupcake, reach for the telephone or the computer and talk to a friend.
- Talk to a professional. If binge eating is a consistent problem, seek therapy or expert advice.