WHY YOU BINGE EAT – Understanding your triggers

For individuals who struggle with binge/emotional eating/overeating, we often see it as just needing to have “more willpower”, but that’s not really the case – most commonly, binge eating is caused by one (or more) of the main three types of triggers:

– Physical deprivation
– Mental restriction
– Emotional suppression/avoidance

We’ll break down a little about each in a moment, but first, I want you to know that there is an absolutely valid reason that you do what you do, and it’s important to understand this in order to stop blaming yourself for just not having enough “self-control” to stop the binges. Firstly, you’re not alone if you’ve sat there Googling, ‘Why am I binge eating’ or ‘What to do when you binge eat’. By getting to know your individual triggers, you’ll learn what to watch out for and take preventative steps that will help minimise the risk of a future binge and this may help you to stop binge eating on your own.

It might help to change your perspective a little, and instead of seeing the binges/emotional eating episodes as the “problem” to avoid, lets get curious as to WHY it’s happening, understanding that this behaviour is actually more of a response to an underlying problem, and this is just your body/brain’s only known way to cope/self-soothe.

Okay – let’s break down those trigger types and see what might be leading to your current eating patterns!

Physical Deprivation

Not eating enough, skipping meals, ignoring physical hunger cues for an extended period of time, yo-yo dieting, or expending too much energy through excessive training or caloric restriction.

This causes your hunger hormone (Ghrelin) to rise, which triggers intense cravings, often requiring a higher volume of food in order to reach it’s satiation point – think of this as a swinging pendulum – the more your body (and brain) feels deprived, the more it’ll cue you to play catch-up to keep you full and functioning.

Eat enough to fuel your body and mind, CONSISTENTLY! If you’re currently dieting/restricting your calories, I’d recommend stopping or at least pausing while you work on eliminating binges and creating a healthier relationship with food.

Learn to listen to your body, check in with your hunger cues and energy levels throughout the day – ensure you’re eating regularly and not waiting until you reach extreme hunger to eat. Aim to include sufficient quantities of nutrient-dense foods to optimise physical satiety, energy and brain function, as well as foods you enjoy for a well-rounded approach – set an alarm if you’re prone to working through lunch or forgetting to eat so we can avoid long periods without the fuel your body (and brain) needs to work at it’s best!

Mental Restriction

Avoiding certain foods or entire food groups, labelling foods as “good” or “bad”, creating a scarcity mindset around things you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have, only allowing yourself to have lower-calorie alternatives (even if you don’t enjoy them as much), or implementing rigid rules that restrict your intake, food choices, quantities, or meal timing.

This includes trying to limit your favourite foods to small quantities or blanket rules like “only on weekends”, which is why you might find it even harder to stop eating that food once you start. Anticipating that it’ll be cut out again, or telling yourself you need to finish it all now so it’s out of the house and you can be “good” again tomorrow!

Try implementing a more balanced approach, understanding that all foods are acceptable within the context of a balanced diet, and challenging rigid thought patterns or black + white thinking around “good” and “bad” foods.

Embracing food freedom and practicing “food habituation” can be extremely useful – reach out for help if you’d like me to guide you through this, as it can take a little practice!

Emotional Suppression/Avoidance

This is extremely common and may happen alongside either or both of the previous triggers.

This could look like – using food to self-soothe as your only way to deal with stress, sadness, anger, overwhelm or any other negative feelings; using food as a distraction, or chasing the pleasurable “high” from eating something highly palatable (a common one for right after work, or at the end of a long and stressful day!)

Work on implementing healthier coping tools, such as mindfulness, meditation, journaling, or seeking therapy to develop your own toolbox for managing your emotions long-term.

This can be a difficult one to self-combat for some, as it’s likely that you use food as a coping tool because you simply haven’t learned how to identify and regulate your emotions in healthier ways.

If you notice that emotional eating is part of your binge eating cycle, start with working on slowing things down to stay. Allow room to “feel your feelings” – I have a few great tips to help with this, so reach out to me if you’d like personalised advice on how to navigate through this particular trigger in the way it shows up for you, or feel free to book a coaching call or counselling session (even as a once-off) so we can dive deeper into the emotions that you struggle to process, so we can brainstorm some relevant strategies to help you through it and expand that toolbox for future use!

Once you’ve started to understand common triggers to look out for, it’s important to take some time to observe and reflect on how this shows up for you individually. Then, work on an action plan to prepare for how best to minimise your exposure to these triggers, or be more prepared for them in future – if you need help identifying your own triggers/patterns or what to do from there, I’d love to help, so feel free to reach out by email (hello@samirose.com.au) or click the below button to book a free 15 minute consultation to chat about how I can help!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *