You don’t have to go far to find a lot of misunderstanding about the difference between binge eating and emotional eating.
Many people seem to use them interchangeably, so I thought I’d take a moment to help you understand the difference, for yourself and for your family.
Emotional eating is the act of eating food to distract from an uncomfortable emotion or what some might call self-soothe. You might be bored, scared, lonely and eating something makes you feel calmer.
Those of us who have had restrictive eating habits (dieters plus those who omit foods for ‘health’ or ‘lifestyle’ reasons – but, interestingly, not ‘medical’ reasons) tend to eat emotionally with much greater frequency than non-restrictors.
That said, almost all humans enjoy food for the nice feeling it can give them from time-to-time but non-restrictors don’t stress much about it.
Binge eating is a bit different. It’s a response to feeling deprived of food. It’s partly a psychological response, often triggered by a sense of ‘this might be the last time’ and partly a biological response triggered by starvation. When we don’t have enough food to satisfy our biological needs, our body over-rides our sense of fullness and satiation and makes sure we get enough to tide us over in case this is the last time food is available.
Can you see how the advice to take a “warm bath” or “walk around the block” won’t stop us or our kids binge eating for very long if we’re living in a state of restriction? We’re up against psychobiological forces that are far stronger than willpower, commitment, or good intentions.
Binge eating can be triggered by a range of ‘restrictions’…
Undernourishment. You or your child are not eating enough calories, carbohydrates, fats, etc. This is more common than you might think given so many nutrition tips on the internet tell us to restrict.
You or your child are preparing to control how much you eat in the future – diet/detox/40 hour famine/clean eating/vegan/processed free starts tomorrow, so I’ll make hay now.
You or your child feel mortified or guilty about what you eat. You’ve already buggered the whole eating thing up so you keep going…
Binge eating and emotional eating can trigger each other. Imagine being halfway through a detox and a friend upsets you. A bowl of ice-cream soothes you but then feeling of guilt fly in and suddenly the whole tub is finished.
But…binge eating and emotional eating are different behaviors that need to be addressed in different ways.
If you’re keen to get a handle on the differences and gain some freedom for yourself and your kids, come explore The 10,000 Mothers Club.
It’s a brilliant first step on the road to ending body and eating shame for ourselves and our kids.
I’ve taken all my advice, guidance and knowledge for you and created safe space with practical and real-life support.
Together we’ve got this!
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