Emotional Eating and Binge Eating

Emotional eating and binge eating are common coping mechanisms, and do not always reach the level of a full-blown Eating Disorder diagnosis.  Resolving the underlying causes of your emotional eating or binge eating behaviors is very possible.  And once the causes, triggers and usefulness of these coping mechanisms are resolved, the compulsion resolves as well.

Emotional Eating vs. Binge Eating

Coping mechanisms can develop as ways to comfort, soothe and numb ourselves – as ways to put some distance between our vulnerable Self and what or who we experience as threatening, uncomfortable or unwelcome.  When emotional eating or binge eating are used as coping mechanisms, we commonly choose carbohydrates, which release high levels of dopamine.  These chemical changes in our brain and body can disconnect us from the uncomfortable feelings that led us to overeat or binge in the first place.  We then come to associate feelings of relief with the binge, and the behavior is reinforced – because it is effective.  Often, the stress of restricting food in general, or certain foods or food groups, creates a preoccupation with the deprived foods.  This, in turn, increases stress which is often released by overeating or binge eating the deprived foods.  In short, restricting can lead to binging.  The good news is that by addressing and resolving the underlying issues that drive the behaviors, the need for the coping mechanism lessens.

Therapy for emotional eating and binge eating, like all trauma therapy, helps you reprocess your original source of distress and resolve it once and for all.  

Emotional Eating is eating for the purpose, consciously or unconsciously, of managing any aspect of your emotional experience.  Examples of this include seeking excitement and stimulation (boredom), seeking a ‘boost’ or a ‘lift’ from sugar or carbs (sadness), seeking energy when you need rest (pushing through), numbing (stress, anger, grief, etc.) or eating foods that remind us of people, places and experiences (emotional connection).  Emotional eating is eating for any reason other than physical hunger.

Binge Eating is eating large amounts of food and feeling out of control.  If you eat compulsively, or secretly, your relationship with food is out of balance.  Eating when not hungry, eating rapidly, or eating to the point of physical discomfort can also be signs of Binge Eating.  Especially relevant are feelings of shame or guilt that follow a food binge.  Often, those with Binge Eating behaviors compensate by later restricting, which, in turn, triggers more binging.  

Negative Body Image vs. Body Positivity 

Negative Body Image is based on the belief that our body does not conform to ‘acceptable’ standards.  It is a type of shame.  And it is fueled by our culture’s messaging that every ‘body’ must conform to today’s marketed, media image of ‘beauty.’  If you are preoccupied with your body, weight, shape, appearance and comparing your physical body negatively to others, you may be struggling with Negative Body Image.  If you are preoccupied with your body, weight, shape, appearance and comparing your physical body positively to others, you may also be struggling with body image.  Preoccupation with body image is so normalized now that we may even fail to recognize it as a source of distress.

Body Positivity and Diversity & Inclusion campaigns such as Health at Every Size, The Body Positive, Love Your Body (National Organization for Women)  and NoLose (Queer and Sex Positive) are healthy resources for those seeking a more positive relationship with their body. 

Therapy for emotional eating, binge eating and body image struggles can transform your relationship with the world.  By identifying and truly resolving your own personal fears, anxieties and trauma, it is possible to forge a peaceful, loving relationship with your physical body – and with your whole Self.  And that transforms everything else.

Because, as you likely know by now, it’s not about the food.

Therapy for Emotional Eating, Binge Eating and Body Image

I provide online and in-person therapy for Emotional Eating, Binge Eating and Body Image Issues using several somatic, body-based approaches.  I look forward to helping you create a loving, compassionate relationship with your inner and outer Self.

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