5 Emotional Triggers That are Causing Your Binge Eating Episodes
By Dr Becky Spelman
Everyone is capable of overindulging every now and again. It’s not always the best thing to do for our health, but we do have a measure of control over when these incidents happen. They’re usually few and far between. Binge eating episodes are different proposition. These are occurrences when there is a distinct lack of restraint over a prolonged period. When this happens, there is a strong case for a diagnosis of binge eating disorder (BED). The resulting episodes are always associated with a trigger. They aren’t random but follow a defined pattern that is closely intertwined with your experience. Here are some of the most common:
Above all, binge eating is a coping mechanism. ‘Stress eating’ is more of a gender-specific issue than most other types of binge eating – applying mainly to women. When men are under pressure, they’re more likely to turn to alcohol or cigarettes to curb their emotions. Binge eating that results from stress is usually due to elevated cortisol levels, which, if experienced over a prolonged period can increase the motivation to eat.
Suppress Your Emotions
If you want it to be, food can be a very effective tool for the dampening of emotions. It can take you out of your headspace and allow you to detach from uncomfortable feelings – at least for a little while. But therein lies the problems. Suppressing your emotions with food is only a short-term solution for a much deeper-rooted issue. However, once the behaviour has been learned, it becomes a crutch that is turned to time again, creating an unhealthy cycle.
Food is such an accessible and socially accepted action; it can easily be justified as “something to do.” We need to eat to survive. So when you’re at a lose-end, there can be no apparent harm in having a quick snack. The problem arises when this is done through a lack of awareness. If you’re eating to fill time rather than your appetite, you will always eat beyond satiation and possibly fall into a binge eating episode.
Some people are foodies through and through. They’ll eat less for fuel and more the sensory experience and trying new flavour combinations. This attitude can lead to oversized meals comprising of many ‘smaller’ portions of different foods. When this is the case, there can be a distinct fear of missing out (FOMO). There will always be something new and exotic to try despite what the gut may be communicating to the brain.
Social Influences (Mukbang)
This is a relatively new phenomenon. Mukbangs are eating shows created by young adults on YouTube. They’re intended for people to eat along with them who have no one else to dine with – the concept originated in Korea to solve a legitimate social problem. However, the quantities of food eaten in these videos are often enormous, leading some viewers to see this behaviour as socially acceptable. They may form a connection with a favourite “mukbanger” and see their behaviour as something to aspire to.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
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