Updated: Jul 13, 2020
There’s a lot of evidence to show strong associations between dietary restraint and binge eating.
Dietary restraint is when you try to restrict your food intake to control your body weight. It is usually done by way of a rigid set of rules which state what, when and how much you are "allowed" to eat.
There are usually three forms of restraint :
Delayed eating (fasting-like behaviours),
Food avoidance (excluding forbidden foods),
Restriction (actual under-eating).
I want to talk to you about some reasons why these forms of restraint lead to binge eating then offer some advice to try to get round it.
Dieting makes you very hungry. This hunger will eventually overcome any control you have put in place to restrict eating due to basic survival instincts. Prolonging hunger can cause a binge to take place with a wide range of foods.
It is common for a binge to happen when you're feeling sad, anxious, lonely or stressed. That is because these negative emotional states which you feel you have no control over will force you to look for control elsewhere. With no energy to follow your imposed diet rules you will control the emotion by overeating as it makes you feel good temporarily.
Rigid diet rules that dictate eating behaviour are too hard to sustain over a long period of time. You will undoubtedly “break” these rules and react in an all-or-nothing fashion, which can result in bouts of binge eating. This phenomenon is called 'the abstinence violation effect', and is useful for explaining why some people finish off an entire packet of Jaffa Cakes after feeling really guilty for eating just one!
Dieting Isn't The Answer
If you’re struggling with binge eating like most of my clients do, then dieting actually isn’t the answer!
By putting measures in place to regain control and working through the reasons for your binges you can start to make peace with yourself and recover from this disorder.
I always start my clients off with logging what is actually going on, then addressing the evidence. Looking at the reasons around why a binge happened and how we can change that for future episodes.
Sometimes a binge comes from an emotional state, sometimes from a habit linked to a location or event. But once we find the link then it's easy to start to break it down and reform healthy habits.
After finding the triggers for a binge we put controls in place to avoid it and that usually involves regular meal times and food which makes you happy - not "diet food". Then we work on finding distractions to help cope with the feelings which surround binge episodes. Slowly the binge episodes get less frequent and the feelings become less disruptive and clients soon find a happy balance which suits their life. Then and only then can they look at weight loss - when they have the tools to deal with it and the mind to cope with it but quite often just dealing with the binge episodes results in a lower healthier weight which clients are happy to sit with.
So to summarise - if you think you have a problem with binge eating then follow these steps:
Log your eating patterns and binges and look for clues which connect the binges.
Introduce flexible control over your eating pattern such as regular meal times. Avoid hunger by eating satisfying foods not 'diet foods'.
Expand your activity in the day so food isn't the main thing on your mind. For example, listen to music, go for a walk, do exercise, call a friend for a chat, knit, play a game or read a book. Practical and pleasurable activities can release stress, help balance physical versus mental energy and help you a lot with binge eating.
If you struggle with binge eating then I hope this message has helped.
If you want to have a no obligation chat about your diet to get clarity on how to succeed then why not book in a complimentary introduction call with me? It's only 20 minutes and might be the best thing you've ever done for your diet.