There are various reasons why people eat in extreme excess including:
1. To increase pleasure as an anti-depressant or sleep aid: Eating sugars and fats releases opioids in our brains. So the calming, smoothing effects that you feel when you eat high sugar and high fat foods is real! Breaking these habits can be as hard, but it is vitalyou’re your health that you do.
These also increase neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which makes us feel good.
2. Inability to tolerate difficulty: We learn from a young age to avoid things that are too difficult or that feel bad. It’s not secret that the ways we have found to distract ourselves from those emotions can be dangerous, especially with the rise of lifestyle related illnesses and diseases in particular obesity. Obesity in Australia is one of the biggest health challenges facing the population with more than 60% of Australian adults being obese and 10% severely obese.
3. Body Loathing: Hating your body is one of the biggest factors in emotional eating. Negativity and shame rarely inspire people to make long-lasting healthy changes, especially when it comes to our bodies or our sense of self worth. You must stop hating your body BEFORE you can stop the emotional eating cycle and achieve long term body composition results.
4. Physiology: If you let yourself get too hungry or too tired, it is the best way to leave yourself vulnerable to emotional eating. When your body is hungry or tired it sends strong messages to your brain that signal it to eat glucose/sugar as it’s the bodies quickest form of energy we can consume. Sugar also feeds our ‘bad’ gut bugs such as firmicutes which are linked to obesity and rebound weight gain after weight loss. Start to become in tune with yourself and know when you are tired, thirsty or emotional.
How to overcome binging?
1. Sleep: Aim for at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night for optimal functioning. Keep your sleep patterns as regular as possible as this will correlate directly to the timing of your meals.
2. Holistic approaches: Incorporate some holistic serotonin and dopamine boosting activities into your week such as:
- Going for a walk outdoors (less than 7,500 steps per day increases our hunger hormone Ghrelin)
- Breath! (Deep breathing into your belly can help induce a relaxed parasympathetic state)
- Get a massage!
3. Food selection: Include tryptophan foods into your diet such as turkey and nuts. This will help boost melatonin to help you get to sleep as night. Having carbohydrates at night such as basmati rice or sweet potato to allow your melatonin to cross your blood brain barrier and induce sleep.
Emotional eating is a powerful, easy and effective way to find temporary relief from many of life’s challenges. Because it works so well, everyone does it. You don’t eat because you’re hungry, but because you feel empty or sad inside.
Taking the time to focus on the root cause of whatever is putting you in this bad headspace is very important. Many of us push our feelings or issues aside and never deal with them and then turn to food as a temporary cover up. This cycle is very damaging both emotionally and to our body composition.
We owe it to ourselves to treat ourselves with more respect and find solutions to our problems and not a temporary cover up.