Does The Urge To Binge Ever Fully Go Away?Aug 18, 2022
When you are deep in the binge-restrict cycle - when it’s been going on for years - it can be hard to imagine that things will ever be different. It’s difficult to believe the urge to binge will every go away.
You may have already begun your healing journey and have seen progress - the binges are getting less frequent and less intense, almost like overeating now - but that urge to binge is still popping up. Sometimes you might be able to manage it through breath-work, checking in with your own needs, letting the ‘binge voice’ be heard and understood (all tools I teach in the 30 Day Reboot). But there are still times when the urge ‘wins’ and you end up binge-eating.
“Will the urge to binge ever FULLY go away?”, you might wonder.
It might even be that you haven’t binged in months and you felt like finally you were leaving this bingeing mess behind for good. And then - boom - that urge to binge rears its ugly head.
It can sometimes feel like bingeing is just always going to be a part of your life. That even if you’re able to manage the urge to binge when it shows up, it’ll still show up.
The short answer to the question ‘does the urge to binge ever go away?’ is yes.
Before we dive into that, let’s get clear on what that urge to binge eat feels like - so we’re on the same page.
WHAT DOES THE URGE TO BINGE EAT FEEL LIKE?
The urge to binge is hard to miss - it’s that inner feeling of tension around wanting to binge eat. The tension is there because most likely your logical mind doesn’t really want you to binge - you’ve been there before and know that the aftermath is horrible - feeling sick, stomach is painfully stuffed, you might have a food coma or sugar high, it affects you digestion, skin, mood and so much more for hours or days.
Along with that inner tension there’s usually this out-of-control feeling like you can’t resist the binge. It can sometimes feel like you are possessed - going into this zombie mode of ‘I need to get my binge food!’. The urge to binge can feel like tunnel-vision - suddenly nothing else really matters - all that matters is acquiring your binge food whether it’s in the kitchen or you have to go out to the shops to get it.
Even physically, the urge to binge can be accompanied by a salivating mouth as your body and mind feel excited by the anticipation of a binge. You may feel adrenaline rushing through your body as you fantasize about the upcoming binge.
The urge to binge often pops up like clockwork (but not always) as your body and mind grow accustomed to your bingeing habits. For me, an example of this was as I was getting the train home from work, the urge to binge would slowly appear. As the train got closer to my stop, I would start planning the binge - would I order Dominoes on the train so it was at my house by the time I got home (a classic trait of the urge to binge is wanting it ASAP - no waiting around or idle time), or I would plan rushing into the supermarket to grab my various binge foods.
The urge to binge often grows more intense in the run up to the binge and once you take those first few bites in the binge, it’s like a massive relief. In the run-up, it can feel like there’s no turning back, there’s no way to reverse these thoughts and feelings - that you MUST binge to release this tension.
Feels fairly similar for you? Ok, let’s talk about the urge to binge finally going away.
HOW TO MAKE THE URGE TO BINGE NOT SHOW UP
This is actually one of the main principles of the 30 Day Reboot - prevention instead of cure. Yes, we talk about what to do when the urge does show up, and it does become possible to interrupt that urge to binge further down the line especially when you’ve been addressing your restriction. But the key is to address the cause of the urge to binge - what is making your body or mind want to binge?
Primarily, the reason we binge eat comes down to a handful of reasons:
- Physical restriction - essentially not eating enough calories or getting enough nutrients in
- Mental restriction - perceived restriction - the ‘I want what I can’t have’ mentality that becomes heightened when we apply tons of food rules and limits through years of dieting.
- Emotional restriction - using food to numb out or escape from feelings.
- Habit - after repeating the same behaviour flow for years, bingeing can also become habitual.
Now, in the 30 Day Reboot we address all of these root causes of binge-eating. So through the course, you’ll see your bingeing become less frequent and less intense. Many report seeing this transition from binges to bouts of overeating to minor overeating to not overeating much - so a fade out of bingeing.
But the question remains - will the urge ever 100% go away? Or will I always have to deal with it to some extent?
It is 100% possible for the urge to binge to be completely gone from your life. Bingeing is a behaviour that you took on - you can also let go of it. It is not who you are.
Here are my 4 tips to help you fully shed the urge to binge from your life.
4 WAYS TO FULLY LET GO OF THE URGE TO BINGE
ADDRESS YOUR NEEDS
You may have lessened your binge-eating but that urge to binge still pops up and you have to deal with it. My tip here (and always) is to keep tending to your needs. What has helped you binge eat way less/not at all? That was your root cause so keep giving yourself the self-care you need. It might be ensuring you get in those 3 meals a day that are filling and satisfying. It might be ensuring you manage your stress levels throughout the day so it doesn’t build up and explode by the time you get home. It might be to continue remaining easygoing and non-controlling with food (i.e. no rigid food rules). It’s easy for these things to slide here and there - so ensure that you are taking care of yourself as best you can consistently.
I’ve had women message me on Instagram saying that they hadn’t binged in YEARS and then another one popped up out of nowhere. My response is that it most likely wasn’t out of nowhere - take the time to really look at what was going on in the run-up to the binge? Did a big life event happen like relocation or a death or a new job? Have you started training for a marathon and forgot that you need to increase your calories so your body was running on low fuel?
It’s ok that a binge pops up even years after breaking free. It’s always simply a signal to you - a sign to do a little bit of investigative work to find out why it happened and how you can better address your needs going forward.
It’s also important to note that the cause of your binge further down the line might not be the same as back when you struggled more intensely. So while it’s helpful to go over what helped you out the first time, also keep an eye out for anything new going on. Perhaps initially you used binge-eating to cope with life’s stresses but months or years later it reappeared because you learned that you have a digestive issue and need to remove certain foods temporarily but you found it cut out and ended up bingeing.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME
Boring, I know, but time really does heal. Binge eating can take months to let go of - even reappearing years later. So be patient with yourself - it’s all a learning journey. I’ve had 30 Day Reboot students say that they binged on Day 21 and felt like they shouldn’t be bingeing by then. It begs the question - how long does it take for the urge to binge to disappear?
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR THE URGE TO BINGE TO GO AWAY?
I hate to say it but there is no timeline. After working 1:1 with many clients, I can tell you that everyone truly is different. For some people, it’s like a light switch, for many others it’s a slow fade out. Putting that pressure to be binge-free or urge-to-binge-free after 21 days of focus is the opposite of what we need. You likely know that dealing with binge-eating for years is exhausting - there’s perfectionism, self-criticism, pressure, weight loss deadlines. The last thing we need in recovery is more pressure. This is the time for patience and self-care. For those doing the 30 Day Reboot - remember that you are not expected at all to be binge-free within 30 days, it's simply 30 days worth of content. Give yourself plenty of time to integrate the tools and see behaviour and emotional change. The bingeing did not appear overnight, it won't disappear overnight either. Also bear in mind, that oftentimes the time it takes to release bingeing can vary based on the reason for your bingeing. For some, the bingeing popped up after they dieted for a few months cutting calories too low - it might be that once they increase calories (which can be a light switch moment or can take time if there are fears of weight gain), the bingeing can go away fairly quickly. For others, the bingeing have a way to cope with a highly traumatic event in their life - in this case, it's really about dealing with that trauma and learning how to soothe your nervous system without needing bingeing. This can take time.
The urge to binge is also likely very habitual for someone who has binged for years. As they say, neurons that fire together, wire together. Those urge-to-binge neurons have fired so many times that it’s the path of least resistance for the brain. Our brain loves habit, automation and predictability. So while you may address your root causes of binge-eating, the urge can still pop up here and there habitually.
The goal is to create new habits, new neural pathways that override the urge-to-binge ones. That might look like you knowing your urge-to-binge patterns and making it a habit to do something else during that time. E.g. back when I was taking the train home and my urge to binge would pop up - I could have made that my time to face-time my sister and catch up (while, of course, ensuring I’m addressing my root causes of bingeing like under-eating).
Habits take time to form and let go of so again, time is important here too!
We often act in accordance with our identity. Our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, behaviours mostly line up with who we think we are. If you still think that you are a binge-eater, that you are someone who will always struggle with food, then an urge-to-binge popping up would make sense.
Something that helped me immensely to let go of binge-eating for good (after a full decade of it!) was changing my identity around food and weight. I truly believe I am someone who is relaxed with food choices, like to eat a range of foods - most that are good for my body, and some that just hit the spot for my soul. I am someone who doesn’t struggle with my weight - I find it easy to maintain a comfortable weight without effort. It’s just easy to me.
To be clear, that was NOT me during my ten-year struggle. I thought I’d be stuck bingeing for my whole life. I was jealous of people who could just eat what they wanted and not gain a ton of weight like I did.
With my new identity - it would be absolutely bizarre for me to have that urge to binge. It simply would not be me. Not who I am anymore.
It’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg situation i.e. does your identity change when you start bingeing less or do you start bingeing less because of a changed identity? I think they both feed into each other. In the 30 Day Reboot, we do lots of work on lessening the frequency and intensity of your binges to help get your mind more clear and confident so that you can start to see yourself in a different way. We also have several lessons on identity to bolster this new you!
To summarize, you absolutely can and will fully let go of that urge to binge. It’s really about giving yourself time to change habits and identity, but also ensuring that you are taking care of yourself as best you can.
Want more help with leaving binge-eating behind and building a healthier, happier relationship with food? Take a look at my 30 Day Reboot online course that over 500 women have taken!
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