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Why Am I Binge-Eating And How Does Binge-Eating Start?

Dec 07, 2022
binge eating cereal

Do you ever wonder whether your binge eating is about something emotional?


Do you ever think to yourself “is it because something happened to me, maybe some traumatic event?” or is it as simple as “I don't eat enough”?


People struggling with binge eating disorder can become concerned when they can't pinpoint a big, eventful thing that happened to them that triggered the binge cycle. They don't understand why they’re binge eating.


The whole binge cycle is interesting because it's complicated. It's all a journey, it doesn't happen overnight.


Binge eating can often be a snowball effect where it starts off small and then spirals. Next thing you know, you’re binge eating for other reasons that don’t have anything to do with the initial emotion.


Given that we want to identify the root of your binge eating in order to heal, it’s important to be clear on both the original reasons for binge-eating and the current ones too (which can be different/more complex).


My quick answer to if bingeing is always about something emotional is: yes. Although, other factors can join in along the way, and that links us to:


What are the 4 types of restrictions that will cause bingeing? 


  1.   Physical Restriction.

 When we are simply not eating enough.

Our body is screaming out for the calories and energy! When our body doesn’t get what it needs, it revolts and we start the binge.


  1.   Mental Restriction.

The diet mindset influenced by diet culture. 

You know when you're always telling yourself, I can't have this, that's off limits, this is bad food, this is good food? Eventually, you just want what you can have. You want that “forbidden fruit” and you give into the binge.


  1.   Emotional Restriction. 

Suppressing those feelings that you don't want to feel.

Maybe it’s suppressing the trauma from your past or maybe it's the little things. Maybe it's stress in the day from work and you want to decompress but you don't know how to manage these emotions. So, we push them down and we soothe through food instead.


  1. Habit

After months or years of binge eating, this behaviour can be an ingrained habit that your brain and body expect. 


How Does Binge Eating Start?


In my own experience and in that of all of the clients I've ever had, it’s a snowball effect and it very much begins with the more emotional side.


It doesn't have to be a huge thing that happened to you such as one big life-changing event; more often than not, it is a series of accumulated trauma that just keeps building up. It can look like the culture in your family is very appearance-focused, and as a kid, you take that on and you internalize it. Maybe the way you got love and validation was through your appearance, so you believed that you had to uphold that certain standard.


Maybe it looks like an incident when you were five years old: you’re doing dance and your teacher says you're never going to be the best dancer in the class because you're not light enough or maybe they compared you to someone else with a more petite frame by saying Oh, you should be more like her, look how easy it is for her to jump.


Maybe you don't see it as trauma looking back as an adult but as a five-year-old - it could be a very traumatic experience that could kick off a journey of disordered eating.


That little five-year-old is going to see the other girl that she's been compared to or see the body type that she is supposed to get and she's going to start restricting herself, she's going to start noticing the differences between her own body and the other girl’s. 


Whether it’s 5 or 15 years old; it's this early onset belief that the world validates or rewards certain body types. That little girl will do everything she can in her power to never again feel that pain of the dance teacher saying that in front of the class.


Diet Mentality Kicks In


Next thing you know, this little girl is telling herself that she needs to cut carbs. She needs to not eat as much pasta. She really wishes she could but she thinks she shouldn’t. She’s now cutting out all those foods that she grew up loving. 


We’ve got the initial emotional wounds showing up through those things that happened, those little moments that were actually big accumulated events such as seeing all the women around you dieting. Then you've got the mental side of things kicking in, the mental restriction. As you start that, you start to alter the way that you intuitively had always eaten before.


Next thing you know, you are restricting and you do well at the start because:

  1.   You're young; and
  2.   There’s still novelty around dieting. 


You think to yourself wow, this isn't that hard and you just keep doing it and you start to lose some weight, and since you're in a society where people praise weight loss, you get some compliments, and you love that validation, you love the feeling, but then, boom! Next thing you know, you're bingeing because you are physically restricting your body in an extreme manner. 


Now it's a complicated mess: you're stuck in the binge-restrict cycle. 


At that point, some people are confronted with the fact that they have this huge problem in their life: you're bingeing, you're gaining weight, and you just don't know where the hell this all started.


You freak out. You might think to try not to physically restrict, right? To do the opposite of what you’ve always done?


Something that I advise everyone to do is to eat more if they are physically restricting. This will definitely alleviate the bingeing.


However, it’s not going to fix the entire problem. We still have this whole emotional side of it underneath - those beliefs around appearance, what's expected of you, what the world loves most, and what they make fun of.


You still have all those memories of the traumatic events that happened. That’s not going to go away by just eating more. Sure, if you eat more, you're not going to have the physical restriction side of things which is amazing!


And maybe, just maybe, alleviating physical restriction will fix the bingeing but because the trauma is still there, you'll go to something else to deal with that feeling of just not being good enough, of not knowing how to handle these emotions of not feeling safe in who you are in this world. You could go to smoking or alcohol to cope with it. That's why we have to go deeper.


We have to heal those beliefs and emotional wounds. We must create new ones that are more empowering. We have to heal those wounded parts of you that are hurting, that feel like they're not good enough, that still remember those events where everyone laughed at you or someone made a mean comment. Those hurt parts of us still remember it like it was yesterday, along with feeling the pain.


We have to start giving ourselves radical love and compassion to stop being the ones getting in our way and holding us back.



"My Binge Eating Really Is Just Because I Don't Eat Enough" 

I hear people say things like, "No, my bingeing was just physical, I just wasn't eating enough." I would still argue that that’s emotional restriction too. Ask yourself:

  1.   Why am I not eating enough?
  2.   Am I going through something which leads me to not have an appetite?
  3.   Am I trying to edit my body because I believe I need to be a different way?
  4.   Am I just not prioritizing my self-care?
  5.   Am I not making the time to nourish and give myself enough energy?


If you answered yes to any of the questions, then your binge-eating is definitely emotionally-led.


I am a big believer in the fact that binge eating starts with the emotional side of things and snowballs into something bigger and more complicated.


Does binge eating always start from something emotional? 


In a nutshell, my answer is yes


 The point is binge eating doesn't start out of nowhere in a vacuum. We don't just randomly stop eating enough food or cutting out carbs. There is an emotional root.


To sum it up


My advice is to absolutely stop physical restriction. But dig deeper and ask yourself: 

  1. What's underneath all of this? What’s underneath the binge?
  2. Why did I start trying to change my body in the beginning? 
  3. Why am I not accepting myself as I am? 


That’s a huge piece of work because this whole worthiness thing is ongoing work for most people. 


We can also chat about how I can help you more in the long term, whether it's a 30 Day Reboot course or one-to-one coaching


With Love,



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