The Restricting/Binging Cycle

So what is the Restrict/Binge Cycle?

There are many reasons that we may binge (stress, trauma, mental illness, boredom, etc) but I’m focusing on the restriction-caused binge. A restriction-caused binge is caused by– you guessed it- restricting. You may be restricting a specific food, food group, or your overall calorie intake. For example, you may be setting yourself up to binge by not eating enough throughout the day and restricting your calories. By the time dinner comes, you are so hungry that all your food rules go out the window. In your hungry state, judgment is impaired and impulsivity increases leading to a food frenzy and you end up in a pile of shame and guilt. The next day, you wake up feeling very full from the previous night’s intake, tell yourself that you’re going to be “good”, and start the restricting all over again. It’s a vicious cycle. 

Is there a difference between overeating and binging?

Yes, there is! Overeating is when one occasionally has an extra helping even though they may feel full. Binging is when one eats a larger amount of food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances. This episode of eating is often marked by feelings of lack of control, disgust with oneself, and significant guilt, shame, and regret.

What Happens When We Restrict/Binge?

When you tell yourself that you can’t have a food and you restrict and avoid it, that food immediately gains power over you. We become preoccupied with the food and lose our ability to listen to our bodies because there are other distractions in our brain. It is human nature to want what we can’t have right? Our brain is going to be constantly thinking about the “bad foods” that we can’t have. When we finally give ourselves full permission to eat any food, it loses it’s power over us and we are able to begin learning how to intuitively eat.

How Do I Stop the Cycle?

  • Get rid of your good/bad foods list- when you can see all food as equal, it loses power over you
  • Give yourself permission to eat all foods- eat it, enjoy it, taste it! Be fully present.
  • Don’t skip meals- skipping meals sets you up to binge later on
  • Eat consistently and regularly throughout the day
  • Stop dieting!- The dieting world has so many food rules and restrictions which just set you up to binge and are not helpful in achieving food freedom
  • Honor your body’s hunger and fullness cues
  • Practice mindful eating- check in with your body during mealtimes to see how it’s feeling
  • Immediately give yourself grace, forgiveness, and compassion in those times when you may find yourself binging- you’re not a failure. I promise.
  • Let yourself grow and learn in your journey with no judgement or criticism

My Experience

Chocolate Chip Cookies, mmhmm. I have always loved them, and all of my friends/family know it. Cookies have been gifted to me many times over the years. Cookies were always there when life got hard.

But on a more serious note, my relationship with cookies has had some ups and downs. Even though I LOVED (ahem, LOVE, present-tense) cookies, I remember the days when I thought that cookies were my enemy. When I ate a cookie, I wasn’t following my strict food rules. I would tell myself over and over that I couldn’t eat them, avoiding the chocolaty goodness for a period of time, and then it would all become too much. I would binge on them, eating my chocolate chip cookies like there was no tomorrow. It left me feeling so ashamed and so full of guilt, I couldn’t look myself in the eye. Time and time again, this restricting/binging cycle that I was in cemented my belief that I wasn’t strong enough, I didn’t have any control, I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t worthy of love, and that I was a hard-core failure. Many of you may have also had experiences similar to this. It is very difficult to break any pattern, any habit, but by following the guidelines listed above, I was finally able to find my food freedom. And I know you can find yours. No matter where you are on the food-relationship spectrum, I know recovery is possible. 




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