brain over binge podcast transcript

Best of the Brain over Binge Podcast [Transcript]

In episode 100, I did a “Best of the Podcast” episode where I put together audio clips that I thought would best summarize the Brain over Binge concepts and would be the most useful for you to keep in mind as you work on recovery. I thought this would be helpful for you to have in writing as well, so I’ve turned the “Best of the Podcast” episode into a blog post here. I hope this post provides an additional source of inspiration and practical advice to apply while you stop binge eating. 

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Transcript:

Today is Episode 100 and I feel like it’s a big milestone. I’m very happy to have been able to produce 100 episodes! I want to thank everyone who has listened to the podcast along the way, whether you’ve listened to one episode or all 100 episodes.

I wanted to do something special for the 100th episode so I decided to compile a Best of the Podcast episode. What I did is just went through and picked out some of my favorite parts that I felt like would be the most useful for you to review and to keep in mind as you work on ending the binge eating habit.

I found it to be a fun project to go through all of the episodes and revisit a lot of the topics that we’ve covered so far, and also to hear a lot of the guests that I’ve had on the show. I’ve had some really amazing guests, and I want to thank everyone who has been on the show and shared their ideas. Although I wasn’t able to include everyone, just know that I’m so thankful for all of the insights and information that my guests have shared over the years.

I’m also very thankful for everyone who has subscribed to the podcast, and for those of you who have not subscribed already, I would encourage you to subscribe because I plan to keep this podcast going for as long as I can, and I would love for you to be here listening.

So now I’ll go ahead and share the best of the Brain over Binge podcast…

“The Brain over Binge approach is about learning to see your binge eating in light of the brain, and then using that information to empower yourself. It’s about changing your perspective to see yourself as fundamentally healthy, and not broken, and not diseased. In the Brain over Binge philosophy, binge eating is a natural (but also very primitive) brain response to restrictive dieting, which becomes a habit over time. Or, binge eating can also develop as a primitive response to repeated overeating of highly stimulating foods, which increases over time and then forms the same binge eating habit. Either way, it’s a primitive brain response that makes you feel out of control, and what we’re going to teach you is to take control back.”

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“In conventional treatment, it’s common to hear that the urges to binge are symptoms—that they are symptoms of underlying emotional problems or psychological problems. This is a very popular and mainstream idea. The theory is that you have urges to binge because you’re not able to cope with those problems or with difficult emotions in your life in an effective way. Because binge eating is seen as a coping mechanism, then the urges are viewed in a more symbolic way—like a signal that you need to learn to cope better. This is what I was taught, but to me, the urges never felt like a need to cope. They always felt like a need to eat massive quantities of food. At a very basic level, it didn’t seem any more complicated than that, and it wasn’t.”

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“One of the things that’s important for you to know very early in learning about this approach is that it may improve your life if you learn how to deal with moods, it may improve your life if you learn how to solve problems and live a better life, but the most important thing is to separate improving yourself/improving your life from stopping binge eating. It is not necessary to be the best that you can be in order to stop this problem. You may be interested in that anyway, but it’s really important to know that you can stop binging and not perfect all these different areas of your life, because we see the urges themselves as the problem. And when you look at it that way, the answer is to stop responding to the urges, and eventually they will fade away.”  -Cookie Rosenblum

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“All the lower brain can do is send impulses and encourage you to act. But when you feel these urges, know that you have complete power to choose not to act. When you know you’re separate from the urges, it allows you to have access to the self-control functions in your higher brain. In other words, when you absolutely believe you have this power over the urges and that these urges can’t control you, then it’s much easier to choose not to act on them.”

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“It’s possible that you’ve learned the information that we’ve shared so far about dismissing the urges to binge, and (either because you have a strong desire to lose weight or you’re just still in that habit of food restriction) you’ve taken the strategy of dismissing urges too far. Maybe you’ve been thinking that you should dismiss every desire for unhealthy food or every desire to eat more than a very strict calorie limit that you’ve set for yourself. This is not the intention of the Brain over Binge approach. Dismissing urges is not a way to become a better dieter—it’s a way to stop binge eating.”

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“It’s not that you truly want to binge one last time, it’s that this “one last time” mentality is just something that our lower brains automatically produce when we have a destructive habit. I want you to think about all the times you’ve thought “just one last time”…you truly believed it in the moment, but then the next time you had a urge to binge, the thought came up again and you believed it again. What if you stopped believing this thought? What if you instead realized that the “one last time” mentality is a reaction of the primitive part of your brain with the goal of getting what it wants right now. The lower brain is not concerned with your long term goals or even what you’ll do tomorrow. It’s job is only to get you to binge right now, and the one last time thought is an extremely effective way that it does that.”

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“It’s very important not to put too many conditions on your ability to recover. However, if there is truly an area that you feel, if you worked on it would help you either better dismiss urges or eat adequately, then please work on it. Looking at it this way, you aren’t endlessly trying to work on other problems in hopes that it will take your urges to binge away or that it will make recovery effortless. You’re approaching it in a much more targeted and practical way. If you’re having trouble dismissing the urges to binge, think “what can I do that will help me better dismiss them?”… then work on it, and you will be ready for recovery. If you’re having trouble eating adequately, think “what can I do or what can I work on that will help me eat enough food?”…and then work on it and you’ll be ready for recovery. In other words, please do what you need to do so that you can start to feel more capable of eating adequately and dismissing binge urges. Don’t just say you “aren’t ready,” for whatever reason, and then not do anything about it. You deserve a binge free life, so try to remove any issues that you feel are truly holding you back.”

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“My personal opinion is that relying on your intuition is a good thing. However, you always need to know that you have your higher brain to oversee your actions and your choices, and you can use your higher brain to steer yourself toward better choices if your intuition seems not to be leading you in a good direction. If you find yourself only eating highly processed, highly stimulating food, every time you’re hungry, it may be time to insert some rational, higher brain choices as well. Highly processed, modern food doesn’t quite interact with our body in a way that always leads to completely clear and reliable hunger and fullness signals or completely reliable cravings, and people with or without eating disorders have to deal with the effects that modern foods can sometimes have on us. It’s important to know that your higher brain always has the ability to veto harmful cravings and exert self-control to guide your choices. Using your higher brain and your intuition in conjunction can provide you with the balance that you need.”

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“Thoughts that encourage purging will often give you the message that a purge or some form of compensation for the binge will undo the damage of a binge. But when you’re not feeling tempted to binge, you can see how false this thought is, because of course a purge does not undo any damage. It actually does the opposite. It causes severe damage to your health and to your life. A purge does not rectify a wrong. A purge is an additional wrong. It’s an additional source of suffering. During binge urges, thoughts about purging can make it seem like repeating this binge-purge cycle one more time will be harmless, but you know that it’s not harmless. You know it’s causing damage in your life, and you know it’s not what you truly want to be doing. Like any thought that makes binge eating seem appealing, thoughts that use purging as a reason to binge need to be dismissed.”

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“We’re experiencing life through our moment to moment thinking, and that moment to moment thinking, it comes up and it looks so real to us. So again, if you’re a binge eater and you’re having an urge, or you’re just really caught up in “should I eat this, should I not eat this,” you know, you’re in that. You are in it, and it is absolutely real, and it feels true, and it feels important to you, but that’s just the nature of thought. That’s the same if you’re considering like, “should I buy this house or that house,” you know, “should I wear these shoes or those shoes.” Now, those might feel like they have a different level of urgency to them or a different level of importance, but it’s all the exact same when we look level deeper. It’s all thought coming to life within us. And it’s not who we are and it’s not permanent, and it’s nothing we need to try to fix and figure out and sort through because it does that on its own. It moves through us. So I’ll pause, but I’ll just say that’s sort of the cornerstone of it—helping people see how all human experience works—because when we aren’t afraid of our experience, when we aren’t afraid of feeling fat or an urge or the next diet or whatever, when we aren’t caught up in our heads, we’re kind of back to life being really easy (like before we found ourselves in this issue).” –Dr. Amy Johnson

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“If binge eating has been clouding your life for a long time, you may not be able to fully see what your life could be like after recovery. But no matter what life brings, that opportunity to have the freedom from food issues is so worth it. You’ll be free from the shame, the physical discomfort, and the feeling of being out of control of your own life. If you can experience even a moment of that freedom from the consequences of bingeing, and you can get excited about that, it can solidify your desire to keep going and to keep moving toward recovery, despite any uncertainty about what your life might be like afterward. I encourage you to keep focusing on all of your motivations to recover, but remember that underneath those reasons lies a desire to be free to live all of your life—the good and the bad—without the pain of binge eating”

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“Behavior happens through action, and the actions taken consistently time and time again—small actions—not only do they build up new behaviors, but they actually create optimism, and they actually generate motivation. And so if somebody’s not feeling motivated, a lot of times they want inspiration, they want motivation. I remember feeling this way all the time…where’s it going to come from? What new book can I download?  What new piece of wisdom can I find? And all of that can be useful, but until you start taking constructive action, the motivation’s going to hit a ceiling. It’s the general building up of behaviors that creates energy, that creates momentum, and that helps a person’s self-esteem.” –Katherine Thomson, Ph.D.

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“Learning to deal with emotions better is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that. I’m just saying you don’t need to solve all your emotional problems to stop bingeing. I’m not saying you have to learn to deal with emotions perfectly before you can quit—because if that were true, recovery would be elusive because no one deals with emotions well all the time. You know, all of us get overwhelmed sometimes, but bingeing just needs to become something that’s not an option, and when bingeing is not an option, then you have so many options available to you for helping you get through tough emotions, and these options don’t lead to consequences. You need to realize that bingeing never actually helped you cope with any of these emotions. If it provided the secondary benefit of distraction, you know now that it’s not worth it, that it’s much better to dismiss that urge. And then, if you continue to have distressing emotions, and you aren’t able to kind of learn to see them in a new way, you’re not able to let them pass or find ways to deal with them, then it’s something you can address in a more healthy way once the bingeing is done. If you have emotions that feel unmanageable, bingeing is never the solution.”

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“Mindfulness points you towards your inner power. It really, really shows you who you truly are and that you are not your thoughts, that you were never your thoughts, that you are the one who is observing your thoughts.”

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“The first tip I have for you is to ask yourself: Is my exercise an unhealthy compulsion? Or is it a healthy habit? It’s important to make this distinction because healthy habits, you can also feel compelled to do them. For example, you’ll feel compelled to brush your teeth at night, and it’s a compulsion (you could call it a compulsion) because you feel that drive to do it, but it’s healthy. So that’s a healthy habit. So even though there could be some compulsion and you feel driven towards something, it can still be a healthy habit. So I think it’s useful to look at your exercise like that and think, “okay, yes, I do feel driven toward it, but is my brain driving me towards something healthy? Or is this something unhealthy?”

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“What I teach is specifically for binge eating, and it can be applied I think also to other problematic eating habits that feel really compulsive—like excessive overeating, or compulsive overeating, or whatever you want to call it. But what I really want to get across today is that the intent of my approach is not to use it as a strategy to try to stick to strict diets or to use it as a strategy to try to follow really rigid weight loss plans, or to try to get yourself to eat less than you physically need. In fact, a big part of my approach is about making sure that you are eating enough—that you’re allowing yourself all types of foods…and I realize that not everyone can eat all types of foods, so another way of saying that might be to learn to eat in the least restrictive way that’s possible for you personally. And then also in addition to eating enough comes the dismissing urges piece—learning to not act on those thoughts that encourage you to binge. The only way that dismissing binge urges works to get rid of the binge eating for good is if you’re also eating enough—if you’re eating adequately as I call it in my approach. Now I realize that some creators of diet plans or weight loss strategies could argue that the plans are adequate and they’re not overly restrictive, and I completely understand that point of view, and some of these plans may certainly be adequate, but that’s not the issue I’m raising today. What I’m talking about today is clarifying the intention of the brain over binge approach, which is to dismiss the urges to binge. My approach is not meant to be used to dismiss every urge to veer from your diet or your eating plan, whatever that may be—even if you could argue that your eating plan is technically adequate.”

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“I’ve seen research that if you’re in that food deprived state and you are, you know, starving yourself trying to lose weight that it does make you feel like you’re addicted to food. It’s kind of a natural survival instinct. And once you start nourishing yourself, once you start eating enough, I think a lot of that can rebalance. What are your thoughts on that?
I think that’s very true. When you’re starved, you are seeking food, you’re needing it, and you’re also going to be more sensitive to the effect. So if you’ve been under eating for a period of time, or maybe haven’t eaten in several hours, whatever you do eat is going to hit you harder. So I think that it does kind of create this increased sensitivity to certain foods, and it does perpetuate the whole cycle.” – Katherine Thomson, Ph.D.

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“It’s not so much that you care about your weight or you want to be kind of your best version of yourself, it’s when you try to be a version of yourself that’s not possible, that’s unrealistic, that’s a weight that your body cannot physically be unless you do harmful things. So, you know, if you’re wanting to, like I said, kind of make the most of your own body and to feel good in it, it’s not a problem, as long as you’re not obsessed. But when you try to sort of go outside of your natural range (which you might not quite know what that is yet, and that’s okay), but when you try to go outside of that, that’s when things become harmful.”

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“Okay, I want to dive deeper into one thing you said—you mentioned the fact that purging is not a form of weight control, it’s a very ineffective form of weight control. And I find that talking to people, you know, they know the health risks of purging, they know that it’s ruining their life, but they have this fear that if they stop, they’re going to gain all this weight. So can you kind of speak to that, maybe from your own experience of what happened to your weight in recovery and also your clients as well—just to kind of alleviate that fear that people have that stopping purging means that their weight will skyrocket.
Sure, absolutely. This is something that terrified me as well, you know—thinking, oh, I’m going to have to recover and recovery was going to be gaining lots of weight. Because in my eyes, at that time, to me normal eating was chaotic eating, and my body wanted to eat a lot. So I thought in general, that was what had to be done—I was going to eat lots and lots of food all the time and to take away the purging was scary. However, that’s not the case. So yes, purging is not an effective form of weight loss, not at all. Purging, you know, there is science behind it as well, there are experiments where they show that through self-induced vomiting, I think the body retains around 50% of the calories, depending on whatever the measurement of that binge during that experiment was. And, you know, because digestion starts in the mouth. Also as well, I think your body is really highly, highly, so clever. When you’re doing all these self-destructive habits, your body’s like really getting clever at retaining more calories as well—it’s trying to save your life.” –Ali Kerr

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“One of my main goals is to empower you to believe that you absolutely can stop this habit and move on with your life, and that it does not have to be overly complicated, but I want to be clear that I’m not telling you to “just stop the habit and move on with your life.” I think that’s where some people misinterpret the simplicity of my approach. They think I’m saying the solution to binge eating is to “just stop the binge eating.” And of course, in any approach to stopping binge eating, the goal is ultimately to stop the binge eating, but it understandably makes people upset if they think someone is telling them “well, if you’re having a problem with bingeing, just stop bingeing.” I would’ve been upset too—when I was in the depths of my problem—if someone would have said to “just stop.” That would’ve made me very angry because I was of course trying to stop, of course I did not want to be binging. If I could have just stopped, I would have. So, when you hear me say in these episodes or in my books that you have the power to stop binging, I fully realize that there’s much more to this than “just stopping.” I do believe that in many approaches, recovery is too overcomplicated, especially if you’ve learned through other approaches that you’re flawed or broken or diseased, or you need to fundamentally transform yourself in order to recover. I strongly believe you should keep your recovery from binge eating as simple as possible. I don’t think you need to change so many parts of your life or change your personality or your relationships, or think you need to eat perfectly, or love your body all the time, or have amazing self-esteem in order to stop this habit. In the brain over binge approach, recovery is fundamentally about stopping a harmful habit that you’ve inadvertently developed. But if I believed that the solution to stopping the binge eating habit was to tell yourself to “just stop” or to have someone else tell you to stop, then my books would not be over 600 pages in total. I believe that you definitely can stop your habit, and like I say, at the end of every show, “you have the power to change your brain and live a binge free life.” But this approach is not just about telling yourself to quit. I’m sure you’ve already done that a thousand times. To use the concepts that I teach, it may take letting go of some old ideas that are no longer serving you, it may take realizing that the binge eating is not doing anything positive for you, it may take a new understanding of how your brain is working to get you to binge. It may take learning to consistently nourish your body, and it will likely take some practice to learn to recognize your binge urges and then to dismiss them. I hope that the brain over binge approach does give you a much more efficient path to ending this habit—by cutting out any unnecessary confusion—but I definitely do not want you to feel like a failure or to feel like you’re doing something wrong if you can’t “just stop.” You’re learning and you will improve, and you will overcome this habit.”

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“You will have moments when you feel like a binge is what you want, but that’s the key—you’ll only “feel” like a binge is what you want, in certain moments. Feelings are sensations that rise and fall and change and are constantly in flux. Your feelings of wanting to binge have nothing to do with what you actually want—which is to be free of this habit.”

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 “…something that brings up just a lot of anxiety, so an important starting point when it comes to making peace with your hunger is realizing that the sensations of hunger are not the problem. The problem is these negative associations that you’ve developed surrounding hunger. And you can start trying to separate that out and starting to dismiss some of those negative thoughts you have around hunger and dismiss some of those self-judgments, and start gravitating back toward feeling hunger as a more pure experience—as you probably did when you were a child. And to decondition any of the fear you have around hunger—as it relates to fearing that you’ll binge in response to hunger—as you get more and more confident that you won’t, then this fear naturally subsides. So in order to break this association, it’s going to take many times of being hungry and satisfying that hunger, but then dismissing the urges to go on to binge. Once you’re confident that you can eat in response to hunger, and that it won’t spiral into a binge, then hunger is going to feel like much less of a threat. Eating adequately will also help make hunger feel like less of a threat, because remember some of your anxiety about hunger came from the fact that hunger seemed like the enemy when you were dieting. As you give up dieting, and as you learn to nourish your body, you start viewing hunger simply as a signal that you need to eat, and you stop viewing it as an enemy.”

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“At what point am I going to accept this reality, and just realize I can accept me for where I’m at. So, it’s kind of owning your suffering. It’s going “okay I didn’t cause it, but I own it,” and this sort of idea I think really helps to free you because you can now move forward in your life. You’re able to accept your suffering, but at the same time, you can still work on changing it. And I think the most powerful thing about that is rather than putting all your attention and focus on, you know, “what’s happened? what’s wrong with me? I’ve been dealt a bad hand,” instead, you can just think to yourself, “well, what can I do about it?” – Richard Kerr

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“What I want to talk about today is the fact that an eating disorder takes so much from you. And one of the things that it seems to take is the ability to be truly present in your life, and I think this becomes most evident during hard times in your own life, or in the life of your family, or your community, or your country, or the world. Feeling so compelled to binge, and purge, and restrict, and obsess about your weight takes away from you focusing on what’s truly important to you. I know you don’t want this. I know that you’re not intentionally taking your focus away from meaningful matters in order to focus on food. I know this because I’ve been there. I remember when I was stuck in a cycle of binging and purging having really bad things happen in my life and in the world… just as some examples, my best friend passed away, other family members that I was close to also passed away. Natural disasters affected the world. September 11th caused so much suffering, and through these events and many more, I continued to binge and continued to purge and focus on food and weight. I remember feeling like such a bad person, I remember feeling selfish because I so wanted to turn my energy outward to help others and I so wanted to be with others in their suffering and be present with them, and to even just be present with my own suffering with an open heart, but I felt so closed down. I felt stuck, and I really beat myself up over this. I would ask myself, “what kind of person continued to binge when I knew there were people in this world who were in need?” I would ask myself, “what kind of person would continue to spend hours and hours in the gym to try to compensate for binges when I could be using that time to make a difference in a meaningful way.” Looking back, I see that the kind of person who does that is a person that simply stuck in a vicious brain-based habit.”

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“I have to just say it—like there’s some really harmful rhetoric out there on social media about, people, you know—with good intentions, for sure—but it damages people who are looking on and trying to learn about intuitive eating. The message is often: when you’re doing this right, you’ll know exactly what you feel like eating, and you’ll know exactly when you’re hungry, and you’ll know what you’re craving…and it just makes it feel like—first of all, it feels really inaccessible even to me to approach food that way. I’m not able to just run out and grab whatever food I want whenever I think about it—like financially, schedule wise, like that’s just “no.” –Paige Smathers, RDN

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“What you also have to understand is like, it’s not because you recover from your eating disorder, that you will not have cravings anymore, but you will learn to trust your body. When you have an eating disorder, the cravings are often, as you mentioned, spiraling out of control—binging and purging. But here you start learning that your body is your friend, and because it sends some kind of message, you have to listen to that. And in a way, you have to understand why you have that, but you can also learn to honor the cravings because they are not, you know, spiraling down into a full binge. So sometimes you will want an ice cream and that’s totally fine, but you will eat it with love, you know, and not, “oh, I shouldn’t do that, and I’ve done that, and I failed, and I better binge and purge, right?” It’s like the relationship with your own body and the cravings that it sends to you is totally different.”

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“I want to tell you that once you stop acting on these urges, and once you stop following that desire to binge, you’re going to realize that it was never any form of pleasure. Binge eating is going to start to look like the exact opposite of pleasure the further and further you get from that behavior. You’ll wonder why you ever had a desire for that fleeting, primal pleasure. That desire is simply conditioned in your brain right now. But once you extinguish that habit, you’re no longer going to view it as pleasurable. So, it’s not like you’re going to stop the habit and then you’re going to go the rest of your life having this desire inside of you for something that you are no longer doing. You’ll stop having that desire. You’ll start to think that binge eating would be the last thing you would do if you wanted pleasure.”

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“Maybe there’s a little bit of time, “oh boy, oh boy, I get to do this thing, I get to have these foods,” but that stops right away when we can’t taste anymore, when we can’t stop, when we’re feeling sick, when we’re disgusted—we can’t seem to break away until we’re just totally worn out. I now hold onto that image so tightly (it’s not even now, it was back then)—when I was able to more strongly hold on to how difficult that really was, how uncomfortable, how unappealing that really was, as opposed to glorifying that binge as “oh boy, oh boy.” That picture and then the end result—how it was going to feel afterwards, and the reality of how it felt afterwards, and the downward spiral, and the physical discomfort—not just immediately afterwards, but the next day—the memories, the physical destruction that happens when we fill ourselves with stuff that is not good for us, and then in any way we happen to purge it, we purge it. It leaves us empty on all levels. That’s what I hold onto.”

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“I do not believe that it’s helpful for me to tell you the one right way that you should eat, because that way is going to be different for everyone. I think it’s very important for you to discover how you should eat on your own, because your own personal way of eating that comes from experimentation and seeing what feels good in your body and what works for you—that will be much more powerful and more lasting than any meal plan than I could give you. So, I’m definitely not going to come out here and say that you absolutely must be eating three meals a day, and you must be eating a certain amount of snacks, and it has to be structured, or you need an exact amount of calories. You certainly can have a structured approach to eating, and you can count your calories to make sure you’re getting enough. There’s nothing wrong with doing that. It can be helpful just to ensure that you’re meeting your physical needs, but I do not believe that handing you a way of eating is what will be most helpful to you right now. If you’re like the majority of binge eaters, you may have gone from diet to diet, from meal plan to meal plan, or different eating program to eating program, thinking that would be the cure only to end up binge eating again. I want you to try to take a new approach to this: make your primary focus to be on learning to stop binging, and then just do the best you can to eat enough and eat in a way that works for you. Start to let go of dieting, in whatever form that takes in your life, and in doing that, you’ll already be on a path to discovering your own authentic eating habits.”

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“Binge eating disorder, dieting, food and body obsession is what I think of as a life thief. I lost the majority of 40 years of my life and so much of my daughter’s life that I can never get back. It’s really unfathomable when I think about this. It makes me think of a line from a Mary Oliver poem that I love: “are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” And to everyone listening, who can relate to the years lost to this, I want to add that it’s never too late to heal, and that on the other side, you’re going to see that all that matters is now.” –Julie Mann (Brain over Binge coach)

“I encourage you to start dropping the pressure that you’re putting on yourself and to start thinking that you should be eating in exactly the way that you are eating, or in exactly the way that you just ate. And here I’m talking about eating habits that are not binging. It gives you a ton of freedom to think, “maybe I ate exactly as I should have, and this is not about tricking yourself into thinking that you ate healthy when you clearly didn’t, or that you ate the perfect amount when you feel like you’ve overeaten a little, but it is about accepting the way that you ate in that moment, and maybe there’s something to learn from that; but either way, you can simply move on without all of the overthinking. Consider that you can just eat and let it be what it is, consider that you can make a decision about food in the moment that you think is best for you—for whatever reason—and eat the food, and then let go of all of the overthinking afterward, and simply go on with your life.”

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“I love to teach my clients that a huge and fun part of recovery is to generate desire for life. It’s time to start daydreaming about all the things that you really enjoy in life, as in things that give you true pleasure—while you’re thinking about it, while you do it, and after it’s done. I’d also love for everyone listening to think right now about what those true pleasures are for you. For me, it’s hugs from my daughter and conversations with her about what’s going on in her life, it’s also about reading great novels, looking at the view of Manhattan from my apartment window as the sun sets. I also love taking photos of flowers up close, and then sharing them with people I love. And what’s amazing about these things is that even talking about them now gives me a hit of pleasure—not the numbing out kind of hit from a binge, but the kind of gentle and heart-nourishing pleasure that leaves no net negative consequence. So again, to everyone listening, here are some great questions to consider: “If this moment isn’t about food, what do you want it to be about? What areas of your life would you like to generate desire on purpose for? What do you desire way more than food? What is your bigger and truer want? I think it’s so exciting to know that you can create desire for life and what you want for yourself on purpose.” –Julie Mann

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“In the same way that dealing with stage fright as a pro musician helped me to understand the principles of moving through urges to binge, the skillset that we develop (I think you’ve mentioned this before and I was like, yes, absolutely!) …the skillset that we develop from learning to manage these urges and kind of move through them is something that we can then use moving forward when we want to look at other things.” –Marcus Kain

—-

“So what are some ways people can say focused on those non-weight motivations, because I think the brain will habitually pull (and I’ve seen that the brain habitually pulls) people back to focusing on weight simply because that’s what it’s used to. So how do we change that pathway?
Yeah. I mean, it is a practice. So first of all, you start to engage in ways to remind yourself of it. So for me, it was journaling every single day—because I kept my promises to myself, because I didn’t binge today, I get these benefits immediately and I would write them down every single day. And I would tell them to people, and I would celebrate them because that was solidifying that new pathway for me. And, you know, another thing is: every time you find yourself going to weight, you can remind yourself, “and I’m feeling so much better in these ways.” – Julie Mann

—-

“What’s your mission for Brain over Binge?
I just want to keep sharing my story as long as I can…I mean, part of me is like, “nobody wants to hear this story again,” but I think there is power in hearing someone’s story rather than just, “okay, this is what you have to do.” There’s a difference in just getting a bunch of advice, or really reading about someone’s journey and being there with them, and then sort of adjusting it to apply to your own life. So I just want to keep sharing my story, and then keep providing the additional help people may need to, you know, create their own story.”

______________________________

I hope you enjoyed that compilation, and I hope it gave you some useful insights and information that you can use going forward as you end the binge eating habit. Thank you again for your support over the years, and thank you for being here for the 100th episode. If a lot of the clips in this episode resonated with you and you want to learn more, you can head over to BrainoverBinge.com and there you can get started with a free ebook (The Brain over Binge Basics) that I have available. When you get that free ebook, you also get a free track from the Brain over Binge Course called Manage Your Mindset After a Binge, and this is a track that will guide you in overcoming any slips that you may have during recovery. If you need more personalized support and accountability during recovery, you can learn more about coaching. One of the voices you heard toward the end of this episode was our wonderful Brain over Binge coach, Julie Mann, who offers one-on-one coaching and also group coaching.

I look forward to many more episodes and I hope you’ll join me. And as always, I want to encourage you and remind you that you have the power to change your brain and live a binge free life.

hunger anxiety

Anxiety About Hunger in Binge Eating Recovery

If you have anxiety or negative associations surrounding your hunger, or you feel like hunger is your enemy in binge eating recovery, this post will help you start developing a healthier mindset when it comes to this natural body signal.

It’s possible that you fear your hunger because you think it has sabotaged your past efforts to diet or because you feel like strong hunger always leads you to binge.  This anxiety response to hunger is something to address in recovery, as well as in your efforts to make peace with food in general.

Hunger discomfort

Hunger is a normal sensation, and reminding yourself that it’s part of the human experience will help you avoid believing there is something wrong with you when you are hungry. That does not mean you’re going to like feeling hungry. You’re not supposed to like it. Hunger is meant to be an uncomfortable sensation that motivates you to fix it by eating. Humans would not have survived for long without this uncomfortable drive.

When hunger first starts, it can be just a gentle feeling nudging you toward food, but as more time goes by, you may become irritable, you may not be able to think about anything else besides food, you may get frustrated if you can’t get food right away, and you may have a lot of unpleasant sensations in your body.

It’s not realistic to expect yourself to have all of those feelings and sensations—which are meant to strongly motivate you toward food—and feel completely calm about it. Making peace with your hunger simply means that you’ll learn to experience the discomfort without causing it to be worse with a lot of fear, anxiety, and self-judgement.

Recall your pre-eating-disorder experience of hunger

You can likely remember times when you’ve experienced hunger without the anxiety and self-criticism, especially if you think back to before you began restricting or binge eating. Maybe think about when you were a child in school, and you were hungry while sitting in class waiting for lunchtime. I’m sure you did not like that feeling of hunger, and I’m sure you did not feel perfectly peaceful in those moments. Your empty and growling stomach probably distracted you from the work you needed to be doing, and you probably looked at the clock wishing time would pass. I’m sure you that you were excited about eating when the time finally came and that it felt so good to satisfy your hunger.

Through all of this, you didn’t judge yourself for what you were experiencing. You didn’t fear your hunger, and you didn’t criticize yourself for wanting food or enjoying it when it was time to eat. You weren’t sitting in class as a child thinking, I shouldn’t be hungry … I have no willpower … I’ll never be able to control myself when I start eating … I’m scared that I’m going to overdo it and gain weight … why can’t I just stop thinking about food so much.

Before your eating disorder, hunger was a lot more of a pure experience—meaning you just experienced it without judging yourself for it. You just knew that you were hungry and that you wanted food—without thinking you were broken in some way for having these natural body signals and desires for food.

Anxiety about hunger often stems from restriction

Anxiety and negative associations with hunger often develop as a result of dieting. When you are trying to eat less than you need, your hunger can start to feel like your enemy. When you know you’re only “allowed” a certain amount of food (according to your diet), but your hunger tells you that you should eat more than that, you feel like you need to suppress your hunger and ignore it. You may get angry with your hunger and wish it away and think it’s the reason you can’t stick to a diet.

Because our bodies are wired to protect us from starvation, your hunger likely got stronger during your diet. Understandably, you eventually followed your hunger and broke your diet, and because you thought it meant you were “weak,” you then engaged in a lot of self-critical thoughts. This may have repeated countless times for you.

If you started bingeing in response to your strong hunger, then that adds another layer of negative feelings, self-judgement, and anxiety. You start to fear your hunger because you fear that it will lead you to binge. It makes sense that you are afraid to binge, because binge eating is a harmful and painful behavior that you truly don’t want to engage in. In turn, it also makes sense that you would come to fear anything you think causes that behavior.

Hunger is not the problem

I hope that now you better understand how hunger goes from being a pure experience (not a comfortable one) to something that brings up a lot of anxiety. When it comes to making peace with your hunger, an important starting point is realizing that the sensations of hunger are not the problem. The problem is the negative thoughts and feelings you’ve inadvertently connected to hunger over time.

You can start to separate the sensations of hunger from those negative thoughts and feelings, and you can start to dismiss those negative thoughts and feelings—including anxiety and self-judgement. You can start gravitating back toward experiencing hunger as you did before developing this struggle with food.

Decondition the [hunger = binge] pattern

As it relates to getting rid of the fear that you’ll binge in response to hunger, this just takes time and consistency. As you learn to experience urges to binge without acting on them, you’ll get more confident that nothing will lead you to binge, not even strong hunger. Then, the anxiety around hunger can naturally subside.

For this to happen, it’s going to take many times of being hungry and then satisfying that hunger without going on to binge. Once you’re confident that you can eat adequately in response to hunger, and that it won’t spiral out of control, then hunger is no longer going to feel like a threat.

Making sure that you’re eating enough overall and giving up restriction is definitely going to make hunger feel less fear-inducing, because you’re no longer going to be trying to suppress the hunger, or deny it, or view it as the enemy. As you let go of dieting, and as you learn to nourish your body, you will start viewing hunger simply as a signal that it’s time to eat. You can even learn to welcome this signal as your body’s amazing way of communicating your needs.

Heightened hunger signals will fade

One thing to know (if you’ve engaged in restrictive dieting) is that your hunger may be stronger right now than it would otherwise be if you had never restricted. When we diet, our body turns up the hormones and neurochemicals that drive hunger and turns down the ones that lead to fullness. This only makes sense from a survival standpoint.

Once you start eating enough, this heightened hunger can take some time to regulate. So, if your hunger feels more uncomfortable than you think it should, know that this is something that corrects itself over time—as you get further and further away from restriction.

Binge eating also has the effect of increasing your hunger because your body and brain simply come to expect and demand large amounts of food. But as you recover, you allow your digestive system to heal and your appetite to go back to normal. If you have any concerns about abnormal hunger during recovery, you should absolutely get the medical and nutritional help you need, but the solution is never to binge.

Over time, you’ll learn that hunger—although not a pleasant sensation—doesn’t have to create anxiety. You can learn to make peace with many different levels of hunger, and never fear that it’s going to lead you to binge.


More help:

If you want extra guidance as you learn to give up dieting and binge eating, and make peace with your hunger, here are some resources for additional support:

Brain over Binge Course – Self-paced online lessons (plus an app) for only $18.99/month. Includes over 125 tracks to listen to that give you the information and answers you need as you end binge eating.

Group Coaching – Get help from coach Julie and support from others who are overcoming this habit. Includes a forum that is open 24/7, group coaching calls, mindfulness resources, plus course access.

One-on-one Coaching – Book a 45-minute private session with coach Julie. She will help you change your thinking, uncover what is holding you back, and get on a path to complete freedom from food issues.

NLP and Eating Disorders

Ep. 75: NLP, Self-Worth, and Changing Harmful Beliefs (Interview with Laurette Smith)

eating disorders and digestive health

Ep. 74: Eating Disorders and Digestive Health (Interview with Pauline Hanuise)

Paige Smathers

Ep 69: Intuitive, Realistic, and Sustainable Eating (Interview with Paige Smathers, RDN, CD)

How I Stopped Binge Eating Cereal and Craving It Too

If you’ve read Brain over Binge, you know how much trouble I had with cereal during my dieting and binge eating days. But now, many years after recovery, I don’t eat much cereal at all, and it’s not a struggle to avoid it. I never would have believed that was possible when I was a binge eater, because cereal seemed to control me. It often consumed my thoughts until I ate bowl after bowl of it during binges. I never thought it would be possible to simply walk away from cereal without feeling extremely deprived; but to my surprise, it happened quite naturally. I want to share more about this healthy change with you, in hopes that it gives you some insight and ideas for how similar healthy changes may occur in your own life after binge eating recovery.

I don’t have a rule against eating cereal, but cereal has mostly lost it’s appeal, and my days of binge eating cereal are long gone. I actually do eat cereal sometimes, but the vast majority of the time, it’s not the kind I used to crave when I was dieting—sugary cereal—which eventually became the kind of cereal I binged on frequently.

Before I dive deeper into talking about how I stopped bingeing on cereal and craving it, I want to mention that this post is the second part of a two-part series about healthy changes after recovery. You can read Part I: Moderation, Choice, and Creating Your Way of Eating to learn more about feeling in control around all types of food, deciding what’s best for your unique body and lifestyle, and being patient with yourself as you make healthy improvements to your eating habits. Both Part I and this Part II post are primarily for people who are now binge-free, or who do not actually struggle with binge eating, and instead have other problematic eating habits like overeating, grazing, or feeling addicted to certain foods.

My Healthy Change: From Cereal Binges to Not Even Thinking About Cereal

I used to eat sugary cereal often for breakfast as a kid and teen. My mother—like most 80’s/90’s moms—used to buy the “fun” cereal brands like Lucky Charms, but she also tried to balance it out with varieties that were viewed as healthier at the time, like Raisin Bran (the kind with sugar-coated raisins, which of course is far from what is considered healthy today). I ate various types of cereal in normal amounts, and I always stopped when I was comfortably satisfied without thinking about it at all. It wasn’t until I started restricting my food intake (in order to try to control my weight) that I began labeling sugary cereal as “bad,” and began trying to avoid it…and then ended up eating more of it than I ever thought possible.

At the time I started dieting (1997), dietary fat was mostly considered the villain, and because cereal was generally low-fat, my reason for thinking it was “bad” didn’t have much to do with its nutritional content or high sugar. I thought it was bad because of the way I started feeling around it. When I was restricting my food, I suddenly craved cereal and I had trouble controlling myself around it, and had trouble stopping once I started eating it. I seemed to want so much cereal, which I’d never experienced before and which scared me. I feared that eating too much of it would give me too many calories and make me gain weight, so I decided to try avoiding it altogether, which made me crave it even more.

I shared in Brain over Binge that my first binge was on sugary cereal—8 full bowls of it. In hindsight, it’s easy to see exactly what happened, and what turned me from a normal-cereal-eater to someone who could binge on 8 bowls of cereal. The short version is that I was starving. I wasn’t eating enough, and because of that, the appeal of the cereal skyrocketed. Calorie deprivation increases the reward value of food*, especially food that is highly palatable (which usually means it’s high in sugar and carbs and/or fat). My strong cravings for cereal made sense from a survival perspective—my brain was just trying to make me eat large amounts of the foods it sensed would help me survive the “famine” I’d created for myself by dieting.

Before I was in a calorie-deficit, I could totally forget we had cereal in the house, and in my life today, it’s the same. But, when I was in that calorie-deprived state, I would often wake up in the morning and go to bed at night obsessively thinking about the cereal in the pantry. Then, once I binged on cereal once, it quickly became a habit. Eating bowl after bowl of cereal became a regular part of my binges, and during binge urges and binge episodes, it felt like my body truly needed that much cereal.

At certain times during my binge eating years, I read information about foods being addictive or people being powerless, so I tried to give up cereal (and other foods) from time to time. However, this never worked, and seemed like such a baffling approach to tell someone who feels so out of control around a food to simply never eat that food. If I couldn’t stop my cereal binges, how was I supposed to give up cereal altogether? Maybe that approach would have worked for me if cereal suddenly no longer existed on earth; but in my world of living in a college town with roommates, there was no way to fully escape cereal.

I also tried moderation approaches with sugary cereal, which made more sense to me, but proved to be frustrating as well—because I actually did learn to eat sugary cereal in moderation…and I still binged on it. At the time, I didn’t understand that it was the binge urges that caused the binges, not the sugary cereal. (If you are new to this approach and want to learn more about binge urges and how you can avoid giving in to them, you can download my free PDF, the Brain over Binge Basics).

Looking back, it makes sense that I could only eat sugary cereal in moderation when I did not have binge urges.  But, if I had an urge to binge before, during, or after eating the cereal, it was very likely that I’d follow that urge and binge on the cereal.

I Stopped Bingeing on Cereal When I Stopped Acting on My Urges to Binge on Cereal

Once I learned how to stop acting on my urges to binge, which I talk about thoroughly in Episode 7: Dismiss Urges to Binge: Component 4 (Stop Acting on Urges to Binge), those urges went away—even when I was eating my former binge foods, like sugary cereal. Then, I could eat sugary cereal in moderation again—every time—without it being difficult.

I resumed my normal life and simply ate cereal when I wanted. It was a common breakfast food for me after recovery, although I’d try to mostly buy the kinds that were a little “healthier.” (I put that in quotes, because today, processed cereals of all types are generally not considered healthy). I still ate high-sugar varieties now and then as well, primarily as a night snack. After binge eating ended and my appetite stabilized, I quickly realized that eating too much sugar in the morning didn’t make me feel good. Choosing the low-sugar varieties if I was eating cereal in the morning, and then sometimes having a high-sugar treat at night was what seemed to work for my body, and not something that I forced myself into.

As the months and years went by, nutrition research pointed more and more to the idea that sugar and processed grains cause harm to health. My carefree cereal-eating days seemed to be in question. Although I had never been under the impression that cereal was super-healthy, I didn’t think it was causing harm.

I wasn’t sure how to reconcile the idea that I could absolutely have anything I wanted in moderation, but also that some foods are— without a doubt—not healthy.  At the time, my binge eating days were long gone, but I was also firmly set in an anti-diet mentality. I knew dieting caused harm; I knew I never wanted to go down that path again, but would not eating sugary-cereal be “dieting”?

The short answer is no, it would not be dieting, but it took me a little while to truly see it that way. I gradually came to believe that making healthy changes in a gentle, non-stressful way—while making sure you are nourished and eating enough—is not dieting. It’s simply trading out foods that are no longer serving you, with foods that serve you better, and it never has to mean banning foods completely.

What Helped Change My Relationship to Cereal After Binge Eating Recovery?

Fast forward to today, I can’t even remember the last time I ate the types of cereal I used to binge on. I sometimes eat types of cereal that are more natural, such as granola—still typically as a night snack—but it’s not very often. I may eat it for a couple of nights, and then forget I have the box for weeks or months, or I simply won’t want it.

How is it that I’m not craving sugary cereal like I used to? How can I (mostly) not eat sugary cereal, but also not feel restricted at all? How can I basically never eat the brands of cereal I thought about morning and night as a dieter, and no longer think about them?

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, my past self would have never believed this to be possible. So, I want to share some practical tips and ideas to help you if you feel like you don’t have control around certain foods, and you want to make healthy changes.

Here’s a rundown on what helped me change my relationship with cereal, and hopefully it will help you see how healthy changes can be possible for you too.

I no longer feel out of control around cereal because…

1. I know I can have cereal if I want it.  I can absolutely go buy a box of cereal right now—even a very unhealthy kind like Lucky Charms—and have a bowl and enjoy it, no big deal. It’s not forbidden in my mind. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure (in moderation) is not always a bad thing. It’s fun, it’s delicious, and we all have to find that balance in our own lives between pleasure and focusing on our health.

2. I’m no longer calorie restricted. Sugar doesn’t hold that high appeal that it did when I was starving and it was so attractive to my survival instincts. It’s amazing what eating enough will do to help your cravings!  It’s so important that half of my 8-lesson online course focuses on helping you learn to eat adequately, so that you have the ability to stop binge eating.

3. My decision to reduce my cereal intake came gradually and naturally. My slow shift away from cereal came partially from nutritional information I read, but also from my own insight about how the cereal was making me feel, as well as from learning to expand my tastes to other, more nourishing foods. I never felt like I was fighting against myself, or holding myself back from something I truly wanted. Also, the changes came when I was ready to make the changes, not because someone else told me that’s what I should do.

4. I don’t believe I’m powerless against cereal, or any other food. I know I can eat a normal amount of cereal without a problem, so there’s no fear around eating it. Conversely, there’s no fear that not eating it will lead me to crave it more. When I tried to give up cereal during my binge eating years, it was out of a sense of fear—because I thought that one bite would lead to 8 bowls. Fearing a food tends to keeps it on your mind, and keeps your attention focused on that food. Now, there is relaxation around cereal, and I rarely think about it.  (To learn more about why giving up certain foods isn’t a cure for binge eating, and what to do if you need to avoid certain foods for medical reasons, you can read my 3-part blog series on Eliminating Foods). 

5. I do not have a restrictive rule to “not eat sugary cereal.” This is similar to reason #1, but I want to expand on it by saying that when you make a genuine choice to eat in a healthier way and it feels good, you feel in alignment. You don’t feel restricted. You don’t fantasize about the unhealthy foods that you’re not eating. You simply choose (most of the time) to have other things, and don’t really miss what you aren’t having.

6. I’m simply older…and I don’t think many adults are still eating Lucky Charms for breakfast. It’s okay to walk away from childhood foods that aren’t benefiting you in adulthood. This is not dieting. You could simply call it “growing up,” or learning to take care of yourself.

I don’t want to give the impression that my eating is perfectly healthy. There are many other unhealthy foods that I still choose to eat!  But, I wanted to share this personal story to let you know that giving up binge eating and giving up dieting does not at all mean giving up on health. After binge eating ends, you are free to make (or not make) any healthy changes you want, in a way that works for you, and on a timeline that works for you.

Making those healthy changes is not part of binge eating recovery, it’s simply part of life. However, as a former binge eater, you will want to make sure you make changes in a healthy way that doesn’t involve putting yourself in a calorie deficit or becoming obsessive or overly restrictive about foods.

If you want more guidance in learning to eat normally, and ending the binge eating habit, you can get the Brain over Binge Course for $18.99 a month. 

You can also get personalized support and accountability with one-on-one coaching or group coaching.


Reference:
*One example of research demonstrating this: Stice, E., K. Burger, and S. Yokum. “Calorie Deprivation Increases Responsivity of Attention and Reward Brain Regions to Intake, Anticipated Intake, and Images of Palatable Foods.”  NeuroImage 67 (2013): 322-330

Binge eating at night and late night cravings

Binge Eating at Night and Late-Night Cravings

It’s common for binge eaters to primarily binge at night; and even after binge eating stops, you may still find yourself having late-night food cravings. Some people are bothered by these cravings, and wonder if giving in to them means that they are overindulging; or conversely, if ignoring those cravings means that they are being too restrictive. Everyone has to navigate the balance between restriction and overindulging, and at night is when we usually have the most opportunities to do that. Most people don’t get up in the morning craving a piece of cake, but after the work of the day is done, that piece of cake may seem much more appealing.

An important thing to know as a recovering binge eater—or anyone who feels like they eat too much at night—is that night food cravings are very common. One study found that appetite and interest in food peaks at around 8 pm, as part of our natural circadian rhythm. So, when you find yourself craving a sugary snack after dinner or after dark, know that you are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you. There are many theories as to why this is so, and you can read about some of them in this article: The Science of the Midnight Snack. From an evolutionary perspective, night eating had a survival advantage in that it helped our ancestors store calories more efficiently when food was less abundant. Even today, we live in a sort of “hunting” mode during the day—working, moving, and doing—and once we slow down at night, our survival mechanisms recognize this and give us a “time to eat!” signal. It’s as if we are wired to want to eat more at night to replenish the energy stores we lost during the day, and store up more for tomorrow.

We tend to crave sweets at night not only to replenish and store up energy, but for quick energy in the moment. At night we are tired and our brains are energy depleted. If we choose to stay awake or have to stay awake, our brains will naturally view sugary food as attractive and rewarding because it is a source of quick energy. Sure, a banana would do the trick, but for most people, that’s not what is the most appealing after dark. Our self-control functions are at their weakest when we are exhausted, so it’s no wonder that many people don’t make their healthiest food choices at night.

For people struggling with binge eating, these natural mechanisms can make them more likely to experience (and give in to) urges to binge at night; or their decision to follow a night craving leads to thoughts that say: “I’ve already blown it, so I might as well binge.” Instead of learning of the normalcy of late-night cravings, binge eaters often learn that wanting to eat at night is a signal that they aren’t emotionally fulfilled, or that their day was too stressful, or that they didn’t eat the right foods for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. While stress, sleep, and diet patterns certainly can play a role in the frequency and intensity of night cravings, realizing that this type of heightened interest in food—especially junk food—is normal may help you spend less time asking why, and instead focus on some useful strategies to manage the night cravings when they occur.

Common advice for dealing with night eating is to keep healthier food options in the house, make sure you are eating enough throughout the day, eat dinner a bit later, do some light exercise at night, stay hydrated, make plans for when cravings hit, or just go to bed earlier. These common suggestions are certainly useful, but I want to go beyond that and give you 4 more things to think about when night cravings hit. These 4 tips can be helpful whether you are still binge eating at night or if you simply feel like you are eating too much after dark.

1: Stop Telling Yourself You Shouldn’t Eat at Night

We’ve all heard the popular advice that eating late leads to more weight gain, but this idea is actually rather controversial. While some experts say that the body doesn’t process and use food and calories well at night, so night eating can lead to weight gain, others claim that eating late at night is actually better for fat loss. Here is an article that says overall food intake matters more than timing, and it’s possible that the any observed link between late night eating and weight gain is not a causal relationship.

It’s important not to take all weight loss advice at face value and use it to make rigid rules for yourself. Telling yourself, “It’s late, I shouldn’t eat anything” can lead you to want to eat more—because anything that is forbidden in your mind becomes more appealing. You have freedom to eat at night if you want to, and only you can make that choice. I frequently have a snack before bed, and I’ve also eaten in the middle of the night from time to time since I recovered from binge eating. I’ve struggled with insomnia at various points, and during those sleepless nights, I’d eat about every 2 to 3 hours. I didn’t plan the intervals—that’s just when my body would naturally signal hunger. I’ve also been awake all night countless times with my babies, and I’ve spent long nights writing; and again, I eat when I’m hungry. The reason most people don’t eat in the middle of the night is because they are sleeping, not because they are telling themselves that they “shouldn’t”. If you are awake for one reason or another, don’t beat yourself up for being hungry and having some food.

2: Enjoy Your Late Night Snack

If you decide to eat something at night—either before bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night—don’t do it in a guilt-ridden way. Own your choice and enjoy the food. It sometimes helps people to put the food on a plate and sit down to eat, instead of standing at the refrigerator.  This makes your choice to eat feel more like a well-thought out decision instead of an impulsive one.

When I was in therapy for bulimia and binge eating disorder, I worked with a nutritionist who created a meal plan for me. She spread out my calories evenly during the day, which is fine; but it didn’t quite feel right to me and now I understand why. I didn’t find myself wanting a big breakfast or lunch, and found myself basically forcing in the food. Then, I’d come to the end of the day not feeling like my dinner or bedtime snack was big enough. I’d become frustrated and resentful; and if I decided to eat something extra late at night, I’d feel so guilty that I wouldn’t truly enjoy it. This mindset often led directly to urges to binge at night, and I’d proceed to eat thousands more calories after my snack. My therapist explained that this night binge eating pattern stemmed from emotional issues.

Now, looking back, I can see that I simply needed more calories at night. I was an athlete at the time, and big meals during the day weren’t practical because they made me feel sluggish and full for track practice—which was usually twice per day. I needed more at night because that’s when my body signaled me to replenish my energy reserves. Altering my eating plan wouldn’t have stopped my binge eating (because I didn’t know how to dismiss the binge urges at the time), but there was simply no need for me to beat myself up over wanting to eat more at night. I should have eaten a little less during the day to fit my lifestyle, and then enjoyed a larger dinner and bedtime snack, without all the shame. Everyone has different patterns, so trust yourself to settle on eating times and amounts that work for you.

[If you feel like you need one-on-one support in creating a meal plan for yourself and nourishing your body during and after bulimia/binge eating recovery, Binge Code Coaching specializes in this.] 

3: Deal with Blood Sugar Fluctuations

If you are waking out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night feeling hungry, it could be a blood sugar imbalance. Of course, if you have any blood sugar problems, you should always seek a doctor’s advice. Here I’m talking about a simple dip in blood sugar that is making you feel like you need to eat something. You can try sipping some diluted juice before eating to take the edge off of the craving, and that has the added benefit of hydrating you—to ensure your craving isn’t partially due to thirst.

Then, if you are still feeling hungry, you will be in a less ravenous state and you can make a more rational decision about what to eat. I realize you don’t want to do this every night because it interrupts sleep, so as a long term strategy, you’ll want to balance blood sugar overall, and you can get nutritional support to do that. Some people find it helpful to eat something right before bed that will help regulate blood sugar—including protein, healthy fat, and possibly some high quality carbohydrates.

4: Use Detachment from Cravings in Conjunction with Other Strategies

Even if you stop binge eating at night, you might find that your night cravings still feel problematic. You can be confident that you never have a follow a night craving (or any craving) with a binge, but it makes sense to start addressing the night cravings. These type of cravings are more common if you are overtired, overworked, or overstressed, so working on those areas can often tweak your physiology enough to reduce nighttime cravings. Meditation, exercise, and supplements may also have a place in balancing your body. However, there will inevitably be times when life is rough, and stress is inevitable, or there is no time to meditate or exercise, or you have no extra money for supplements.  That’s why it’s important to know that you aren’t powerless when it comes to any type of craving.

Yes, it’s normal to have night cravings; yes, it’s okay to follow them; and yes, it’s great to enjoy whatever food you choose to eat at night—but you are still capable of a drawing a line when enough is enough, or deciding to simply say no. You can detach from night cravings just like you detach from binge urges. You can choose not to act on a night craving just like you choose not to act on an urge to binge. You don’t ever need to make night eating off-limits, but know that you get to decide the place that night eating has in your life.

For more help with ending binge eating at night (or at any time of day), you can download the free Brain over Binge Basics PDF, or learn more about my Course.