Ep. 135: Eat Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want?

Ozempic and Eating disorders

Ep. 131: Ozempic and Eating Disorders with Robyn Goldberg RDN, CEDS-C

Marijuana and Binge Eating Recovery

In podcast episode 112: Marijuana Use and Binge Eating, we explored the connection between marijuana use, overeating, and binge eating, and we encouraged you to determine if marijuana is right for you in binge eating recovery. I encourage you to listen to the full episode, but I also wanted to turn it into a blog post as well, for those who learn better though reading. This is a transcription, but I streamlined certain parts to make it easier to follow.

Intro: Why are we talking about marijuana and binge eating recovery?

Marijuana often has the effect of stimulating appetite and the desire for food. My boyfriend Jeff pointed out to me that in some cases, this can look and feel a lot like binge eating episodes. Because marijuana use is on the rise and the laws are changing to make it much more mainstream and accessible, I think this is something really important to talk about as it relates to recovery. Jeff and I decided to share own experiences and thoughts on this topic to help you determine if and how marijuana fits into your own life and recovery.

Jeff and I say this a few times during the conversation that follows, but I also want to say here that we are not medical professionals; and because marijuana is often used for medical reasons, please consult your doctor about your specific situation, needs, and health concerns. Also know that Jeff and I do share some details about overeating episodes as far as food and calories…not overly so, but I just wanted to let you know that upfront.

With all of that being said, I’ll go ahead and share our conversation:

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What sparked this conversation about marijuana and binge eating?

Kathryn:

Jeff was here last time on the show to talk about the new edition of Brain over Binge, and we had such a great conversation, and then he had an idea for this episode, so now he’ll explain what we’re going to discuss and how it came about.

Jeff:

I had my medical marijuana card, and I would smoke and partake in medical marijuana, and one of the things I found is when I was high, I would overeat sometimes, and I would like really overeat…I mean 5,000 calories overeat. It was really interesting because I remember going through it, and then bringing it up to you, and asking, “Is this binge eating?”

I curious if this was what you experienced or others in your realm have experienced?

Kathryn:

Yes, I remember you calling me one time after you had overeaten after smoking marijuana and wondering if this was what I experienced as a binge eater. And thought that was so interesting because in a lot of ways what you described to me seemed very similar.

To be honest, I haven’t really smoked much pot, so it’s not something I’ve personally experienced, but I’ve personally experienced the binge eating side of it. So just talking about our experiences and how they line up has been interesting.

Jeff:

The majority of the time I ever would take marijuana was just to help me sleep. But sometimes, every once in a blue moon, I would do it earlier in the night. And then, you know, you kind of come down off the high and that’s when you “have the munchies.”

Kathryn:

We’re here today with this as a topic, but we’re not experts on this. I’ve done some research and I’m going to talk about some of that research, but we almost have more questions than answers at this point. But, we want to bring up this topic so you can figure out what’s best for you at this point because there’s really no doubt that marijuana increases your appetite.

I mean, there are people who have different experiences, but as a general rule, statistically most people do experience that increase of appetite, and most people will call it the munchies. We basically want to help you determine if marijuana fits for you right now in your recovery from bingeing. So to get this conversation rolling a little more, Jeff and I are going to compare our experience—him smoking pot and me as a binge eater. And we’re going to talk about some of the ways they’re similar and some of the ways they’re different.

Marijuana creates an experience that is similar to that of a binge eater

Jeff:

Yeah, I think it’s interesting too because as you looked it up, they said, “well, no, marijuana doesn’t make you binge eat, but it can make you overeat.” And it just seems like that’s semantics. Like how are you really defining that? Isn’t that different for every individual and can’t anything become a habit?

Kathryn:

Oh for sure.

Jeff:

I just find that the book definition is not necessarily real life.

Kathryn:

That’s a good point. I feel like a lot of articles that I’ve found said pretty emphatically that binge eating is not the same as marijuana-induced overeating. But then you go on to read the descriptions and they’re pretty much the same.

Clinically binge eating is defined as eating within a discreet period of time, a lot more food than a normal person would eat under similar circumstances. …And Jeff is pointing at himself right now—so is that what you feel like you do? You’re eating an abnormal amount of food within a discreet period of time?

Jeff:

Yes, and I remember describing it to you and I had the light bulb go off more when I said, “there was no bottom, there was no full.” I remember that night in particular, I ate, uh, pizza, which I love pizza, it’s like my favorite thing in the world. And usually I can eat two slices and be fine and move on, but I think I ate like a whole large pizza by myself. I’m not too proud.

Kathryn:

We laugh, but if a binge eater said that we would not be laughing.

Jeff:

Well, and I’m laughing out of embarrassment. I remember feeling there was no bottom, I could just eat, eat, eat. And I remember I didn’t just eat the pizza, I ate more salty and sweet snacks. I don’t think I was exaggerating, I probably ate around 5,000 calories. I mean, I ate everything in my fridge, I went to the cupboard and ate more salty and sweet snacks, and I could find no bottom.

And sugar is my worst because I love sugar and nothing makes me feel worse than overindulging sugar. I get really sick. But I think I talked to you or I went to bed, but I remember lying in bed and just being so sick, and just pain in my stomach. And you go through it in your mind like, “what in the hell did I do? I didn’t need to eat all that.” I knew I had enough calories for the day but there was, there was no bottom, there was no full. I could just keep consuming and enjoying the consumption until you get to that point where you’re lying in the bed, and I remember just being so sick, I couldn’t go to sleep because I was in so much pain.

Kathryn:

Anyone out there listening, from what Jeff is describing, I’m sure you can relate to that as a binge eater and that feeling of just never finding your bottom, never feeling full, and feeling like you could continue to eat and eat and never feel satisfied. And also just the feeling of being out of control and then the regret after, and feeling physically awful.

So the experiences really line up, you know, they seem very similar. And I was saying that we were laughing about it before, but I don’t think it’s just us. I think on a cultural level we hear “the munchies” and it’s just something kind of funny that people do, and it’s not taken seriously. Whereas, you know, binge eating is considered to be a “mental disorder.” So a lot of the resources I’ve found said, “oh, bingeing is not the same as the munchies because binging is a mental disorder.”

Marijuana and binge eating both create a brain “glitch” that enhances appetite and desire for food

Jeff:

But is it a mental disorder or is it just habit it brought on by urges?

Kathryn:

Good point, because a lot of my work focuses on that and focuses on helping people see that it’s not because of these other psychological problems, it’s not because of emotions, it’s because you have this glitch in your brain and this habit that you’ve developed over time that is bringing on an experience just like the experience that you’re talking about Jeff.

Jeff:

Yeah, and I think you did in your research, because I’d be really curious…I, for the most part, when I did marijuana, I always liked to smoke it. I smoked it not with flower, but the vape pen. Flower can really affect your lungs. Vape pen supposedly doesn’t affect your lungs as much. You get higher quicker, so it hits a lot sooner. And, and I felt that if I smoked it then I could be high and I could control the level of highness that you’re getting because you take one puff or two puffs. But the thing with the edibles, you don’t know necessarily what you’re getting. I think it’s gotten a lot better now that it’s in medical, you know, like what’s five milligrams versus 10 milligrams.

You don’t necessarily know how long it’s going to take to hit, and like I said, the majority of the time when I would partake in marijuana, it’s to go to sleep. It kind of shuts the brain out to relax, and that’s when I would do it. So I didn’t want to take the gummy, wait an hour, “oh, did it work? or did it not? do I then have to wait an hour to take another gummy. So that’s why I always did the vape pen and they hit differently. So, my question to you is: is there any correlation between taking marijuana through either flower or vape pen versus an edible? Is there any correlation between overeating and how you take marijuana?

Kathryn:

Jeff, that’s a really good question, and it’s not something that I know at this point. I mean, my research has not been extensive. This is a topic that, you know, we’ve gotten interested in and I would love to explore more and talk about more one day. But what I do know is that the active ingredient in marijuana, the THC, does stimulate appetite. Some mechanisms by which that happens—some research shows that it increases the smell and taste of food, so it actually makes food more pleasurable. Do you find that to be the case?

Jeff:

Oh, I think it enhances everything.

Kathryn:

Yes, and it also stimulates specific neurons that drive overeating. It basically switches the brain wiring and sends strong messages of hunger, even though, like you talked about, you’re not necessarily actually hungry.

Jeff:

It was an interesting place to be, because I remember being very conscious of the fact that I should be full and I’m not full.

Kathryn:

It’s lines up so much with the experience of a binge eater because, as I talk about in my books, bingeing is also a brain wiring issue. Your brain is malfunctioning, if that’s the right word, because of a habit, and also because of survival instincts. When you diet, you put your brain in this state where your body does shut down your fullness because that’s what you need to survive. You don’t need that “off” switch. You don’t need to feel full if you’re starving. So, it’s kind of a similar thing. If you’re dieting and really depriving the body, you’re not going to feel full in the same way that marijuana artificially shuts down that fullness signal. Does that make sense?

Jeff:

It does make sense. But it’s interesting too, I guess because you were saying that the THC specifically targets neurons in the brain—because with alcohol, which I honestly believe alcohol is worse than marijuana. It can damage your whole thought process, and doesn’t that lead to lessening inhibitions? The first thing alcohol goes after is judgment, and so if you have a predisposition to bingeing, wouldn’t alcohol consumption almost be worse? or about the same? I really don’t know, again, I have more questions than I do answers. I can only tell you my experience of marijuana…and yeah, most of it is great except for…

Kathryn:

Except for the bingeing. I mean, I would call it bingeing.

Are there ways to use marijuana in binge eating recovery without triggering out-of-control eating?

Jeff:

That’s what it felt like. I remember waking up the next day, again feeling the guilt, and that’s when I would just go back to smoking marijuana before I went to bed, because I can do it right before I go to bed, and then I’m in bed, and I’m not going to get up and go to the kitchen. I’m asleep, and I’m going to sleep through that period where there’s the comedown and you have the munchies as it were.

Kathryn:

That’s a good point for people to know—people who do smoke marijuana and are recovering from bingeing and really feel like they need the marijuana. I mean, some people are prescribed it for anxiety and for different conditions, and it has a use and it’s very helpful for some people. So, things like you’re saying as far as going to sleep and timing it right so that you avoid being awake for the time that your appetite is abnormal is a good tip.

Now, we’re of course not doctors, and speak to your doctor, but it is something to bring up—that you are also struggling with binge eating—and maybe you can come up with a plan to see how it can fit into your life without affecting your recovery.

Jeff:

Yes. And I’m not a doctor, but I still feel like marijuana is still being accepted in the medical professional arena. So as you talk to your general practitioner, I’m wondering what the reaction would be if you said, yeah, I’m recovering from bingeing and I also take marijuana. I’m curious, I don’t mean to go off on a rail here, but I still think it’s probably seen as a street drug. Though, again, in my arguments, I think alcohol would be a lot worse than marijuana.

Kathryn:

I’m glad you brought up alcohol because I do have a podcast on that (Episode 19: Should I Drink Alcohol While Trying to Stop Bingeing). But I basically advise people to really see how alcohol affects you personally, and it’s not the same across the board. I think it’s similar with marijuana in that you have to decide what’s right for you, but with alcohol, yes, it lowers your inhibitions.

Now for some people, those lower inhibitions lead to you acting on the habit, and lead to you having those out of control behaviors. But for some it doesn’t—it puts you in a state where maybe you’re not going to have urges to binge because you’re having pleasure from the alcohol and maybe you don’t want the pleasure of the food.

Jeff:

It is so different for each individual. Marijuana is going to affect each individual differently. How you smoke it or how ingest it, it’s going to affect people differently. Alcohol is going to affect people differently. I mean, I do drink alcohol, but I think it’s terrible for people. It’s poison that you put on your internal organs and on your brain, and there’s so many studies about how it rewires your brain and not for the better, and it slows you down.

And, you know, marijuana can have a lot of the same effects too on your neurons and, if you’re smoking it, on your lungs and capillaries and things of that nature when it comes to circulation. So I think the ideal situation is don’t do any of it, but it can have both beneficial and non-beneficial results for people.

Again, it’s just so individualized. You can’t make a general rule for everybody because it just affects people so differently. As I just told you, I’ve had that happen when I’ve overeaten a number of times—not every time I’ve taken it, but a number of times when I’ve taken it, and I can understand the correlation. So then I kind of change the habit because I don’t want to eat 5,000 calories and feel terrible. I try to set myself up for success. But I think it’s that individual journey where you’ve got to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.

The relationship between marijuana use and binge eating is nuanced

Kathryn:

Yeah, for sure. From what I’ve found, people are not saying in the research that marijuana use leads to binge eating disorder.They’re saying as a general rule on the whole, that’s not the case. But they’re actually saying the reverse is true in some studies—in that binge eaters are more likely to turn to marijuana, because of depression for example. Because of the stress that the binges cause in their life, they’re more likely to be using marijuana because of that.

So it’s interesting because that could lead to a spiral where you’re feeling depressed, so you either get prescribed marijuana or you start using marijuana and then you end up with these appetite increases that make things worse. So I do think the relationship is very nuanced and I’m sure there will be more studies that come out, but for now, I really recommend looking at the research for yourself and also just your personal experience.

Jeff:

Yeah and I think those things can be leaned into too much, especially when it comes to marijuana. I don’t know if I mentioned this in the last podcast, but I’m a veteran. So I went to Afghanistan and Iraq, I’m a combat veteran. And they’ll say, oh, for PTSD, you should smoke marijuana. I think when you’re reliant on anything external, it can lead to these habits. And as you write in your book, it’s breaking the habit and the urge.

I’ve seen my fellow soldiers just become dependent. Now it’s not a physical addiction, but again, as you articulate in your book, it’s not about a physical addiction. It’s about, you know, the mental addiction and the habit that you’re forming. If you need to smoke marijuana to get over the hump, you know, I’m not a doctor, but I would say that does work. But if you’re not doing some sort of meditation or some sort of other practices outside of it that you’re not reliant on an external thing (whether it be food, alcohol) then I don’t think that’s the right path as a whole.

Kathryn:

Yeah. Because it runs the same risk of you constantly using something external to deal with emotions and cope with emotions. And I think our society feeds into that, I mean, a lot of my book is focused on that. And when we have that in our minds—that substances are coping mechanisms, binge eating is a coping mechanism—and when we have that urge to do it, we think that we’re sort of justified in doing it, and that it’s going to help us, and that we have these deep reasons and these emotional needs that need to be fulfilled. Whether we’re turning to food, whether we’re turning to marijuana, it can just lead us down a terrible path.

Jeff:

And I think it’s interesting too, because one thing I really respect about you is your integrity. As you wrote your book, as you do these podcasts, you are your true self. I always respect how you present your arguments or present your point of view…one it’s just that, and as we’re talking here about marijuana, we’re obviously not saying this is the cure or the damage. It’s just, this is the experience and you do need to have that individual journey to figure this out.

Kathryn:

Yes, that’s a good point. I think some people are out there even promoting marijuana as a weight loss remedy…

Jeff:

Which is insane.

Kathryn:

But it seems to have a regulatory effect on our appetites overall, which again, I found very interesting because in the moment, it’s shutting down fullness, it’s making you have increased hunger. So I’m just throwing these ideas out there to say that the research is very, very nuanced.

But from Jeff’s experience, and you know, this is not just Jeff, this is so many people who consume this…you do get this out of control feeling and this out of control eating behavior. And I just don’t think that can be a good thing for people trying to recover from bingeing. I’m hesitant to say, “don’t do it” because there are people who find that the benefits outweigh the risks. But I just don’t see how it can be a good thing to put yourself in that state where you’re basically mimicking what the urge to binge does to people.

Jeff:

I’ve taken marijuana in a lot of different realms…we go to concerts, I’ll take marijuana, we’ll watch Seinfeld, I like to smoke marijuana sometimes. It’s an enjoyable activity when I do it, you know, safely and not driving and all those things. And at times it has caused me to binge, again, I’m saying bingeing, but I’m not trying to diminish anything, I’m not trying to minimize anything. Maybe what I have done is overeat and not binge. But it has at times led me to overeat and go through that process—not every time, but that’s something now I’m much more conscious of.

Advice for recovering binge eaters is different from advice for people who overeat after marijuana

Kathryn:

And I want to talk about that because when I was looking into this—and again, I’m not an expert, I keep saying that—but the recommendations for helping people overcome the urge to overeat after marijuana were very, very different from what you find for binge eaters.

So the recommendations for marijuana users dealing with the munchies were things like distract yourself, keep better food in the house. One of the big ones that hit me was like—realize that it’s all in your head, realize that it’s not real hunger, realize it’s just a brain glitch. It’s something going on with your neurons and your appetite mechanisms, but it’s not real. And honestly, that’s kind of what I teach people as far as bingeing.

You realize that this is a glitch in your brain, this is what I call neurological junk. It’s a habit. Your brain has created a pattern that your neurons have gotten into that’s firing, but it doesn’t mean that you’re actually hungry. It doesn’t mean you actually need those calories, and you basically have to ride it out and that is what the recommendation was to the marijuana users.

But then you go to binge eating and it’s like, “cope with your emotions,” and “learn to deal with depression.” And no one is telling that to someone who’s high having a brain glitch because they’re high, but they’re telling that to a binge eater who’s having a brain glitch for a variety of reasons—or because of dieting.

Jeff:

Well, use this or don’t use this, but it sounds like one of those persons is a victim and the other person is just going through a momentary lapse. And I think you would argue that you’re not a victim, you’re just going through that momentary lapse where you can overcome it. I don’t know if it was this in your book or you and I talking, but it was that no one tries to get spiritually whole to quit smoking.

Kathryn:

Oh yeah, same thing with marijuana, you don’t get spiritually whole to overcome the munchies.

Jeff:

Yeah. I think what was interesting though, because I’m recalling now, when I first started eating that pizza, it was, “oh, I’m starving.” I mean, it was real, and this is before we had the conversation for me to have that extra layer of consciousness over it. Because when I was eating, I felt like I needed to eat—like I was starving. To say, “oh, just sit down and you’ll be fine,” I would’ve said that is a lie.

I remember feeling, “oh my gosh, I have to eat.” And so I think after our conversation and kind of working through it, there is that next level of consciousness to where, when you do feel that way, I can say, “oh, okay, I’m going through this momentarily and it will subside,” and it kind of works, and it kind of goes away. But not that night! It was real, and there’s nothing that anybody could have told me to change my mind about that, until I was lying on my bed sick. Then I was like, what did I do?

Kathryn:

Yeah, the first time I binged due to being calorie restricted and being in a starvation state, yes, that was the experience. Even though I didn’t need thousands and thousands of calories (I needed normal meals, I needed nourishment over time, I didn’t need it all in that one sitting), if someone would’ve said, “this is not real,” I wouldn’t have believed them at the time. It was real. But once you get an understanding of what’s happening in the brain, once you understand those mechanisms, then you’re able to step back from that.

You can overcome binge urges and marijuana-induced desires to overeat

Jeff:

For whatever reason, it reminds me of like when you’ve had too much alcohol, you know not to drive. You become self-aware that okay, I’ve had too many, I’m not going to drive anymore. To me, it’s the same consciousness of, “okay, I’ve gotten high, I’m going to go through this period, it’s not going to last, and then I’ll be fine. And once you just do that, you kind of do develop that habit, and it just kind of goes away.

Kathryn:

That’s really interesting. So, do you feel like now—learning what you’ve learned about the brain and kind of how this happens and how it’s a brain glitch—do you feel like under the influence of marijuana, you’re still able to access that self-control?

Jeff:

Yes, and more so, I think it’s heightened my enjoyment of it because I’m focusing on the benefits and not the detriments of it. Because you can go through it, enjoy it, and realize, okay, this is a part, but that’s not the whole part. And you just kind of move past it.

Kathryn:

From your experience, and there’s probably research out there, how long does it take for that heightened desire to eat to go away?

Jeff:

You know, the clock moves very slowly when you’re high. I really can’t say, I would estimate, probably an hour.

Kathryn:

And I’m sure everyone is different as far as how long that would last. And, it’s not that you can’t eat anything—you know, if you’re hungry, eat something. But I think you have to go into it knowing that you’re not going to have a bottom.

I always advocate for people to make sure they eat enough, to make sure they don’t go hungry. So if you’re in this state and you feel hungry, absolutely eat something, but know that you’re not going to get the stop signal. So you have to choose basically with your higher brain, how much is enough. You have to choose with your eyes—like, looking at everything you ate, all the pizza, the different things, you know that’s too much food. So you basically have to visualize what’s enough, and use your rational capacity more than your internal mechanisms.

Jeff:

And you obviously know more about this than I do, but especially that night, the salts, the sweets—that just made it worse. It hits the right taste bud or the right neuron in your brain, and you go, oh yeah, that’s it.

What I’ve done, and I probably have done this subconsciously now that I think about it, is avoided those things. So I don’t go for the chips. I’ll go for the celery because I know I don’t want to eat that much of it—you know, celery and peanut butter, or I do a lot of apples and peanut butter.

Kathryn:

Yeah. It’s like when you’re in a state where you know you’re vulnerable, you choose foods that are not going to really stimulate those pleasure centers, really stimulate the appetite. And then that’s not a cure for bingeing because people can really binge on anything, but it’s just developing that extra layer of consciousness and supporting yourself better—not getting yourself into a situation where you’re just surrounded by salty and sweet snacks where you feel like you can’t control yourself.

I feel like we’ve covered this pretty thoroughly. I mean, I know there’s more we could talk about.

Jeff:

I feel like I was vry unhelpful…

Kathryn:

What do you mean?

Jeff:

I don’t feel like I provided any definitive answers…

Kathryn:

You’re not supposed to. I mean, I feel like you just describing your experience, it normalizes it for people. You’re a healthy man without an eating disorder and you can have something flip in your brain. You know, Jeff is in good shape, he eats a lot but not terribly unhealthy…and just to hear him talk about this experience of marijuana flipping the switch in his brain to kind of make him become a binge eater in the moment—whether or not we want to call it that—I hope it just gives you some level of comfort that you are not alone in these experiences that you have. And Jeff, would you like to say something to that?

Jeff:

I think that’s the really interesting part and I think that’s really what sparked this conversation. I told you about this experience and how it really related to the experience that you had when you were binge eating. And so I think it’s interesting to understand that anybody can be in these situations with different things, and so you do have to be that next level of conscious of your actions if you’re going to partake in marijuana.

Again, I think there are a lot of benefits to marijuana when it’s done safely. I think it’s just that you should understand how you’re going to react. And that’s just something I had to go through in my journey and again, talking with you about it.

Kathryn:

Yes, I think it points to, I guess a common humanity or a common way all of our brains work. Like in binge eating, people are often told, “oh, there’s something wrong with you, you know, this is your past, this is your childhood, this is because of deep reasons.” Whereas all you did was smoke pot to have this created in your brain—to have the appetite become dysregulated. So for whatever reason it’s happened to you the listener, just realize that it doesn’t mean you’re fundamentally broken.

Jeff:

Truth, that’s the absolute truth.

Kathryn:

And there are ways you can overcome it. And like Jeff says, we don’t want to minimize binge eating disorder and say, “oh, it’s just like the munchies.” No, there are differences here, but there are also some common elements, and we can learn from each other, and I hope you’ve learned from Jeff’s experience, and I appreciate you being here today.

Jeff:

Thank you so much for letting me be back on the show. I can’t wait to do it another year, hopefully, I’ll keep nagging you.

Kathryn:

I think it was May that we did the other show together, and I thought it was great. You asked me a bunch of questions about the new edition of Brain over Binge and yeah, it was by popular demand that you come back.

He kept asking, when are we going to do the marijuana show? And the thing is, I kept putting it off because I felt like I needed to become an expert on it before I came on and talked about it. But as I looked at the research, I feel like there’s more questions than answers. So we’re just coming on, you know, vulnerable, sharing our experiences, not knowing all the answers, but we hope that it’s been helpful.

Jeff:

I’ll never nag you again to be on your podcast.

Kathryn:

I’m sure that he’ll be back.

Thank you everyone for listening to this episode. I hope that it helped you have some of your own insights about the effect that marijuana or other substances may have on you as you let go of binge eating.

If you need some extra guidance, you can learn about the options available through BrainoverBinge.com/Subscribe.

There you can find information about the extensive self-paced online course, as well as the highly supportive structure of group coaching or one-on-one coaching with our amazing Brain over Binge coach Julie.

I look forward to talking to you again soon, 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.

 

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

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“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

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“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.”

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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)