To stop binge eating, you have to want to…not in every moment, but on the whole, you have to have reasons why you no longer want the destructive habit in your life. If you feel very little or no desire for recovery, then your higher brain is likely to continue following the binge urges from the lower brain. Your higher self needs to be motivated in some way, for any approach to work for you.
Most people have inspirational motivations for recovery, like becoming a better friend, parent, daughter/son, spouse, or being able to focus more on their career, or having more energy to pursue goals, or having more time to travel, or being able to better serve others, or simply enjoying life more. Your motivation could be highly specific, based on things you want to accomplish in the near future. It is very helpful to reflect often on your reasons for recovery, and consistently remind yourself why you want to stop binge eating.
But, what happens when you have days where you can’t seem to find anything positive about your life?
What if your main motivation for recovery is to succeed in your career, but then you lose your job? What if you want to recover so that you can heal your relationship with your spouse, but then the marriage falls apart…even while you are binge-free? What if you come to the realization that you can’t possibly achieve a particular goal due to a physical or financial limitation? What if everything seems to be going wrong in your life?
Then, what happens to your motivation for recovery?
You might notice that when it feels like things in your life are falling apart, your motivation for recovery feels like it’s falling apart as well.
You may have an urge to binge (because that’s what your lower brain has been conditioned to think you need, regardless of what’s going on in your life), and then you may experience thoughts like this: “You’ll never achieve your goals, so what’s the point of even trying to recover?”…or… “Life is so hard anyway, even without binge eating, so you might as well binge”…or… “You wanted to recover so that you could enjoy life, and life sucks, so there is no reason to dismiss this urge to binge.”
You can of course dismiss all of those binge-encouraging thoughts as neurological junk, and avoiding giving them any attention or value. However, an additional technique is to reframe how you think about your motivation to recover–in order to make those type of thoughts seem even less logical.
What I mean by this is to adjust how you think about your reasons for recovery, so that those reasons are not only about things going well in your life.
Although it’s great to imagine hopeful possibilities for yourself after recovery, I would suggest that your core motivation for recovery be this: Freedom
I realize that sounds cliché. I know you want freedom from binge eating, or you wouldn’t be reading this; but I will explain further how viewing freedom as your fundamental motivation can provide protection against your reasons for recovery falling apart when you have hard days.
When I was in the depths of binge eating, I thought of freedom as a vehicle for achieving my other motivations for recovery: Freedom from binge eating was how I was going to become a better friend, freedom was how I’d be able to become successful in a career, freedom was how I’d finally be able to enjoy my life.
But as it turned out, freedom was the goal in and of itself, whether or not I lived up to any of my other expectations.
Once I was free from binge eating, I could even be a terrible wife or friend, completely fail in my career, not accomplish goals and still not feel tempted by thoughts saying “you might as well binge.” I realize that may sound a little odd, because of course, being unsuccessful was not actually a goal of mine, but there were (and still are) days when I did not even come close to the expectations I had for myself, and times when the reasons I wanted to recover didn’t even begin to materialize.
But I was still free.
I was free to fail, and not worry that a binge would result. I was free to have horrible days, and cope the best way I knew how, because I knew binge eating was never truly a way to cope. I had the freedom to pick myself back up when relationships went badly, or when life didn’t go as planned, without having to pick myself back up from a binge as well.
Desiring freedom is about desiring the opportunity to experience all of what is means to be human, even the bad parts, without binge eating getting in the way. Freedom does not hinge on your accomplishments, or what’s going on around you, or your success in relationships, or your own happiness. The other motivations that you have are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but when freedom provides the foundation, you always have a reason to recover.
Using freedom as motivation is also helpful if you can’t find many reasons to recover in the first place. 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, the opportunity to have freedom from food issues is invaluable. 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 freedom from the consequences of binge eating, and get excited about it, it can solidify your desire to keep recovering, despite your uncertainty about what your life will be like afterward.
Freedom, in and of itself, is worth the effort you are putting into quitting this habit. 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 the whole of your life – the good and the bad – without the pain of binge eating.