Overeaters, similar to bingers, turn to food when overwhelmed before they turn to other activities such as talking to a friend, spouse or therapist, writing in a journal, taking a walk, a bath, a break, painting their nails or playing with a pet, doing some stretching, focusing on their breath, watching a movie or reading an inspiring article.
This is what makes someone an overeater or binge eater.
If you have a habit of overeating or binge eating, think back to a time when you chose to express yourself by eating an abundance of food. Did you have any other activity options you could have engaged in as you were inhaling a meal that was too big for your appetite?
Chances are you did since you are an adult and it has been many years since another human being spoon-fed you, even if it meant sitting cross-legged and twiddling your thumbs, but you chose to eat instead of another form of relaxation and relief.
Below is a list, not exhaustive, but enough to describe times when someone might feel the urge to overeat or binge.
When someone is feeling:
Notice the wide range of feelings and how some are positive, some are negative and some are pretty dull. It is often taught that these feelings cause you to overeat or binge.
Think of a time when you have overeaten or binged when you felt one of these things.
Now think of another time you have felt the same way but did not overeat or binge. This memory is proof that the feeling you recalled does not cause or require you to overeat or binge. If it did, every time you felt it you would be physically forced to stuff yourself with food, but since this does not happen it is clear that emotions do not demand actions. This is very good news because on any given day you can feel any (and likely, many) of these feelings and you would constantly find yourself eating past the point of hunger and dealing not only with the overwhelming sensations of the original emotion but also the negative consequences of eating way too much. You might not have time to accomplish anything if your emotions caused you to eat.
Next, ask yourself that if you never felt the urge to overeat or binge, even when you felt any of the above emotions, would you still do it?
This is a good question to ask because it places the real reason for eating too much on the simple desire or urge for eating too much and not on any emotion that is often blamed for overeating or binging.
For example, physical pain might cause you to cry (authentic moments when you cry from pain occur spontaneously and not from a decision to shed tears) but it will never cause you to overeat. You may have felt physical pain and cried but if you also overate it is important to remember overeating was not caused by pain and offered nothing to improve your pain. At best it may have distracted you from your original pain by creating new feelings of high insulin and an overly full stomach. While you may have certainly had the desire to overeat when feeling pain, the two are only connected when you physically eat too much every time you feel pain and establish a habit-based activity. If you did not experience the urge to eat too much food when you felt pain you would probably not obey it and, thus, not have a subservient relationship to food. If the desire or urge was removed and you only felt any of the wide arrange of feelings listed above, you might find yourself overwhelmed or uncomfortable for awhile, but not overwhelmed or uncomfortable and eating too much food.
Thinking through this might be helpful to you as you dig deeper into why you overeat or binge. Even if you have lived your whole life thinking that you eat emotionally, you can recall times in your life that you didn’t and this can provide you with assurance that you do not have to eat emotionally in the future.
Remember that if you do have urges to eat too much food, it is your right to obey them. You are in control of what you put into your body (albeit it too much, or too little), and you are not a worse or better person for what or how much you eat. If you choose to make a habit out of eating too much, that is your choice.
Realizing you always have the choice no matter how you have chosen in the past will help you practice responsibility with every next bite.
Image from Retro Cleaning.