Wait, what? Overeating can be a good thing? Have I gone off the deep end? I know what you’re thinking, “ummm, overeating is NOT a good thing. I hate myself after a binge, I have no self-control and feel disgusting.”
So how could it ever be a good thing?
Disclaimer: I am not talking about the occasional “Oh, I ate too much” overeating. I’m talking about the frenetic, compulsive, holy-shit-I-just-ate-an-entire-gallon-of-ice cream kind of overeating. Or the stuffing-your-face-with-Wheat-Thin-after-Wheat-Thin-until-the-box-is-gone type of episodes.
Before you disagree, let me explain.
You see, overeating until you want to unbutton your pants is a message. That desire is trying to communicate with us-a message from our deepest selves.
We binge to take care of needs that aren’t being met elsewhere in our lives. Excessive overeating is a message from our inner selves begging for us to slow down, stop and look inside. (Click to tweet!)
Let me digress for a second:
I got home from a weekend in Fort Collins the other night and felt “off”. I unpacked my bag and just had the nagging, unsettled, anxious feeling that wouldn’t go away.
The tub of unopened icing in my pantry began calling my name. I kept opening and closing the pantry and staring at the icing, wanting to eat it and not wanting to eat it at the same time.
It was one of those times where years ago, I would have binged. And then I would have felt disgusted, ashamed, and embarrassed.
But instead, I stopped. I got out my journal and sat down to write.
After I wrote, I realized the following:
- I was super anxious and stressed about moving. I’ve been apartment searching for weeks and hadn’t found anything I really loved. I live in downtown Denver, in an awesome apartment right in the heart of the city. I’m reluctant to leave, even though I know it’s time. Despite the location, it’s costly, noisy, and I’ve outgrown it. Even though I know it’s for the better, I’m afraid I won’t find another place I’m happy in, stressed about all the moving costs, and feel very unsettled.
- I had been thinking all weekend about my relationship. My partner (Confession: I dislike the word boyfriend-it feels like I’m in middle school) and I live in two different cities and it’s starting to wear on me…all of the planning and coordinating of schedules is tough. He begins a new overnight schedule this week, which I’m worried will be hard to adjust too. Juggling different schedules while living in two different cities is rough.
I had all of these uncertainties, fears, and “what-ifs” swirling around in my head. It was too much to deal with, so I got that “I want to binge and make it all go away” feeling.
And that feeling was trying to get my attention. It wanted me to stop and deal with what I was feeling.
If I had given in to the binge, I wouldn’t have received the message.
So the 3 reasons why overeating can be a good thing:
- That “wanting to binge” feeling is trying to get your attention. It’s like a screaming child, stomping around, yelling at the top of its lungs: PAY ATTENTION TO ME! We binge for a reason. It’s not like we just think “oh hey, I’m going to eat 876 cookies tonight”. We do it for a reason. And when you get that “I want to stuff my face feeling”, it is like that gentle, loving part of you that begs you to stop and listen, just for a second.
- It is a message that there is something to take care of. The thing with gorging until we need to unbutton our pants is this: binges seem to stop time. They stop everything that was disturbing us-everything we didn’t want to handle. It’s a way to sidestep life and enter a world with nothing but you and food. But rather than take away the pain from before, we double it by binging. Because we are left feeling even more out of control and emptier than before. So what is that you need to take care of? What situation is going on in your life, what thoughts are swirling around in your head, or what emotions are you trying to push away that you need to deal with?
- It is your road map to a new life. Binging will fall away as you take care of your inner needs. Each time you allow yourself to process the things you don’t really want to, even if you don’t know how or don’t have all the answers, your understanding of yourself grows and your compassion for yourself deepens. You see, we don’t really want to binge. But we do it because we don’t know another way to handle everything that is happening to us. And when you begin to explore staying with what you’re feeling, taking care of yourself, and paying attention to what the message is, you are on your way to a life where you find that freedom around food and eating.
So, your challenge is this: next time you get that “Oh-crap-I-need-to-eat-the-whole-fridge-feeling” come back to this blog and see if you can reframe the experience. And let me know your successes! (Failures, too, because that is how we learn 🙂 )
Next week I’ll be writing about tons of good self-care ideas and how you can take care of yourself so that you don’t end up binging. So stay tuned!
PS-Email me if you’re in the Denver/Boulder area and want to come to my FREE workshop this Tuesday, 11/18 from 6:45-8 pm: Navigating Holiday Eating with Ease and Enjoyment…I’d love to see you there!
Wow. I needed this. All the articles of yours I’ve read have rang true with me, but I recently relapsed with a binge/purge. (Haven’t done that in almost a decade)
I’m glad it resonated with you 🙂 Remember to be kind to yourself-it’s just a small blip on the screen during the past decade. Thanks for reaching out. XO