Written by Jenn Hand, Holistic Nutritionist, Board Certified Health Coach, NBC-HWC
Binge Eating Coaching vs. Going It Alone
When I was in the throes of bingeing and dieting, I convinced myself that I didn’t need help.
After all, I was a driven woman, successfully managing a career, bills, a relationship, a social calendar and all of life’s tasks with ease. I thought I should be able to conquer this food thing alone. But after bingeing over and over and not being able to stop, despite my best intentions, I sought out support.
Realizing I needed help was transformational to my own healing. When I look back on my own journey, working 1:1 with someone changed my life.
Support on this path is invaluable if you’re trapped in the cycle; you will see dramatic results you wouldn’t otherwise see going this path alone.
As women, we can easily convince ourselves that it’s “just” food and should be simple, therefore we should be able to fix it ourselves. But allowing someone to share your burden, who understands what the journey is like and how to move you forward is invaluable in accelerating your progress.
What’s It Like to Work with a Binge Eating Coach?
Almost every time I talk to women about a solution to their food issues, their doubt and skepticism lingers in the air.
“But what if this doesn’t work for me? What if I’m different? I know you’ve helped other women, but my problems go much deeper. I’ve failed so many times, I don’t think it’s possible for me.”
I want to introduce you to Lisa. Lisa was the biggest skeptic of them all. She had spent 22 years of her life dieting or bingeing. She couldn’t even see “normal eating” as an option in her life. But her misery and self-hate was impacting her family now and she wanted help. She was terrified of passing on her self-hate to her daughters. She didn’t want to hide from her husband while she changed her clothes. But most importantly, she wanted to stop being in her head all day every day, planning/obsessing/thinking about what she was eating or not eating. I believed in Lisa (and I saw so much of my “old” self in her). I told her to give me a month. Though skeptical, she didn’t know where else to turn.
One month later, Lisa’s life looked drastically different. She began tuning into hunger and fullness. She started to feel like a “normal” eater!
She had glimpses of feeling at ease in her body.
She went out to eat and actually ordered what she wanted without soul-crushing guilt.
But most importantly, she saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Was she “fixed”? Not overnight. But this is a journey and the small wins eventually lead to the big results that we deeply desire!
Table of Contents
- What Exactly Is Binge Eating Coaching?
- What I Help You with As a Binge Eating Coach
- What the Heck IS Food Freedom?
- Is Binge Eating Bad for You?
- Understanding Binge Eating
- What You Don’t Need is Someone Judging Your Binge Eating
- Causes of Binge Eating Disorders
- Experiencing Exhaustion and Overwhelm from Binge Eating
- Common Binge Eating Behaviors
- How I Help Women Overcome Binge Eating and Overeating
- How to Stop Binge Eating
- Dealing with the Fear of Discussing Binge Eating
- Rebuilding Trust with Food and Yourself IS Possible
- Healing Your Relationship with Your Body
- Common Questions about Working with a Binge Eating Coach
- So, Is Binge Eating Coaching for You?
What Exactly Is Binge Eating Coaching?
Coaching specifically designed for binge eating targets the patterns, behavior, habits and triggers that contribute to bingeing.
Typically, I work with women to go deep into food habits, emotions, mindset, body image, weight struggles, and the myriad other related topics such as the all-or-nothing mindset, perfectionism, fear of weight gain, distrusting your body, food anxiety and more! There are so many beliefs that are common obstacles to becoming binge-free. Working with a coach is a process of unlearning what doesn’t serve you and re-learning what DOES serve you so that you gain a life of freedom.
10 Common Things a Binge Eating Coach Can Help You With
In my practice as a binge eating coach, emotional eating coach, and holistic nutritionist, these are the main things that my clients come to me for help with. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it covers the main struggles people wish to overcome. And, as a side note, these are all things you can absolutely overcome!
1. How to Stop Bingeing
We’ll dive deep into “why” you use food. Whether it’s habit, emotional eating, being stuck in the diet/binge cycle, food as a reward or the many other reasons we turn to food to cope, we will explore it so that instead of making another “rule” to never binge again, you let go of the need for it and it naturally falls away.
2. How to Break the Binge Eating Cycle aka. the Binge-Restrict Cycle
What comes first, the diet or the binge? We will look at how the diet mentality impacts your food choices, where (or if) you’re restricting, and what triggers bingeing.
3. How to Stop Overeating
Sometimes overeating can be a habit and other times it can be more complex. We will dive into what is going on underneath the pattern to help you shift out of it.
4. Dealing with Emotions to End Overeating
Letting go of eating due to stress, boredom, anxiety, sadness, or any of the million other emotions we feel is key! You’ll learn how to deal with life rather than turning to food.
5. Discovering Your Emotional Eating Triggers
We will dive into anything that triggers you. Whether it’s a boss, a family member, a comment, a certain place, an event coming up or something in between, we will identify the triggers and make a plan for how to deal with them!
6. Developing Eating Habits that Support Your Lifestyle
Every person is unique in what way of eating works for them. I teach a way of eating that gives you a foundation to work off of, and from there, we’ll work together to identify how foods impact your body, what gives you energy, and what feels most nourishing for you.
7. Letting Go of the Scale
A part of healing the binge cycle is to heal your relationship with the scale. We’ll work to find a way to “validate” yourself outside of numbers!
8. Letting Go of Dieting and Restrictive Eating Models
This process is a lot of “unlearning.” We’ll work through letting go of food rules, the restrictive diet brain, and help you learn to listen to what your body needs and wants.
9. Eating Out at Restaurants without Shame, Guilt, or Fear
This was one of my biggest triggers! If eating out of your routine causes anxiety, we’ll dive into eating at a restaurant or event with a sense of freedom and peace.
10. How to Enjoy Your Food Again and Feel Free Around Food
When you’re in the throes of the binge and restrict cycle, it can be hard to imagine a day where you’ll enjoy food and feel free. But in this process, I’ll help you find your balance around food so you can feel, well “normal!”
OK, so what the heck IS food freedom?
Food freedom is something we talk about a lot in the non-diet space. But what exactly does it mean?
To me, freedom around food means having a peaceful, balanced relationship to food. It feels like you just eat “normally.” It’s not something that’s stressful, guilt-ridden, or anxiety producing. It’s simply something you enjoy when it’s there and don’t think about it when it’s not. When I was stuck in the binge cycle, all I wanted was to not THINK about food 24/7.
So food freedom is just that! You live your life knowing food is an enjoyable part of it, but it’s not the center of your daily life.
Is Binge Eating Bad for You?
Over the long haul, bingeing may cause health issues due to repeated weight gain and loss, but the real impact of bingeing is on the mind and soul. Being trapped in the binge cycle can cause feelings of hopelessness, failure and depression.
Although I felt physically awful when I would binge, the emotional toll it took on me was far greater than the physical.
Understanding Binge Eating
Remember that we are not robots, and food is not a simple equation. Diet culture convinces us that it is simple and we’re broken if we can’t follow a strict plan. But the reality is that food is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, so it takes a deeper approach to understand why we binge eat and what role food plays in our life.
Food can be a comfort, a reward, a stress-reliever, a form of connection, community and so much more. It’s crucial to look at it holistically to understand why we do what we do.
You Don’t Need Someone Judging Your Binge Eating
One of the things that helped the most in my healing was having someone who went through the same experience and didn’t judge me. I admitted many things during my 1:1 sessions: taking 24 diet pills a day, picking brownies out of the trash that I swore I wouldn’t eat, eating the rest of the cake and lying to my family, and many other “secret” food habits.
She didn’t judge me because she understood. This is immensely helpful on this path, as having someone listen and not be judgmental eases so much of the shame!
Causes of Binge Eating Disorders
While I don’t love the term ‘Binge Eating Disorder’, it is widely used in the medical field. To me, it sounds very disheartening and categorizes us into a box, which isn’t helpful. Plus, bingeing is so incredibly complicated!
All of the women I’ve worked with have a range of issues: some struggle more with restriction and dieting, others can’t get out of the binge phase, others want to lose weight for health reasons but can’t diet, and still others come to me to stop emotional eating.
There are many causes of bingeing, from emotions, chronic dieting, stress, big life events, to a lack of protein and infrequent eating to everything in between.
Experiencing Exhaustion and Overwhelm from Binge Eating
Bingeing can take quite a toll on us.
I remember being utterly exhausted from trying to fight the cycle and also overwhelmed as to where to start to “fix” it. It’s normal to experience fatigue, as we spend a lot of energy trying to stop the habit that we know doesn’t serve us. Feeling like we are at a loss to fix it can leave us even more exhausted. Or knowing what we “should” do but not being able to do it!
Getting support can be helpful here, as feeling like you’re not alone on this journey is a game-changer for progress.
Common Binge Eating Behavior
While everyone’s binges may look different, there are some common patterns I’ve seen over the years.
If you struggle with bingeing, you may feel compulsive and out of control around food. You also may eat a much larger quantity of food even when you’re not hungry. Defining exactly what a binge is is specific to how YOU feel when you eat.
I’ve had clients who consider 5 cookies a binge because it feels out of control. I’ve had others eat thousands of calories in their definition of a binge. It’s all about how it feels: if you feel out of control and compulsive, then that’s a sign it’s a binge.
How I Help Women Overcome Binge Eating and Overeating
My approach is multi-faceted and holistic.
Together, we will look at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of food, body and weight. Physically, we will explore how you eat, what you eat and how foods impact your body. This isn’t a diet approach but a gentle look at the day to day habits and patterns of your eating. There is no judgment here! It’s for us to get curious and look at the nuances of food habits.
Mentally, we dive into food rules, limiting beliefs, restriction or the “screw it” mentality, the all or nothing mindset and other things you think that are holding you back.
Emotionally, we look at how your feelings impact what you’re eating. If you eat when you’re stressed, bored, lonely, sad, anxious, fearful or anything else, we will shift these patterns and I’ll teach you how to feel your feelings without food. Spiritually, we explore if food fills an emptiness within, your connection to yourself, your identity without this issue and any other “deeper” things that arise on this path!
How to Stop Binge Eating
It’s helpful to take a holistic approach to letting go of bingeing.
Looking at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of food, body and weight are essential to stopping the cycle. My belief is that as you learn to let go of what no longer serves you on all levels, the need to binge falls away. It’s a process of letting go rather than forcing yourself to stop. This approach allows for lasting sustainable change.
Dealing with the Fear of Discussing Binge Eating
For most of the years I battled food, I hid my eating patterns.
Outwardly in front of others, I tried to eat “super clean”, but by myself, I would binge in secret. I carried so much shame about my own habits and weight gain cycles, that I didn’t talk about it to anyone. It can be terrifying to tell someone what we are doing with food or what we struggle with.
Society makes it appear like food is simple and there’s something wrong with you if you can’t “stick” to something.
We blame ourselves for not having enough willpower, and then carry that feeling of failure with us. I promise you, though, that when you muster the courage to talk to someone about it, it feels like a 1,000 weight is lifted off your shoulders! I know this first hand, as I went through fear, shame, nervousness and then finally got the courage to talk about it. It was immensely freeing!
Rebuilding Trust with Food and Yourself IS Possible
At the depths of my lowest lows, I wasn’t sure if I would ever find freedom.
But there was a small glimmer of hope that I clung to, that I wasn’t meant to live my life bingeing and dieting over and over. When you’re struggling, it can be hard to see a way out. But I promise you, it IS possible! I’ve now worked with 100’s of women to help them get “unstuck” from the binge cycle.
One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein:
“You cannot solve a problem from the same mind that created it.”
The way out is through developing a different way. It’s developing a new approach to food, body and weight so that you can create a new path forward!
Healing Your Relationship with Your Body
A big part of some women’s journeys towards a binge-free life is healing our relationship to our bodies.
For me, I loathed what I saw in the mirror. Even at my lowest weight, I still criticized my body and those critical thoughts would send me into a spiral (and then into a binge!) Learning how to nourish your body, take care of yourself and love who you are can be a very healing part of this path.
Common Questions about Working with a Binge Eating Coach
Who can benefit from binge eating help?
If you feel stuck in knowing how to stop bingeing, getting support may be beneficial. Many women convince themselves that they “should” know how to stop, as it’s “just” food. In reality, our relationship to food is complex, and we may need support to move through it.
What is a binge-eating coach?
A binge-eating coach is someone who specifically helps you get out of the binge cycle. There are many different kinds of coaches out there, but someone who is a binge-eating coach is usually trained in modalities to help you stop.
What is the technical term for binge eating?
Oftentimes, doctors can diagnose someone as having Binge Eating Disorder if they meet certain requirements. It is described as a mental illness that manifests as a behavioral disorder and leads to chronic, compulsive eating. That said, I’ve seen people overcome this so many times that the idea of giving yourself a label for life or thinking there’s something wrong with you strikes me as counterproductive. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you CAN overcome binge eating and emotional eating.
Why do I always binge on a diet?
The Law of Dieting comes into play here! If you go “on” something, you have to go “off” at some point. When you’re following anything restrictive that’s not sustainable, we typically have a period when we go “off”, where we eat all the foods that were forbidden on the diet. Call it a physiological response from the body or simply our inner rebel, it happens 99.9% of the time if we diet!
What if I’m afraid to talk about binge eating?
I felt deep shame and embarrassment about my eating struggles. I spent 13 years bingeing and dieting, and hid it from everyone I knew. I was mortified that I couldn’t manage something as “simple” as food and my weight, so I hid myself and my body. It’s understandable, as there is a lot of shame that we feel when we binge. We blame ourselves and feel responsible, adding on even more layers of shame and guilt. That first step of talking about it to someone can be life-changing! I think I cried my entire first session with the woman I worked with. It was incredibly healing and the start of my journey towards freedom.
So, Is Binge Eating Coaching for You?
I convinced myself for many years that I didn’t need help.
But once I DID get help, I was able to make shifts and changes that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. At the end of the day, getting support or not is YOUR decision. Get quiet and still, and listen to that voice of wisdom inside of you. Have you struggled with this for years? Have you been able to gain clarity and heal on your own?
If you’re feeling unclear, you may want to journal to see if you can find that “true” voice inside as to what feels like the next right step for you.
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About the Author:
Jenn Hand has been helping women like you become normal eaters since 2015.
She’s worked with thousands of women, helping them to balance their bodies, end bingeing, stop obsessing over food, and start feeling amazing again. As a board-certified health coach and holistic nutritionist, Jenn knows how to support you in making real positive changes that last.
Her articles have been published on Mind Body Green, Tiny Buddha, Thrive Global and other local and global media platforms. She’s the author of How to Be a Normal Eater and the creator of The Normal Eater’s Club program. Listen to Jenn’s advice and tips on the Cake Doesn’t Count Podcast, or read more of her articles for free on the Food Freedom Blog.Learn more about coaching with Jenn >>