When people ask me how to stop bingeing, I ask them first how bingeing is helping them.
Even though it might seem like the most self-sabotaging, hateful, and destructive, thing in the world, there is always some beautiful and life-giving intention behind why we binge.
The other day a client-friend (all my clients have become my friends!) told me that since we started working together she's gotten so much more aware of her eating habits and hasn't binged in months. Hooray! But the other day she ate a bunch of M&M's in the car and was mad at herself about it. When we went a bit deeper, we realized that she had just started her period and needed rest, was under a lot of stress with her business, and was transporting children in the car for hours when she reached for the M&M's. The candy provided her with energy to continue through the day and some sweetness to soften her discomfort. In that moment, the M&M's were actually a helpful tool!
Ok, I'm not saying that if you are stressed out and need a rest, you should buy a bag of M&M's. What I am saying is that binges are actually an effort to try to help. It's all too easy to beat ourselves up about them, but what if we expressed radical gratitude towards them instead?
Another amazing client-friend told me she really likes being full... To the point where she feels uncomfortable. We explored this together and realized that she really craves to be filled with unconditional love, and food is a dependable substitute when she loses touch with all the love in her life. Whew! Can anyone else relate to that? I can.
What a magnificent effort our bodies are making to help us feel filled with love.
Our bodies love us. They want what's best for us. And if we are deeply in need of something fundamental—like love, rest, safety, or belonging—our bodies do their best to help us out. And that can easily look like reaching for food.
If thus far in your life, you haven't paid a lot of attention to your emotional needs and can't really tell the difference between needing safety and needing love, it may be easier for you to turn to food as a blanket cure for everything. That's okay, too. The beauty is that food is there for you, and your body is doing its best filling you up with what it thinks you need.
The other beautiful thing about binges is that they invite you to discover what you actually need, so you can choose if it's food that you really want in the first place.
Having radical gratitude for binges relieves some of the self-hate associated with emotional eating. When we step out of self-hate, we have more space to figure out what we're actually hungry for. Once we know what we need, we can find ways to help ourselves out, and food might not seem like the most fulfilling option anymore.
The beauty of bingeing is that it's a gateway into finding out what is really going on underneath the surface of our being. It's a red flag—an indication that something is needed. I used to get so mad at myself for bingeing, but now I have compassion whenever I notice I'm emotionally eating because it means that I'm coping with something really difficult. It means I need some love and attention. And it means my body is doing its best with the confusing circumstance of being a human (most of my emotional eating episodes are existential in nature—not wanting to be on this planet in a human body, feeling disconnected from Source energy, etc. How confusing!).
The funny thing about practicing compassion while I'm emotionally eating is that I usually stop. I usually have a little more space to get in touch with the part of me that's suffering. I have a little more awareness to place a gentle hand on my heart, sit down, and say my favorite mantra, "Oh honey."
But even if I don't sit down. Even if I can't be nice to myself in the midst of a binge. Even if I eat the entire bag of M&M's without one kind thought towards myself, I can still have gratitude for the binge. For the way it mysteriously tries to help me, somehow. Even if I'm not quite sure how. I can be grateful knowing that deep down, bingeing is trying to fulfill needs I may not even know I have. I can be thankful for the binge, find beauty in the binge, and maybe my gratitude will open something in me that was closed before. Maybe my gratitude will help me not be at war with myself... Just for a moment. Maybe my gratitude will help me remember that my body loves me, that I'm still here, and that all parts of me—ALL PARTS–are doing the absolute best they can.