Why is it so hard to stop binge eating?
Anyone who has already been caught up in the darkness of binge eating, food addiction, bulimia or eating disorders knows it. It’s not easy to quit!
Because let’s face it: when that happens, you’re not really in control anymore. And willpower has nothing to do with that.
Let me explain…
The food we binge on is not natural stuffs. We don’t binge on lettuce or fresh tomatoes. Binge foods are foods that are heavily processed, that are both energy-rich and nutritionally poor.
It took us some time to realise how food was impacting us and the negative impact of multinational food companies on our health. But things are getting clearer.
It’s now obvious. Packaged, industrialised foods are packed with refined sugars, salt and fats (not the right type of fats). They do us no good at all while tasting delicious.
But why are they tasting so good? Why is it almost impossible to resist them while caught up in this vicious cycle?
(And by the way, you don’t need a full-blown eating disorder to find yourself trapped. I know many ‘normal eaters’ trapped in this situation without even questioning it, choosing what they eat with the help of TV ads. Most of the time, they have very poor eating habits and also probably very poor health).
The thing is that tastiness and the attractiveness of the food has way less to do with micronutrient content and health properties than the amount of energy the food delivers.
We now know that our brain requires a huge amount of energy (about 20 % of the energy consumed at rest).
Now let’s consider the case of a growing child for a minute – whose brain needs between 43 and 85 % of the energy consumed at rest – or someone like a chronic dieter, non-stop controlling and restricting her food intake… You bet anything that tastes sweet and is high in energy will be irresistible!
We also know that our brain is able to change in response to experience. This is what we call ” brain plasticity”. This allows us to develop good habits and mechanisms we don’t have to overthink anymore (such as walking, driving, etc.).
But on the other hand, it’s also responsible for all destructive mechanisms we may develop, such as binge eating.
In that specific case, our brain remembers hyper-rewarding foods and will develop cravings for quick and easy gratification over nutritional needs.
In fact, energy dense refined foods are drug-like substances. They cause the release of dopamine and other pleasure neurotransmitters in our brain such as endorphines and opiates. A feel good cocktail that is produced by consuming a combination of sugar, slat and fat, which can quickly become addictive.
As per everything, we quickly get use to it. So in order to get the same food fix, more and more has to be consumed. Multinational food companies know it. They want us to be addicted.
(And for someone who has done drugs, smoked and drank many years of her life, I can tell you that food was by far the most addictive and the hardest substance to quit. Is it because it’s so ‘normalised’ that you dive easily into it without being aware of the potential consequences? This could be discussed in another post I guess…).
Once someone has learned to eat high energy refined foods on a regular basis (as compulsive eaters, obese people or binge eaters), there is a series of endocrine, metabolic, neurocognitive, and physiological adaptations that take place on a deep level.
We don’t consciously control our food choices anymore but food controls us, as drugs control the drug addict. But the same process doesn’t only happen with food or drugs. It’s the same with cigarets, alcohol, caffeine, but also TV, shopping, games, and social media.
The reward system gets activated in our brain and we get addicted to this “quick fix” to get our feel good endorphins cocktail released without thinking at what comes next (hangover, debt, comparisons on social media, brainwashing on TV and self-destruction in general).
When you’ve been doing that for years and that your quick-fix is calling you everywhere you go – or don’t go (like food), you get the picture. This can put you in a pretty bad situation…
This is why willpower is NOT going to save your ass. This is also why recovery doesn’t happen overnight!
Luckily, this is not a death sentence and I’ve seen countless times that with the right information and support, anyone can get out of this.
Wanna to know where to start?
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