Solve the mystery of a binge day: the morning lure
- Category: Symptoms
The binge pattern goes like this:
Yesterday you ate too much. Last night you binged. Maybe you threw up. You went to bed exhausted. You criticized yourself for failing to end your eating disorder. You vowed that the tomorrow you would start fresh and not binge.
You wake up a little groggy from your binge last night. But happily, you wake up with no desire to eat. You feel free and powerful because food isn't appealing. You don't have to struggle to resist eating or eating too much. You don't have to feel guilt or shame as you begin a binge. You don't have to stand in front of the open refrigerator wondering what is "safe" for you to eat. You don't have to eat at all.
This is the lure, the set up for a binge day.
Your thinking goes, "if you don't eat now then you can eat just a little later on and not take in many calories. It's easy. How fast unwanted weight will fall off. How quickly the clothes you want to wear will fit and look good on you."
The joy of lingering in this feeling and with these thoughts is sweet. But to linger here is to take the bait your eating disorder offers. You are setting yourself up for a binge.
As the hours pass you feel a desire for food. You're worried about what you will eat and how much. But your self talk reassures you by saying, if you eat too much you'll be okay. You have extra calories to spend since you didn't eat this morning. A binge won't be terrible. You've allowed for it.
When you do eat you eat more than you intended. Now you are frightened. But you're still okay as long as you don't eat anything else for the rest of the day.
Now food "calls" to you. By evening you are in an irresistible compulsive eating fest. You binge like you did the night before. Perhaps you purge. You feel shame that you failed again. Tomorrow will be a fresh start where you will not act out your eating disorder.
When you have an eating disorder, you use food to protect and control your emotional state. You can dim or number feelings and levels of awareness you can't bear by eating.
When you feel no hunger in the morning you may feel wonderful. But you are threatening your inner psyche. Your joy lets your psyche know that your feelings are free to emerge with no inhibiting factor. Joy may be your first feeling and acceptable to you. But other feelings lay dormant and can erupt with no eating disorder activity to keep them at bay.
As hours pass, more of your feelings emerge. The threat of no food, which you established in the morning, becomes unbearable. You eat more than you intended as your protective pattern wells up to dull your emotions.
Your body was also threatened with famine. Combined with your emotional needs you experienced of a biological imperative to bring in extra calories to protect you from the looming emergency.
The combination is irresistible.
Working toward solution
Eat breakfast, hungry or not, within one hour after waking . Breakfast is two words combined. You break the fast you experienced while you were asleep.
Eating a healthful and reasonable breakfast reassures your body that it is being respected and cared for. It also reassures your psyche that what you need is available without requiring drastic action.
When your body and mind trusts your caretaking you won't go into a devouring frenzy. You won't sense a life or death situation. Your needs are being met in a calm, reasonable and dependable way.
As you eat appropriate amounts of food throughout the day you will experience ebbs and flows of emotions. You can bring these experiences to your psychotherapist so you learn to tolerate and understand your own experience. Freedom from binging allows you to do your recovery work without a surging sense of emergency. You give yourself a chance to experience real power which is awareness of the reality of your situation and your physical and emotional needs.
Eating breakfast, despite your lack of hunger, is a powerful move toward your recovery.
- Can you follow your eating patterns on the days you don't eat breakfast?
- Can you follow your emotional experiences on the days you don't eat breakfast?
- What comes up in your journal as you describe these experiences to yourself?
Joanna Poppink, MFT, Los Angeles eating disorder psychotherapist
*pix CC0 Public Domain Swan eating meadow grass.