The night time binge pattern goes like this:You got caught in a nightly binge again last night. 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 can escape this pattern.
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, a breakfast habit that sets you up for a night time binge.
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. You don't eat, and you don't want to. But to linger here is to take the bait your eating disorder offers. You are setting yourself up for a nightly 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.
The night time binge collapse
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. Your night time binge takes over. 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 numb feelings and levels of awareness you can't bear by eating.
When you feel no hunger in the morning you may feel free and powerful. 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 a biological imperative to bring in extra calories to protect you from the looming emergency.
The combination is irresistible.
Breakfast habits can help you ward of your night time binge.
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. You stabilize your emotions but do not numb yourself. This is part of recovery work. You develop the ability to tolerate your emotions a little at a time.
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. You earn the trust of your psyche and your body. Like any other relationship, trust needs to be earned. You are developing a healthy relationship with yourself, with your psyche and body.
When your body and mind trusts your caretaking you won't go into a devouring frenzy. Yo won't need a night time binge to protect you from your perceived sense of a life or death situation. Your needs are being met in a calm, reasonable and dependable way. And it's you who are supplying yourself with what you need.
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. Your night time binge lessens as your own personal sense of being alive and vibrant builds.
Your breakfast habit is a powerful influence on how you eat throughout the day. Eating breakfast, despite your lack of hunger, is a powerful move toward ending your night time binge and moving into 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, private practice psychotherapist, Specializing in eating disorders, PTSD and Anxiety recovery.
Licensed in CA, AZ, UT, FL, OR.
Author: Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder
E-mail for free telephone consultation.
*pix CC0 Public Domain Swan eating meadow grass.