Emotional Triggers and Binge Eating

Emotional Triggers and Binge Eating

What is causing this behaviour?


Discovering the issue at hand

I have a client who has been training with me for a few years now, albeit rather inconsistently.  For this situation, I will call her Tina.  Tina is overweight and still needs to lose a good few stone in weight.  She also has numerous injuries which hinder her daily functional life.  Tina suffers from problems with her back, hips and knees and for a very long time, I’ve focused on rehabilitation physio exercises to strengthen those areas.  The other day, something struck me, something uneasy about what I was doing with Tina.  As we were going through the paces of our physio exercises, I decided to wear my therapist hat and delve into a bit of psychology.  I thought about why she wasn’t losing as much weight as I would have liked.  Tina lost a bit of weight in the past, and its slowly creeping back on to her original weight.  I gave her a meal plan, tips and tricks on how to manage her food in accordance with her lifestyle.

Weight Loss and all the baggage that goes with it

I came to the realisation that if I were to focus a bit more on her weight loss and nutrition, the relief on her back, hips and knees would be immediate, not to mention her self worth would improve.  After getting a bit of weight off, we could probably move away from the physio and increase the intensity of the exercise.  I asked her how she was getting on with her meal plan and she sighed and admitted that she has the occasional binge and finds it difficult to eat healthy while juggling such a busy job.  The word “binge” set off a couple of alarm bells.  I asked her when she tends to have these binges and more importantly, why.

The emotional trigger revealed

Tina confided to me that the reason she goes on these binges is because when she was a child, her mother used to punish her by sending her to her room with no food and no water the whole day and whole night.  She used to be starving before she went to bed.  This past experience has stayed with her to this day.  Every few weeks, her husband is away overnight for work, she feels lonely, bored and chooses this time to indulge in her binge.  Afterwards, she feels awful and regrets it straight away.  She revealed that the binges are the result of her childhood punishment and her fear that if she doesn’t eat as much food as possible in that moment, there will be nothing left for her.  Tina knows that what she does is wrong, that she will regret it as soon as its over.

Solutions to the emotional triggers

I thought long and hard about what I can do to help her overcome this overwhelming urge that she cannot fight on her own.  So I decided to give her a simple homework/task when that time comes when her husband is away.  I told her to prepare some healthy food for the purpose of not only consuming it but to make me a 10 page healthy cookbook.  I told Tina that the cookbook has to be 10 recipes, with photos and a list of all ingredients.  By giving her such a project, I am hoping that this task directs her mind away from the impulse to binge.  By having this new hobby to fulfil for me, the excitement to do a good job will hopefully prevent her from relapsing.

With emotional triggers which can cause overeating, one of the best things to do to try and overcome it is to try to redirect your mind to something totally different.  It is something I feel with a bit of effort, can be done slowly but surely.

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