It’s common to think that you just don’t have willpower around food. It’s common to label some foods as good and others as bad. It’s common to try to think your way out of binge eating and compulsive overeating with more rules, restrictions and plans. Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s normal or healthy. When you stop looking for that external fix and start looking under the food and doing the internal work you discover many things. A recent discovery I had is that binge eating was a symptom of not taking up space in other areas of my life. Binge eating manifested as a way to have presence, as a way to be seen.
Do you find you try to hide in the back of the room in classes? Do you avoid speaking in front of groups of people and feel anxiety build at the thought of having to stand up in front of others to speak? Do you have trouble using your voice or speaking up about certain things? Do you let others treat you unfairly because you’re too afraid to rock the boat? Do you hate having attention directed your way and avoid being the centre of attention at all costs?
It’s likely you learned as a young child that taking up space, having presence and using your voice would get you into trouble. That could mean you would be yelled at, punished or ridiculed and as a child this is scary. Our nervous system reacts thinking we’re in danger and learns that being quiet, small and staying out of the way will keep us safe. Being seen and speaking our truth is important though and as time goes on this tries to come out in other ways. Binge eating is one of those ways that we can increase our presence.
So if this is one of the reasons you experience binge eating as a symptom, what can you do? It’s important to start practicing taking up space in your life and using your voice. One thing that helped me was finding strength training. I was literally making my body bigger by increasing my muscle mass and making myself stronger. This felt damn empowering after years of trying to make myself smaller! I ate to fuel my body and expressed my presence with my physical body. This won’t be for everyone, but I find so many women that have used exercise to try to beat their bodies into skinny submission find building muscle empowering.
It’s just as important that building muscle doesn’t turn into a physique focus again because this can lead you down a spiral of chasing a look of leanness. Focusing on what your body can do instead of what it looks like helps you break free from that mindset. Building muscle can look like Crossfit, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, natural movement, kettle bell training and even a physical yoga practice. This might not be your jam and that’s okay, it’s just something I found personally helped me.
Another thing that helped me was starting to use my voice. I did this on my social platforms as I began speaking about body image, disordered eating and self-love. You don’t have to start with putting your thoughts all over the internet though. You can start with writing them in a journal. From there you can expand to start sharing with your friends and maybe even your family. Another great thing you can do is to take singing lessons or just plan a karaoke night once a week to use your voice. If singing isn’t your thing, maybe stand up comedy is or poetry. Whatever it is that resonates with you, just start and allow yourself to open up and be vulnerable.
Funny enough getting quiet also helped me. By this, I mean getting out of my head and into my body so that I could connect to my highest self. When I was struggling with binge eating I was so stuck in my head and rarely had an opinion on things other than food rules and exercise. All I knew was about all the information I was taking in on how to change my body, but when it came to other things in life I couldn’t meaningfully contribute to a conversation. I was stuck in the same constant thought patterns over and over again. By doing things like meditation, breath work and even yoga I was able to get into my body and actually notice how I was feeling.
Yoga helped me realize I could feel damn amazing in my body without changing my physical appearance. Early on it was the only 60-90 minutes of my day where I could become completely present as I focused on my Ujjayi breath and linked it to the flow of poses. Some days it still is the only time I notice myself completely present. Becoming present and mindful and connected is a practice and this journey takes time. There are no quick fixes when it comes to healing your relationship with food and your body. It took you years of conditioning and it will take years to undo that and recondition yourself with new tools that will support you. That being said, you will notice changes quicker the more fully you surrender control and consistently practice.
Can you look at your life and see where binge eating may have manifested as a way to have presence in your life? Where are you avoiding taking up space and pushing your voice down? Working on these things can help you get rid of the symptom of binge eating. As always I recommend working with a coach or psychologist to help you look under the food and do the inner work. I currently have 2 spots available in my 12 week EAT FROM LOVE Journey for women in which we dive into this inner work. If this resonates for you I’d love to hop on a free call with you. Just send an email to Richelleludwig@empoweredvitality.com.