Nearly every self-help book or article I’ve read on binge eating disorder or food addiction has a section to help the reader decide if he or she really has binge eating disorder, compulsive overeating disorder or is a «food addict».
Often there’s a checklist with questions like, «Do you eat more than you intended more than 3 times per week?» Or «Do you hide how much you eat?»
These books or articles are often written by someone that has no personal experience with binge eating, or by people who believe in addictive disease. By asking questions like this, in their opinion, they’re setting you up to conclude you have a problem.
In my own opinion, I prefer to take an opposite angle: if you aren’t sure you have a problem with eating, you probably don’t. If you do have a problem or struggle with it, you’re aware of it.
I am not going to post information or spend time in my books or programs teaching you what binge eating, compulsive overeating or food addiction is. It’s different for everyone. If you feel you have a problem, you are well aware that you need to seek support for it. It would be arrogant of me to label you as someone that has a problem if you strongly believe you do not.
However, if you’re reading this and suspect you have an issue with overeating regularly, then you likely do have an issue to address.
I’m guessing your assumption is based on your experience with overeating food on a fairly regular basis, or often thinking that you know you’ll «cave in» and feel like you can’t stop eating.
You’re probably engaged in an internal debate about what to do: to eat less at certain times, to try to find a diet with food that you won’t want to overeat, to eat «safe» foods only in case you do overeat, etc. This conflict or indecision fits my definition of having an «issue» with food such that it’s not making you happy.
When learning about symptoms of binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating disorder, it can be easy to take on the label of «disorder» and see yourself as someone that’s afflicted with a «disorder.»
Because taking on the concept that you have a disorder and your binge eating is a symptom of it, a great responsibility can be lifted from your shoulders.
I remember thinking this when I was dealing with anorexia, and later bulimia, and then binge eating. I saw myself as someone with a disorder I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. It was this «thing» that was a part of me and required constant management.
Taking on this idea that I had a lifelong eating «disorder» that merely had changed forms, no longer did it seem like I was behaving stupidly and blindly. No longer did I feel an urgent need to quit binge eating, or to beat myself up for being weak. I was simply doing what people with eating disorders do.
While it’s certainly helpful to recognize if you have a problem with food, there’s a step that follows that will be what keeps you stuck or helps you overcome the issue: taking action. By seeing that there’s something that doesn’t make you happy, you now have a world of possibilities that can open up because you can choose to take new actions that WILL lead to you being happy.
You can work on developing your ability to recognize your conflicting thoughts around wanting to eat and wanting to feel in control. Those conflicting thoughts are the result of two parts of your brain in conflict… your «primal» animal brain and your «higher» logical brain.
When you can distinguish between the two parts and understand the motivations behind each, you quickly gain leverage on yourself and can overcome the behavior you are unhappy with.
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