Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Binges vs. Cravings

e3 Report: Binges vs. Cravings by Coach Anjo So what is the difference between binges and cravings? Before we begin, we’ll need a clearer understanding on what’s happening when you’re experiencing binge eating. We’ll first conduct a binge analysis to identify the cue(s), or trigger(s). An episode of binge eating is triggered by one of three specific situations: 1) Breaking a dietary rule and reacting by temporarily abandoning your control over the diet. (i.e. “I messed up. I failed. I might as well give up.”) 2) Under-eating — individuals who are persistently or intermittently under-eating are under strong psychological pressure to eat (i.e. “I NEED to follow these rules in order to be in control. I have to!”) 3) Being triggered by an external event or adverse mood (i.e. “I can’t stand feeling like this…I REALLY can’t stand feeling like this….I REALLY CAN’T STAND FEELING LIKE THIS.”) Although it may seem like it, binges don’t just pop up out of the blue. In actuality, they are a product of one or more of these well defined processes. So in other words, binges are reactions to some irrational thought process. Either 1) we broke a rule and labeled ourselves a failure, 2) we feel so much pressure to not eat or avoid specific foods that it builds up and builds up until we can’t stand it and eat, or 3) we experience a negative emotion that we have no ability to tolerate so we eat. Are you relating to any of these binge triggers? If not, or maybe this doesn’t quite fit for you, then you may be experiencing something similar, yet very different. And that something is intense cravings. Cravings are no laughing matter. Cravings can make us feel compelled to overeat. The difference between “normal” overeating and binges is the amount of food consumed. And with binges, you’ll feel as if you’ve lost all control. With cravings, we feel an overwhelming desire to eat something but it is for the most part “satisfied” when we indulge. There are four specific situations that could trigger cravings and these triggers are less about irrational thought processes and more about environmental and emotional cues. The triggers are as follow: 1) Physical triggers (i.e. tiredness, headaches, hunger) 2) Emotional triggers (i.e. stress, boredom, worry, frustration) 3) Social or Positive triggers (i.s. parties, holidays, events, celebrations) 4) Environmental stimulus triggers (i.e. seeing a fast food restaurant, smelling freshly baked bread, finding your favorite junk food in the cupboard) In the most basic terms, cravings are triggered in order to receive some reward. If we are tired and eat, then we feel better. If we feel stressed and eat, then we feel relief. If we are at a party and don’t want to be different and eat, then we feel comforted. If we see a Five Guys and are reminded of those delicious burgers and fries and eat, then we feel good. This overwhelming compulsion to eat may be a reaction to the desire to feel good. A desire to comfort, soothe or relax yourself (they don’t call it comfort food for nothing, right?). This compulsion can be very strong and can completely overwhelm our logical and rational thoughts. It can feel as though we are on “auto-pilot.” Repeated use of food to feel better actually changes our neural circuitry. We become conditioned to seek out highly rewarding foods, like fast food or candy, in order to feel good. THIS. IS. HABIT. So what do we do now that we are self aware of what triggers binges and cravings? Self-empowerment! (Remember what the three e’s from e3 stands for? Energy, Education, and Empowerment!) So, in order for us to move forward we need to be clear if we are experiencing a binge cycle that is perpetuated by an irrational thought process OR are we experiencing overwhelming cravings for food in an attempt to feel better as part of a habit. Perhaps both? Once we understand what it is that triggers us to binge and/or crave, we must then systematically change our approach and mindset and avoid and/or prevent the triggers from occurring. Preparation is key. Healthy habit developments are needed. And positive mind setting is crucial. Binges and cravings can be prevented.