Podcast

091. Binge Eating Recovery with Dietary Restrictions: ‘How do I recover if I DO have to restrict foods for medical reasons?’

091. Binge Eating Recovery with Dietary Restrictions: ‘How do I recover if I DO have to restrict foods for medical reasons?’

July 27, 2022

I’m Ryann.
A not-so-average therapist obsessed with all things mental wellness who overcame 7 years of binge eating and found food freedom. Now, I'm teaching you all my secrets!
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Answering the question: Hi Ry! I am in recovery, but really struggling because I have celiac disease. And I DO have to restrict gluten. How do I continue in my recovery when I have a legit dietary restriction? The more I try to stop eating gluten, the more I binge on it. And then not only do I feel sick post-binge, I feel really sick because of the gluten. Help!

This is a great question; I want to break it down together. But, first, let's start with a foundational knowledge of how behavior forms. 

The way behavior forms is…  Trigger > Thought > Emotion > Behavior > Reward 

What does this tell us? First, our behaviors don't come out of thin air; it starts with how we think about different triggers. 

Right now, being around food you are intolerant to is the trigger. This means managing this food trigger while in recovery comes down to how you THINK about this trigger. I will use gluten as an example because that is the one I get asked about most often.  

Scenario 1: engaging with a restrictive thought

  1. Trigger: Gluten Upsets my stomach 
  2. Thought: I can't have gluten (I can't have bread, pasta, crackers) 
  3. Feel: Restrictive, Deprived, Sad, Isolation
  4. Behavior: eat, binge, cope
  5. Result: Binge, behavior continues, the cycle continues, shame. 

Scenario 2: reframing a restrictive thought to an allowance thought

  1. Trigger: Gluten Upsets my stomach 
  2. Thought: I can't have gluten (I can't have bread, pasta, crackers) 
  3. *Insert: ‘OP NOT THINK LIKE THAT' 
  4. New Thought: I CAN have gluten, knowing it upsets my stomach. Do I want it right now? 
  5. Feel: Empowered, calm, curious 
  6. Behavior: let it go; you choose without judgment, you decide what feels best for you, no shame. 
  7. Result: no binge, listen to the body, choose what feels best 

When you tell yourself you can't have something (even if that makes you sick), you immediately trigger psychological Rebellion.

This is similar to a kid in a toy store being told not to touch the toys. What do they IMMEDIATELY want to do? Feel the toys. Our brain is conditioned to connect things we cannot have to exclusivity and scarcity. This means we instantly believe they have more value (even if that isn't true). And even if having these things creates discomfort. 

Reframes To Help With Your Thinking

So if you struggle with binge eating and you have a legitimate dietary restriction, we need to change the way you think about foods with your dietary restriction. Because the reality is you CAN have any food you want. You absolutely can. There are just different consequences for different foods you eat. So instead of ‘I can't have x' – let's remove can't from your vocabulary entirely and use these reframes instead: 

  • I CAN have this food, knowing it upsets my stomach. Do I want it right now? 
  • I CAN have this food, thinking about what I have going on for the rest of the day and how this food usually makes me feel. Do I want it right now? 
  • I CAN have this food. Is the stomachache worth it today? 
    • Want to add this in because there might be times where it is!! There might be times when you are out with friends or a loved one OR celebrating your child's birthday where you want to enjoy some of the cake with them – and the stomachache IS worth it. The difference with this thought is that you consciously make and own that decision. 

*Sneaky Food Rule Check: if you have food intolerances and dietary restrictions, let's double check none of these are sneaky food rules or reactions to the stress and anxiety you are having around food. 

To Summarize

If you have a legit dietary restriction and you're in recovery, we have to change the way you think. 

What if instead of: I can have *insert food* > We try: I CAN have *insert food*, knowing how this makes me feel – do I want it right now? 

No right or wrong. 

No good or bad. 

Just a choice! 

What might happen if you worked on your thoughts around these foods? What might happen if you change the way you think about these foods? What might happen if all foods are allowed, and YOU choose what to eat based on how you want to feel?

You don't know until you try! 

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