If you struggle with binge eating, have you ever asked yourself: could it be my thoughts that trigger binge eating? According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), our behaviors stem from our thoughts. Therefore, if the goal is to stop binge eating, we must start by taking an honest look at our thoughts. Below are the six common thoughts that can trigger binges and why. How many of these do you find yourself thinking?
I'll be better tomorrow
Why this can trigger a binge: If I believe I have done something wrong with food today (maybe I go as far as telling myself I've been ‘bad' today), I am automatically going to go into f-it mode and eat everything I can, so I do not do this again tomorrow. This is otherwise known as the ‘what-the-hell' effect. Therefore, the thought I'll be better tomorrow could trigger binge eating.
A helpful reframe: I didn't do anything wrong today.
I blew it
Why this can trigger binge eating: Just like I'll be better tomorrow thought, if I believe I have done something wrong with food today, I will likely feel shame and spiral into ‘might as well keep eating.'
A helpful reframe: I am learning.
I won't do this again tomorrow
Why this can trigger a binge: When we tell ourselves we won't do this again tomorrow, we are implying that we did something wrong today and that this behavior shouldn't be repeated in the future. If we relay this to food and connect eating cookies as something ‘I won't do again tomorrow' – a scarcity mindset is activated and could trigger binge eating.
A helpful reframe: What can I learn from this?
I'll just eat less tomorrow
Why this can trigger binge eating: If I have a limit on what I am allowed to eat tomorrow (or not allowed to eat tomorrow) because of what I ate today, I have new rules that determine my worth. Therefore if I break this rule and don't eat less tomorrow, I will likely binge because ‘f-it, I'll be better tomorrow.'
A helpful reframe: My food choices today do not determine my future choices.
Eating this means I can't have that later
Why this can trigger a binge: Whenever I bargain, I am restricted. Whether I want the food later or not, I have told myself I can't have it. I'll likely want it. And the more I restrict myself, the more I feel deprived. It is only a matter of time before I crack.
A helpful reframe: There is no ‘can't.' I can decide whether or not I want that later.
This will be the last time I binge.
Why this can trigger binge eating: This implies that binge eating is in your control when it is not. Binge eating is a biological response to restriction. Therefore, as long as the restriction continues, so will binge eating, regardless of if you want to stop. This thought is a recipe for a shame spiral and continued restriction, which fuels binges.
A helpful reframe: I am going to learn from this binge.
As I’ve said so many times over and over, the problem is NOT THE FOOD, and so focusing on the food is only going to get you so far! When you start focusing on your MIND.. that’s where the real change happens.
If you are struggling with binge eating, I want you to know you are not alone. The more you can get curious about what is causing the binge eating, rather than blaming or judging yourself for the binge eating, the closer you will get to recovery and healing!