National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (2/26-3/4): Binge Eating Coping Mechanisms

03/20/2017 03:47 pm ET
The Conversation

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is over, but these disorders are year-round. Here’s some information on these disorders (binge-eating, specifically), and tips on how to deal with them, from Samantha Skelly, founder of Hungry for Happiness and expert writer for Pro Corner on

What sort of things can cause people to binge eat, and how does that fit in with bulimia and other eating disorders?

We need to first recognize the fact that binge eating is purely an emotional issue. Binge eating happens because there are emotions and needs well deep within our bodies that aren't met at a fundamental level. Since these emotions aren't fulfilled, we look to heal the inner wounds with food, therefore using food as a drug. What most people don't realize is binge eating has nothing to do with lack of willpower. That's a common misconception. The deep-rooted feelings, such as powerlessness, scarcity, and shame, cause this disorder to enhance to social isolation and a perpetuated cycle of bingeing and restriction. The root of all of these eating disorders is self-violence, harming the self due to unmet internal needs. 

Are there a variety of coping exercises, and do different exercises work well with different people?

Most of the time when we think about 'curing' or 'healing' binge eating, it's often limited to behavioral change. Some will prescribe the individual to eat less, exercise more, count calories and so forth. This tactic only makes the issue worse, in fact, when we attack the behavior we only spend more time obsessing over it, therefore worsening the issue. We need to treat emotional issues with emotional solutions. There needs to be a deep-rooted change in belief, therefore the behaviors will respond according to the change. Coping mechanisms work in conjunction with changing the root beliefs. Some focuses on coping include:

Breathe - Breathing is a fantastic coping mechanism. When we can use our breath to manipulate our emotional state, we are able to derail the impulse to use food as a drug. 

Movement - Movement is also a great way to change our states. Each individual needs to take responsibility for the mechanism that works best for them, this process is about exploring what allows the individual body to relax, surrender and connect. 

Connect - Connection with the body is key in healing binge eating. When we are connected, we have communication. When we have communication, we are able to decipher between an emotional hunger cue and a physical hunger cue. When we have this visceral intelligence we can give the body what it's really needing, to address the underlying emotional issue.

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