I am on the train to The Hague Central en route to work. Next to me I hear two women talking. They are going shopping in The Hague today. One woman is telling the other one how she let herself go completely last night. She had had a “huge binge”. Last night she ate a whole box of cookies and she hates the fact that she is binge eating.

What is a binge?

People often think that they suffer from binge eating, but in most cases it is a “subjective binge”. You experience it as a binge because you may have eaten more than planned, but it is not actually part of a real binge. A binge is only a binge if an abnormally large amount is eaten within a short time (half an hour up to a few hours). What is an abnormal amount? This is difficult to determine, but think about the amount of calories that someone would eat in half or even a whole day. When you are on a binge you are eating so much in a short period of time that you are physically unable to eat anymore or feel very sick or nauseous.

Binge eating and emotions

Such a binge comes from experiencing a negative emotion, such as anger or sadness. By building up tension, the urge to eat becomes stronger which is comparable to other addictions. During such a binge, people can no longer stop eating until they are really nauseous. Afterwards the person feels disgusting, dirty and fat. They regret their behaviour and sometimes want to compensate for their binge eating by, for example, being too strict to themselves. However, being too hard on yourself can cause binge eating.

It often starts with small binges that occasionally occur, but increases in quantity and frequency. People who suffer from binge eating often also suffer from depression. The gloomier the mood, the greater the binges. At the same time, binge eating is also more common when the mood is darker. It is estimated that around 160,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from binge eating disorders.

Getting help

If you suffer from binge eating, it is advised to contact your doctor, who can refer you to someone for treatment. Effective treatments for binge eating include cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. These treatments deal with the underlying causes, feelings, behaviors and thoughts. If you suffer from subjective binge eating or if you already want to do something about binge eating, here are tips and tricks:

1. A binge often is the result of some type of emotion. Try to find another way to deal with these emotions. You can do this, for example, by writing down your emotions, go to boxing class or by seeking distraction from your emotions. Sometimes your emotions are just too much and you need a break. Take a break and deal with it later.

2. Share your problem with loved ones. People in your area would like to help you, but you must allow them to do so. It can be very difficult, because there is still a taboo and some sort of shame on talking about binges. Despite the fact that many people have experienced a binge at least once in their life. Even though it is scary, it is good to inform people you trust. This way you can connect them if the urge is high for a binge or they can give you support when you have had a binge.

3. It is important to eat regularly. By dieting strictly or not eating every two hours, the feeling of hunger can increase considerably. Therefore try to eat something every two hours. This means breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition, it is good to eat snacks, such as a banana or nuts. If you don’t allow yourself anything, you are going to want it more. Allow yourself to eat something delicious regularly. Then try to choose a small package of that particular item so that you reduce the chance of binge eating.

4. Try to postpone the binge as much as possible. If you feel the urge to binge drink two glasses of water instead. It is often the case that the urge slowly decreases. Sometimes the body also confuses thirst with hunger, so make sure you drink enough water!

5. Make daily schedules. Binge eating often occurs when there is emptiness. You can feel empty because you have literally not eaten anything. Or you can feel empty because of no social contact. Try to talk to at least one person a day and make a schedule with activities. Also try to plan at least one outdoor exercise.

6. Contact people who are going to the same difficulties as you. Visit the www.buropuur.nl website to find out which organizations are available in your area or online. It’s nice to talk to someone who experiences the same difficulties as you. In addition to the more useful tips you get there, it makes you feel well understood!

Share this post! If this post was insightful for you, share it with your loved ones so that they can better understand what you are going through.
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