The Binge Eating Cycle: Breaking Free
We develop patterns of behavior early in life. We start associating certain events with certain behaviors. One such pattern is our behavior with food. Being fed by our parents when we were young may come to represent being cared for or being loved. On the other hand, not being fed when we were hungry may have produced a deep insecurity about whether there would be enough food in the future.
Food can also serve as a distraction. For instance, we may have been told, at the doctor’s office, that if we didn’t cry when we got a shot, we would be rewarded with a lollypop. Therefore, we focused on getting the lollypop instead of feeling the fear or pain of the needle. We effectively blocked the pain and focused on the reward ? the sugar. Is it any wonder, therefore that, later in life, when we experience pain, emotional or physical, we think a candy bar will make us feel better?
We may associate happy occasions, holidays, and celebrations with food. We then look to food to recapture the feelings of togetherness, love and joy that we felt on those special occasions. We may have been told that we could have dessert if we were good or if we ate everything on our plate. Thus, dessert became a reward, an acknowledgment of success. We trudge through a hard day at work, knowing a reward awaits us at the end of the day.
We can also use food to procrastinate; to avoid some action or responsibility that needs to be taken care of or just to get through the mundane, boring tasks of daily life. We may even recognize that food has become our best friend and our source of comfort. But, inside, we feel like we have an empty hole inside us and no amount of food seems to make us feel whole and complete.
We pick up so many associations between food and behavior early in life. Some are life enhancing, and some have become subconscious, core beliefs that interfere with our life today. We may be using food to cope with the stress in our lives. But, in time, our destructive eating behavior actually makes the stress worse. We find that we have less time and less energy.
Because we automatically use food, we cannot discover what is truly disturbing us. If we are not conscious of these associations, the first step in changing them is awareness. We can’t change something if we are not even aware of it.