The difficulty about recovering from an eating disorder – and what separates it from other mental illnesses – is that you cannot not have a relationship with food in life. When it comes to Binge Eating Disorder, recovery is about redefining our relationship to food; understanding the role that food, or bingeing, plays in our life, and exploring how the eating disorder might be ‘serving’ us in some way. Often, we can find that there are more complex, underlying emotional causes that might be prompting us to engage in a binge/restrict cycle with food. Here, our Psychotherapist, Justine, shares her expertise around the experience of cravings in recovery from Binge Eating Disorder:
One of the biggest challenges for those who have a binge eating disorder is cravings.
One method to curb them is to ask yourself:
What am I really hungry for?
What is my craving actually about?
What is it really for?
Cravings can be an attempt to avoid difficult feelings you may be resistant to experience.
This resistance can be caused by fear based upon past experiences that you may have not had the capacity or safe space to experience and process. Therefore, it is often difficult to stay present in the sensations or feelings experienced in that moment.
To be able to do that, we need to learn skills that enhance our ability to do so – skills which will allow us to connect to our body, and feelings which arise within ourselves.
Craving can be a longing for a different experience in life: it can be a small voice of our true, authentic self telling us that in this particular moment, there is something off. This often happens when we have been living in taught dogmas, social or familial conditioning, that have inadvertently led us to abandon our needs and desires, ultimately restricting ourselves.
So, what can support us in these moments?
One indicator that you have been healing from binge eating disorder is having the ability to reflect: reflect in a way we relate to ourselves, others and life itself.
When our heart resides in a place of compassion and not from control or rigid boundaries (i.e. restricting), we have the skills and awareness to set sensible boundaries, stay present with our feelings, and know and be able to express our needs, longings and desires.
Some helpful tools that can support you include:
- Knowing that the real hunger is not for food, but something else, ask yourself a question: “what am I hungry for?”, “what do I really crave for”?
- Locating the craving in the body, exploring its physical sensations, and drawing a picture of that craving and exploring who this part of myself really is and asking that part “why are you here and what are you trying to protect me from”
- If you are crafty, you might consider doing a puzzle, or needling or something creative
- Calling a friend and talking about it – social supports and reaching out to another human be can be helpful
- Write a gratitude list, asking yourself: what am I grateful for in my life at this moment?
- Nature: going for a walk, spending more time in the outdoors
- Checking in with yourself if you need, to sit more in your reflective moments
- Understanding that cravings come and go