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Eating More Than Usual vs. Bingeing & WIAW

Binge eating disorder is a real and serious condition.

Because we’re steeped in diet culture, however, I sadly often hear people say that they have been “bingeing” or that something is seriously, pathologically wrong with their relationship with food when actually what they’re doing is eating more than usual.

Eating more than usual freaks people out. But it’s perfectly okay. Of course you don’t eat the exact same amount every day–that would be either extremely coincidental or highly disordered!

Have you ever met someone who didn’t finish their plate because they weren’t that hungry and then said, “Oh my God I’m restricting. There must be something pathologically wrong with me!” Of course not. So why would we say the same thing about ourselves if we go back for third piece of pizza?

Eating more than usual–in its normal, healthy manifestation–takes many forms. It’s:

  • noticing that you’re more hungry than usual and having a(nother) snack
  • noticing you’re still hungry at a meal and going back for seconds.
  • deciding that the brownies are just so amazingly good that you’re going to have another.
  • going to a potluck with lots of different yummy dishes and deciding to try a number of them.
  • choosing a richer/larger/more filling/more energy-dense item from the menu because it’s what you’re craving.
  • not being totally mindful about your hunger/fullness cues once in a while and stopping when you’re overfull rather than in your ideal fullness sweet spot.
  • eating a meal at a time you’re not accustomed to because of your schedule and then getting quite hungry at a different time and needing a more substantial snack or extra meal.
  • not knowing how many calories/macros are in something and eating it anyway.
  • responding to your emotions once in while by eating comfort food. (Actually not a very effective way to deal with your emotions, but it won’t hurt you.)

All these things are normal, human and really not harmful in any way. Your body is a remarkably flexible and intelligent piece of equipment. It can handle eating less than usual, and it can handle eating more than usual. If you’re a normal, intuitive eater, your weight and size probably won’t even change with day to day fluctuations in intake.

It’s okay to be more hungry than normal. It’s okay to eat for pleasure. And while it’s great to be mindful about our hunger and fullness cues and to eat in response to physical hunger rather than emotional hunger, it’s okay to not be perfectly mindful about our hunger and fullness cues all the time.

I also want to say that recovery from a restrictive eating disorder also involves eating more than usual–a lot more than your usual, and likely even more than what is “usual” for people around you who have never had restrictive eating. Most people recovering from anorexia or bulimia will go through phases of extreme hunger, and your treatment team will tell you to increase your diet a lot. That’s also okay–necessary, even. It doesn’t mean you’ve developed binge eating disorder.

Binge eating is a different beast. In full disclosure, I’ve never had binge eating disorder, nor have I studied it in any formal way, so I’m not going to presume to give you the details about treating and diagnosing binge eating disorder. What I do know about binge eating disorder is that we’re talking about waaaaaaaaay more food than eating seconds at a meal or eating an ice cream cone just because it’s so delicious. And we’re talking about much more serious mental or physiological health problems than not being totally mindful about your physical hunger or eating candy in response to emotional hunger and discovering it didn’t help much.

 

So here’s what I ate on Sunday. It was actually pretty “usual” for me: three meals, three snacks. That’s what I’m hungry for maybe 80% of the time.

Linking up with Jenn‘s WIAW over at Laura’s today.Breakfast: Cheerios with banana and lactose-free milk and chicken sausage. I swear I eat things other than Cheerios with banana for breakfast. You believe me…right?…Elevensies: macadamia nuts and Mandarin oranges.Lunch: Leftover pizza from JJ’s Bar & Grill in Fort Collins. My dietitian wants me to have three things at every meal, including at least one “combo” food. I actually usually do that…just not this day. Lunch was just pizza. It’s okay. I won’t keel over of malnutrition from one less-than-totally-balanced meal. In the morning I ran some errands and then did some baking, and the oven was on, so I heated up this delicious leftover pizza. Pizza reheated in the oven > pizza reheated in the microwave. This one was a gluten-free with spinach, black olives and Italian sausage.Snack: A sunflower chocolate chip chickpea bar. I did a little cleaning in the afternoon, after which I decided to go to the gym because I was feeling antsy and wanted to do a little movement. I’ve been wanting to make these bars ever since I saw Cora rave about them on Instagram. And oh my gosh they’re my new favorite thing. So soft and moist! (And they’re low-FODMAP, too!)Supper: some low-FODMAP Tofu and Eggplant Stir-Fry with Basil, post photoshoot. I had two helpings, partly because I was hungry and partly because there was that awkward amount left that’s not enough for another meal but too much to throw out.Dessert: Moose Tracks ice cream. I was feeling a little bloated in IBS-y in the evening, so this was a bit of an intuitive eating adventure. I decided I was hungry and craving ice cream, got some ice cream, took a few bites, felt suddenly really bloated and queasy, put it back in the freezer, felt hungry again 30 minutes later and went back to finish it.

Good thing intuitive eating is a low-stakes game. I “mess it up” all the time, partly because of my IBS and partly because I’m not perfect. But that’s okay. Intuitive eating is one of those things where your best is good enough. πŸ™‚

 

Does eating more than usual cause you anxiety? How do you manage that anxiety?

What’s your “usual?” Three square meals? Lots of little snacks/mini-meals? etc.

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17 comments

  1. Cora says:

    I’m really sensitive to when people use the term “bingeing,” and don’t actually mean it, or know what they’re talking about. Like you, I have never struggled with binge disorder. Quite the opposite. But I am very aware of the extremities that real binges can have, and it is a very scary thing for anyone struggling with it. I make a very clear point, whenever I’m talking to a councilor or dietician etc about how I’ve been “eating more” to say that I know I’m not bingeing. Of course, when you are recovering from underrating and/or trying to gain weight, it CAN feel close to what you may want to call a binge. Its hard, but important, to differentiate the difference.

    Great post. And YES aren’t Sarah’s sunflower bars awesome?? I love how they turn green. Haha.

    1. Joyce says:

      I love how they turn green, too! I wonder if it’s an oxidation thing.

  2. Emily says:

    It was so difficult for me to discern whether I was binge eating or not in recovery, because sometimes I was really hungry and I ate a LOT (and it felt like binging) and other times I did eat past the point of uncomfortable fullness, and it was really uncomfortable. I’m so thankful God preserved and took me through all of those ups and downs, and I’m thankful to be closer to intuitive eating now than I’ve been in a long time.

    And moose tracks ice cream is some of my favorite!!!

    1. Joyce says:

      Oh my gosh I hear ya! It’s good that you responded to that hunger though. I was so afraid to respond to that extreme hunger for a long time, and I regret it now.

  3. Kat says:

    There is most definitely a difference between binging and just eating more than usual, and I love the clarification here. As someone who has been on both ends of the spectrum – from restricting to binging and purging, I can say that it really is something in the mind that needs to be addressed for each person personally. Eating 3 slices of pizza is NOT binging. Heck, even eating 3 slices of pizza followed by ice cream isn’t binging in my eyes. But we each handle hunger and our perception of it differently.
    I’m just now finally learning to be ok with my hunger and have really begun embracing it as well as the amount of food that comes along with it!

    1. Joyce says:

      Thanks, Kat! I know that this is something you have struggled with, and so I appreciate your input!

  4. I used to say that my usual was a few smaller meals throughout the day. Lately I’ve been sticking to three super hearty meals and less snacks which seems to be working for me lately.
    Those chickpea bars look really good!

    1. Joyce says:

      They’re so good! I highly recommend them. πŸ™‚

  5. I love this post – I find myself binging less and less as I’m eating more and more and nourishing my body with healthy foods.

    Glad I found your blog!

    PS that pizza looks so good πŸ˜› I love black olives on my pizza!

    1. Joyce says:

      It makes complete sense how restriction leads to/aggravates bingeing. Yay for eating enough and nourishing!

  6. Evangeline says:

    Thanks for this. Such an important distinction and a helpful reminder (for me anyway) that eating more than usual is okay and apart of living and eating healthfully. The tofu stir fry looks awesome. I need to make a stir fry soon, and the chickpea bars sound yummy too.

    1. Joyce says:

      I like the way you’ve phrased this Evangeline, and I think you’re right–it’s not just *normal* to eat more than usual on any given day, but it’s healthy too. πŸ™‚

  7. Yes! I think it’s so important to realize that being more hungry than normal is a normal occurrence–mostly because our needs/wants/environment vary regularly and our hunger levels respond to that.
    I haven’t ever been diagnosed with binge eating disorder, but I have experienced some binge-like behaviors as a backlash to restriction and I agree that there’s certainly a difference between eating past your fullness level and bingeing.
    That pizza looks delicious! Also elevensies–love that!

    1. Joyce says:

      Lately my elevensies has been happening at like 9 am because I have to eat breakfast so ding dang early before work–but yes, I always eat elevensies. πŸ˜‰

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  9. Kaylee says:

    When did being hungry become a bad thing anyway?? I recently read Real Life RD’s post on hunger shaming and it got me thinking. So frustrating that our society suppresses hunger, judges it and labels it.
    For me, I think it’s not necessarily an anxiety to eat more than usual but more of a fear of being uncomfortable (..okay so maybe that is low-key anxiety). Trying more and more to just sit in the uncomfortable whether that be physical discomfort or emotional struggles. Everything is temporary after all.
    Love your intuitive eating successes! Also, a big YES to oven-reheated pizza! I did the same thing last week and added more of my own toppings I had around in the fridge. Microwave pizza doesn’t get crispy. And soggy pizza is just sad in my opinion.

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