What Binge Eaters Do When They Crave
By Joan Kent, PhD
Not every binge eater has binge-eating disorder (BED). But even binge eaters who binge less frequently than people with BED, or on less food, may struggle to control their eating.
That can be especially true when holiday treats – and holiday stresses – are all around us.
My PhD research was on women with BED. Before that, I ran a class for women who didn't necessarily have BED but still binged at times. They longed to change their eating behaviors. The class was called Food & Eating Recovery.
This post is on how binge eaters deal with cravings.
Binges and Cravings Were Familiar to Me
If you've read my book Stronger Than Sugar – or if you read my articles regularly – you know I'm a recovered sugar addict. In the bad old days, I did plenty of bingeing, most of it triggered by sugar.
I've also resisted many cravings. They showed up frequently. I wanted sugar almost all the time back then, but was able to resist most cravings for most of the day. (But not all days.) No doubt that helped me limit the number of binges.
My dissertation included lots of evidence that eating sugar triggers binges. That was certainly true in the group that did not eliminate sugar during the 8 weeks of the study.
What I Learned Was News to Me
When the topic of cravings came up in the Food & Eating Recovery class, we talked about resisting cravings. I figured everyone would relate to that because they'd done it, too.
Was I wrong!
Most of the women in the class stared at me as if I'd just spoken Klingon. The notion of ignoring a craving was foreign to them. When they craved a food, they ate it.
Did That Affect Their Weight & Health?
It did. As you might imagine, the women in Food & Eating Recovery who gave in to their cravings were overweight. In many cases, they were obese and had metabolic conditions or other health issues. My research showed that sugar has a lot to do with weight and health.
Most of the cravings were for sugary foods. The sugary foods the women ate when they craved were also typically high in fat.
Why? Studies of "sweetness ratings" show that fat makes sugar taste sweeter. That may be one reason a craving for sugar will lead to ice cream or brownies, rather than a roll of Lifesavers.
Of course, fat adds extra calories. But that isn't all.
Sugar also triggers the release of a brain chemical – endorphin – that increases appetite. So giving in to a sugar craving was likely to result in a high-calorie episode. Sometimes – or often – it was a full-fledged binge.
Because sugar's so addictive, many women in Food & Eating Recovery were hooked on it. When they tried to go without it, they'd have more cravings. And, not surprisingly, more sugar, more fat, and/or more binges.
What's the Best Way to Handle Cravings?
If you're feeling tough enough, you might try resisting – for as much of the day as you can. It can help with weight control and health.
But that may not work for you. I've previously posted an effective, short-term solution for cravings: a teaspoon of liquid B-complex. (Please check with your doctor before trying this.)
For a long-term solution that will eliminate cravings completely, changing your diet is probably the answer. I can help you make it easy. Just visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and request your free Empowered Eating Consult. Find out how simple it can be to get free of cravings – and how great you'll feel once you're completely in control of your food and eating.
Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Mood, and Transform Your Health.