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Breaking Free from Emotional Eating: A Guide to Improving Mental Health and Beating Binge Eating

Binge eating can impact mental health in a profound way. It causes emotional distress as binge eating episodes are often associated with intense feeling of guilt, shame and distress. Individuals may feel a lack of control during these episodes and some people talk about being in a trance-like state during a binge episode.

woman sitting pensive sad

Binge eating disorder frequently coexists with other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, or substance abuse. The relationship between these conditions can be bidirectional, where one condition may exacerbate the other.

Binge eating can be linked to negative body image perceptions and low self-esteem. Individuals may experience dissatisfaction with their body shape or weight, leading to a cycle of negative thoughts and behaviours.

Binge eating behaviours might lead to social withdrawal or isolation due to embarrassment or fear of judgment. This can further exacerbate feelings of loneliness and contribute to the cycle of binge eating.

Binge eating can become a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, negative emotions, or trauma. The act of overeating might temporarily alleviate emotional discomfort, but it often leads to more distress in the long run.

Binge eating disorder can interfere with daily activities, relationships, work, and overall quality of life. It can hinder one's ability to function optimally and enjoy life to the fullest.

The Physical Consequences of Binge Eating

Binge eating and binge eating disorder predispose individuals to metabolic syndrome a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is characterised by a combination of factors, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels, elevated blood sugar, and increased waist circumference.

woman eating burger

The presence of metabolic syndrome can significantly heighten the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Moreover, individuals with binge eating disorders might be at an increased risk for developing earlier-onset diabetes and experiencing more severe complications associated with diabetes due to the impact of both the binge eating behaviour and the resulting metabolic disturbances on the body.

It's essential for individuals experiencing binge eating or binge eating disorder to seek professional help not only to address their eating patterns but also to mitigate the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome and the subsequent health complications that may arise.

Strategies for overcoming binge eating and redefine the relationship with food

It is critical to address dietary deficits. The secretion of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, can be affected by low nutritional levels, which can enhance the drive to seek food. Stabilising hunger cues and regulating the impulse to binge eat can be greatly helped by prioritising a balanced diet and satisfying nutritional requirements. Essential fatty acid deficiencies also contribute to hormone production, healthy skin and hair, absorption of vitamins, brain and concentration functions, and protection from cancer and heart disease.

Thyroid or reproductive hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, poor blood sugar management, and increased cravings and bingeing can all be treated by addressing underlying biological imbalances. Another issue is that low levels of serotonin, often called the "happy hormone," cause problems with mood and appetite regulation. Incorporating essential nutrients like magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, and chromium into the diet will help raise it by providing the body with the building blocks and co-factors it needs.

Improving your gut health to help with binge eating

Digestive health is important for digestion and absorption of all nutrients the body needs for optimal function. Therefore, close attention needs to be paid to optimising digestion at various stages including gut health.

Binge eating can be often accompanied by various digestive symptoms ranging from feeling uncomfortably full to bloating, abdominal, pain, nausea, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), where people experience general chronic abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea and/or constipation might be present. 

Its also worth exploring the presence of food allergies and intolerances, which might be contributing to physical, emotional, and mental health difficulties. 

Reversing negative thought patterns to improve your relationship with food

Uncovering and exploring various emotional and psychological factors that contribute to the maintenance of binge eating, such as examining thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours related to food and eating. This exploration often involves tracing these patterns back to childhood experiences surrounding food, which can significantly impact one's relationship with eating habits.

Building healthy coping mechanisms with the aim to developing a balanced approach to food and eating

  • Mindfulness and stress reduction techniques

  • Helping to create an environment conductive to recovery such as supportive relationships and being part of a caring community

A nutritionist specialising in the relationship with food and eating disorders can help to address nutritional, biochemical imbalances, and provide support for various body systems including digestive/gut health. Moreover, they offer invaluable assistance in tackling the emotional and psychological factors that perpetuate cravings, urges, and binge eating behaviours.

Recovery from binge eating is possible and requires and multi-faceted approach. Seeking professional help and support from a nutritionist who understands the complexities of one’s relationship with food and can help to address the psychological and physical level is key. This approach doesn't revolve around starting another diet but centres on redefining the food relationship, prioritising health, and nurturing the mind and body in a holistic manner.

If you would like to discuss anything you've read in this blog in relation to your own concerns around your relationship with food, then please book a call with our Eating Disorder and Obesity specialist.

Irina Pollastri

Registered Nutritional Therapist, Health Coach, Eating Disorder and Obesity Specialist


Irina has a special interest in eating disorders and disordered eating, such as binge eating, bulimia, chronic dieting, restrictive eating, emotional eating, and poor relationship with food in general. To provide support in these areas and any co-occurring health conditions, Irina offers a personalised approach, which combines nutritional, behavioural, and psychological interventions.

At The Natural Balance we do not attempt to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional issues. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have read on this website. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your primary health care provider.
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