The Top Reason People Binge: Hunger
Hunger is the number one reason people binge.
This seems like an obvious statement, but it is something that many people do not think about.
When you are hungry, your body goes into “survival mode” and the logical part of your brain shuts down.
You become focused on obtaining food, and you will do anything to get it. This can lead to dangerous behaviors, such as binge eating.
In this article, we will explore the reasons why hunger causes people to binge and what can be done to prevent it.
Ravenous hunger is the top reason people binge
Have you ever experienced ravenous hunger?
Of course you have! Every human has experienced tremendous hunger before.
I’m talking about when you haven’t eaten in 5+ hours and your belly is gurgling, growling and all you can think about is food.
When you are ravenously hungry, your body is in “survival mode.” This means that the logical part of your brain shuts down and you become obsessed with obtaining food.
Your body is trying to tell you that it needs nourishment, and it will do anything to get it.
This can lead to dangerous behaviors, such as binge eating.
Binge eating is defined as eating an excessive amount of food in a short period of time.
It is often done in secret and is followed by feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment.
Binge eating can be triggered by many things, but the most common trigger is hunger.
Why your body overheats when ravenously hungry
For most of human evolution, starvation and childbirth were the top two reasons people died.
This is why your body perceives ravenous hunger as a survival threat.
While most people reading this piece on the internet have access to food, when your body is ravenously hungry your brain stops thinking.
So even though a “part” of you knows that you can quickly get food at the supermarket, the emotional / animal part of your brain thinks differently.
I’m worried that you’re dying of starvation!
In fact, whenever you are in life or death situations your brain will shut down your thinking mind and automatic reflexes take over.
This is why people who experience trauma will go into shock. Shock is the body’s automatic way of shutting down.
While bingeing and shock are different, there are similarities. In both cases your brain shuts down and you react automatically.
Read about why your “brain’s reactions to food rewards may predict overeating” in this Lukor article.
What about emotional reasons causing binge eating?
Sometimes emotional reasons like perfectionism, rebellion, stress, and boredom can cause binge eating.
Often these emotional reasons contribute to hunger.
For example, if you’re bored you may not eat all day and then overeat at night.
Or if you’re stressed you may not have an appetite all day, but then feel the need to “comfort eat” at night.
These emotional reasons can cause ravenous hunger and lead to binge eating.
Of course, many people binge even when they are not hungry.
But in my 10 years of experience, I’ve found many times the emotional reasons combine with hunger. And often it’s just pure hunger behind the bingeing!
How to deal with hunger cravings
There are a few things that you can do to prevent hunger from causing you to binge.
First, eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day.
This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent you from getting too hungry.
If more than 5 hours go by without eating this drastically increases your odds of binge eating.
Yet if you eat every few hours this will help tremendously.
Try to aim for 3 meals and 1-2 snacks as a guideline.
This means breakfast, lunch and dinner for your meals and then 1 snack at least, often after lunch.
Second, feel satisfied after eating
This will help you avoid getting so famished that you end up binging.
So even if you eat, that’s not quite enough. Your food needs to make you feel satisfied afterwards!
Many people describe satisfaction like this:
“I’m no longer hungry but I could eat more if I wanted to.” Or “I’m not stuffed or bloated, but I feel good.”
To achieve satisfaction you need to include a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates at each meal.
You also need to chew your food well and eat slowly.
This allows your body to register that you’re eating and start releasing satiety hormones.
Satiety hormones are like a brake pedal for hunger. They help you feel satisfied after eating.
What does satisfaction feel like to you?
Third, drink plenty of water throughout the day.
This will help fill your stomach and make you less likely to overeat.
I recommend drinking at least 64 ounces (or half a gallon) of water per day.
You can also drink herbal tea, bone broth or sparkling water to help you stay hydrated.
Fourth, try not to skip meals.
Skipping meals can make you so hungry that you end up binging.
If you are trying to lose weight, eat smaller portions or choose healthier foods instead of skipping meals altogether.
It’s better to eat something than nothing at all!
If you are prone to skipping meals due to business, please consider finding a protein supplement so that you can conveniently get at least some sustenance during the day.
Fifth, make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to overeating.
When you’re tired your body craves sugar and high-carb foods for energy.
You may also have trouble resisting food cravings when you’re tired.
So aim for at least eight hours of sleep per night.
If you follow these tips you’ll be less likely to binge eat due to hunger.
Of course, sometimes we do get ravenous and end up overeating anyway.
But if you can make hunger less of a trigger for binge eating, you’ll be well on your way to recovery!
Hunger is the number one reason people binge. While emotional reasons can contribute to binge eating, hunger is often the root cause.
We hope you enjoy our five tips for dealing with hunger cravings and preventing them from leading to binges.
Following these tips will help you stay on track with your goals and maintain a healthy relationship with food.
Jared Levenson is the coach and writer behind Eating Enlightenment, a 4 year old blog focusing on intuitive eating and nutrition. Jared lived for 13 months in a Zen Buddhist monastery and is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.