Athletes get hungry. Sometimes they need to devour very large portions to satisfy their appetite. Sometimes they binge eat in a way that feels out of control. There’s little doubt that dieting athletes who deny themselves of their favorite foods can easily end up “eating the whole thing.” Emotions also contribute to binges; smothering your feelings with ice cream and chocolate sauce can quickly distract you from pain and sorrow. Fatigue plays a role as well; a tired brain is unlikely to make smart food choices.
If you find yourself routinely binge eating, you want to work with a registered dietitian (RD) who can help you find peace with food. Put aside your shame and embarrassment (RDs have heard this all before), and use the referral network at www. SCAN dpg.org to find a local sports dietitian. This health professional can help you stabilize your eating so you will enjoy better sports performance as well as sanity and less time thinking about food.
If you want to try to resolve binges on your own, here are a few tips gleaned from the book Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It by Rachael Rose Steil.
• Keep notes about your binges. Write down some of the reasons for your binge. Are they emotional? Psychological? Physical (due to extreme hunger)?
• Have you ever tried to find a “cure” for your binge eating? Make a list of everything you have tried. How well did it work?
• If you are binge eating “quality foods” that are nutrient-rich, your body is probably hungry and needs fuel. Give yourself permission to eat these foods—and enough of them to resolve hunger. Don’t stop eating just because you “think you should.”
• Think about a food you desperately wanted but didn’t allow yourself to eat. Could you have enjoyed a small amount of that food when you first craved it—and then observed how it made you feel? (Maybe that donut wasn’t as wonderful as you had thought?)
• Is your “perfect diet” contributing to food obsessions? Write down your fears about eating certain foods? Separate fears from facts.
• Draw a horizontal line and write binge eating on the far left and restricting on the far right. Where do you think you are along this spectrum? How close are you to the middle (eating in a balanced way)? What can you do to work towards that happy medium?
• What would your life look like without thinking about and obsessing over food? Is your binge-eating life consuming? Is your drive for eating a perfect diet actually taking you down the path to self-destruction?
• Write down what you learn from each binge. The binge is not a failure but rather an event you can use as means to better understand yourself and your body, and to move forward.
With best wishes for finding peace with food,