Breaking Free from Binge Eating

Featured Podcast Episode
April 22, 2024

Calming the T1D Chaos Series (3 of 3) 
By: Lauren Rapaport

As a teenager, I secretly ate candy and hid the wrappers at the bottom of the trash can. I felt like the worst person in the world for doing so. Feeling nothing but shame, I was convinced there was no worse crime a person could commit. I felt frustrated with the strict way my diet was controlled because of diabetes, and it was my way of lashing out and getting the control back. 

This behavior of “rebelling” with food continued through much of my teens and well into adulthood, swinging from restrictive eating to weekend binges. These weekend binge episodes filled me with shame, feeling useless, and relegated me to the couch for hours afterward. 

Countless hours with therapists, self-help literature, and journaling my thoughts brought me no closer to understanding what was wrong with me. When a friend told me about a binge-eating coach" my life changed forever.

✨ The breakthrough

My breakthrough came when I learned that I was eating as a way of self-soothing or regulating my nervous system. 

Have you ever experienced that buzzy, restless feeling that makes you want to crawl out of your skin, that extra burst of energy that propels you toward the kitchen to grab a midday snack, or that overwhelming drive that you must eat something after everyone else has gone to bed? 

That overwhelming sensation is known as being “activated” or entering fight-or-flight mode. That means your brain has perceived a threat and has sent your nervous system into survival mode (fight, flight, or freeze). I learned that my brain, in a very clever yet automatic way, figured out that eating food soothed or regulated my nervous system when it felt activated. 

The catch, though, is that this relief is fleeting. After binging, it would send me into another survival mode of freeze, leading to hours immobilized on the couch, caught in a spiral of shame. Shame, I learned, is also a biological response to freeze.  I assumed that the sluggish feeling was a result of high blood sugar due to overeating, which only added to my shame and self-blame.

This cycle of stress triggering fight-or-flight, followed by eating to soothe and then freezing in shame, became a relentless loop for years.

✨ Food Freedom

What a relief it was to finally understand the root cause of my pattern. Then, I learned what to do about it.

I learned that I could recognize when I’m activated and instead ask myself what else I could do to regulate my nervous system aside from eating. By finding other ways to feel better, I slowly reduced and almost eliminated my need to binge. This journey has been life-changing.

Check out part one of the Calming the T1D Chaos series for ideas on how to regulate your nervous system. 

✨ In summary

Regulating your nervous system requires daily effort and attention to your body's signals. Though challenging at first, it becomes easier with practice.