The Restrict & Binge Cycle: Understanding the Dangers

Binge Restrict

When discussing eating disorders, many automatically assume anorexia or bulimia but these are not always the case. In the age of dieting, a new and more common form of disordered eating has come into play, the binge restrict cycle. With dieting comes restriction, and with restriction comes binging, leading to an endless cycle between the two.

Restricting and Binging

What is Restricting? Restricting is a condition in which you cut out something from your diet or do not allow yourself to eat more than a certain amount.

What is Binging? Binging occurs when you eat more than a usual amount in one sitting leading one to make themselves feel sick or overly full.

Most diets such as Weight Watchers, Calorie counting, or Atkins require that you restrict something whether it be the amount of food you eat or a certain type of food. This restricting action leads your body to want more of this “forbidden” food leading to eventually giving in and eating 2-3x more of this food than you usually would due to the fact that you restricted yourself from this. After going through this binge restrict cycle over and over again, your brain begins to label certain foods as bad or good and you eventually build a relationship with food that is toxic.

The Perils of Restricting

In the eating disorder treatment world, this is becoming more and more common of an issue causing professionals to have to fix not only the restricting issue but also the binging issue and bring the client back into a normalized eating pattern. Each client has their own form of a normalized eating pattern, but in general, this term means eating what you feel like when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. Toddlers have this ability and this is why most of the time, toddlers are at a normal weight because their hunger cues are strong and have not been tampered with.

The minute someone begins a diet and starts to engrain the restricting concept into their mind, they distance themselves farther and farther from their natural eating cues causing them to develop a disordered eating pattern. Scientific studies have shown that people who eat multiple smaller meals a day were less likely to binge whereas those who ate only a few meals a day, had more frequent binge episodes. Some people can diet and not restrict as much and lose weight in a gradual and healthy way. The ones being discussed in this blog are people who restrict at extreme weights to try and lose weight at a rapid pace causing them to eventually give in to the restriction and binge eat.

If you tell someone they cannot have something, chances are, they are going to want it even more, so when you tell yourself you can’t have a certain food, your body is going to want it increasingly more, leading you to eat more than you would before.  Restricting and binging is a vicious cycle takes mindfulness and resilience to overcome.