Deepak Chopra, MDHealth Blog - Wellness

Ask Deepak: Controlling Binge Eating

Published on 2009-03-13 by Deepak Chopra, MD

I’ve been struggling with a negative body image/unhealthy relationship with food for about 5 years. Recently it has spiraled out of control and I feel like I’ve hit my lowest point. I tried going to therapy but didn’t find what I was looking for, so about 9 months ago I turned to yoga, meditation, and your book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga for guidance. Reading your book and others really opened me up to my spiritual being and being conscious in the present moment. I realize that my body and food does not define who I am really am. However, even though I understand and embrace the concepts in your book, I’m still struggling with out of control binge eating. Each morning I review the spiritual law of the day, perform the sun salutations, and try and meditate for at least 5 minutes (meditation is a struggle for me) but when the afternoon rolls around all I can think about is food. I start eating and don’t stop until I’m extremely full. It’s as if I become unconscious and don’t know what has hit me until I feel so sick and disgusted with myself.

Is there hope for freedom from this suffering?
Yes there is hope to control your binge eating, but it will take some time and persistence to retrain how your  body and mind relates to food. Your afternoon cravings are likely based on “emotional hunger” more than real physical hunger. A key element in your gaining control over your eating habits will be learning to listen to the actual physical signals from your body and being able to distinguish those signals from your emotional discomfort.  For instance when you are really hungry, your body will send you physical signals that you can feel in your abdomen.  When you have eaten enough and are no longer hungry and not yet full, your body will also send you a signal  that you can notice if you are paying attention. Your body will provide the intelligence to guide you on when and how much to eat if you learn to listen to it.  These two signals are what you need to learn to recognize in order to shift from emotional  false-hunger eating to body-intelligence eating.
This is why Ayurveda places such importance to having full attention on eating during your meal. If you are watching TV, checking your email or driving while you eat, then you are not listening to your body and your mind is not fully cooperating with the digestion process.
For many of us, eating has accrued many emotional associations that can confuse and distort our body intelligence signals. We may think we are hungry when we are anxious or depressed and  eat as a way to  try to cope with those uncomfortable feelings. With binge eating you will need to identify what emotional discomfort is triggering your response and then find healthy, non-eating ways of dealing with it.  It is important to learn to distinguish these two responses—hunger and emotional distress—and learn to address them separately.
Dr. John Duillard has just posted a brilliant blog outlining an Ayurvedic weight balancing diet schedule.  I realize that binge eating is not necessarily a weight issue, but the principles of Ayurvedic eating he outlined apply directly to the points I was making above. My books Perfect Health  and Perfect Weight might be of help for you in learning to listen to your body. The book Freedom From Addiction  which I wrote with Dr. Simon, can be of assistance in dealing with the emotional cravings.

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.