For those of you who have struggled with binge eating, you have probably felt a looming sense of shame along with it. I can’t tell you how many people I have encountered who either avoid eye contact when I tell them what I do or tell me that they hide their eating from everyone in their life because they are afraid of judgment. In both scenarios, shame is alive and well. What is shame? Guilt and shame are thrown around quite a bit, but most people don’t really know the difference. Guilt in its simplest form means that we have done something that isn’t in line with our values or societal expectations. In other words, “I’ve done something bad”. Guilt is intended to keep our behavior in line. “Thou shalt not kill” and the like. Shame, on the other hand, internalizes guilt to the point that the message becomes jumbled. It is no longer about our actions, but our worth as a person. It isn’t “I’ve done something bad” any longer. It morphs into, “I am bad”. Shame thrives in secrecy. I use the example of being afraid of the dark as a kid. Things look terrifying in the dark. What looks like an awful monster, is merely a coat hanger when you turn the lights on.
So, what is the tie to binge eating? Binge eating often forms as a coping skill when our world is in chaos emotionally or physically. Food becomes the one thing we can control. It provides temporary relief from the pain. Binge eating also thrives in secrecy. The more the shame and fear of judgment build, the greater the struggle with binge eating. Food becomes the only source of comfort because the fear of what others will think becomes overwhelming and drives you further into the shame spiral.
If you struggle with binge eating, stop the shame spiral. Find support! Whether it is with the help of a therapist and/or group, turn the lights on to let go of the shame by finding someone who understands this struggle. You are not alone in this battle.