Learning about what was going on in my brain when a binge urge struck was huge for me. This is what gave me my “a-ha moment” so I hope this information can be as helpful to you as it was to me.
There is still a lot to be learned about the science of binge eating, but I’m going to explain what I’ve learned about what is known. Many parts of our brain are involved in binge eating, but I am focusing on two and calling them the lower brain and the higher brain.
The lower brain is where your binge urges come from.
It’s the most primitive part of our brain, also sometimes referred to as the lizard brain, and its functions include survival, pleasure seeking, and pain avoidance. It wants to protect you and keep you alive. It takes in information from your internal and external environments and responds automatically with its own information like, “You need to binge eat now!”, and we don’t have conscious control of it. To learn more about why your brain is responding this way, check out my previous post about why you binge eat.
Then we have the higher brain, or your prefrontal cortex. This is where your true self is, where you know your real goals and wants, such as to not binge eat. Its also where you get the ability to make conscious decisions and choose what actions to take.
What happens is, the lower brain gives the higher brain its information (the urge), then the higher brain chooses what to do with it (to act or not to act).
What that means is, the lower brain cannot make you do anything. It cannot make you get up and eat food. Eating the food is a decision you make. Yes, the lower brain can demand that you binge, but you, your true self in the higher brain, make the ultimate decision, and it can be no.
I know for me, I always thought that urge = binge, but it doesn’t. Urge just suggests binge. Every time I binged it was because I chose to do it and why I chose, or why you choose, is because of how you’re feeling.
Take notice of that moment when you decide to give in and recognize that you decided to do it.
The urge made a convincing argument and you went with it. But remember that you don’t have to.