Binge-purge cycle: How to break free

Complex relationships with food are super common. In fact, research suggests up to 70% of women have some level of disordered eating.

One difficult relationship with food is characterized by the binge-purge cycle. This is a pattern of disordered eating that can have serious physical and psychological impacts.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into what it is, the potential causes, and most importantly, how you can break free.

What is the binge-purge cycle?

The binge-purge cycle are recurrent episodes of binging and purging common in those struggling with bulimia nervosa.

There’s two distant parts: the binge phase and the purge phase.

The binge phase

The cycle usually begins with feelings of distress, which lead to a binge episode, followed by guilt, shame, and the urge to purge.

The binge phase is usually due to emotional distress, physical hunger, or feeling out of control with food.

The purge phase

The purge phase is to make up for binges. This is usually to prevent weight gain, deal with guilt, or cope with the feeling of fullness.

Purging can include self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and using laxatives or diuretics.

A infographic detailing the binge-purge cycle

What causes the binge-purge cycle?

It’s crucial to understand the causes for you to overcome it.

Everyone is different, but some common causes and triggers include:

Psychological Factors:

Low self-esteem, body image dissatisfaction, and perfectionism are common in our clients who are on the binge-purge cycle. Emotional difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, or stress, can also contribute to the cycle.

Dieting and restrictive eating:

Dieting or engaging in food restriction leads to feelings of deprivation. This more often than not, triggers binge eating, emotional eating, or overeating.

Traumatic experiences:

Past trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or bullying, can increase the risk of developing disordered eating. Living on a binge-purge cycle might be a coping mechanism or a way to regain control for you.

Sociocultural influences:

Societal pressure to achieve unrealistic body standards, media portrayal of the “perfect” body, and cultural emphasis on thinness can contribute to body dissatisfaction and the development of unhealthy eating behaviours.

How to break free from the binge-purge cycle

Recovery from the binge-purge cycle requires patience, self-compassion, and professional support.

Here are some strategies that we recommend to break free:

1. Practice self-care and stress management:

Often a lack of self-care and emotional coping are common in those struggling. We recommend focusing on self-care and taking care of yourself emotionally.

2. Develop distraction tools

Similarly to self-care and stress management, you may want to download our free distraction guide. This is a guide with 30 distractions to stop you from binging and purging.

3. Challenge negative thoughts

The binge-purge cycle is really difficult to break free from. What makes it even more difficult is having your mind bully you, thus keeping you stuck in the cycle.

We recommend challenging any negative thoughts you have about food and your body. This is a pillar in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) which is a remedy for bulimia recovery.

4. Build a supportive network

Surround yourself with understanding and supportive individuals who can provide encouragement and accountability throughout your recovery journey. Perhaps finding a support group, an online community, or people going through this too.

5. Be patient

Recovery is a process, it won’t happen overnight.

Investing your energy in therapy or nutrition therapy will help you overcome this.

We’re rooting for you.

Speak soon.

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