The binge restrict pendulum is a little tool I love to use as a way to help my clients understand how your body responds to hunger and fullness, restriction and bingeing. It helps you to understand why we feel like we lose control around food and like we have no willpower.
How does the binge restrict pendulum work?
Ok, imagine a clock pendulum, swinging side to side. On one side, the left, there is restriction. On the other side, the right, there is binge eating.
You may also see it as on the left there is control, & on the right there is lack of control and the feeling of lack of willpower.
In the middle, at the bottom of the pendulum, is intuitive eating. There is comfort, no food stress, no restriction, no bingeing.
This is where we want to be.
The restriction side of the pendulum
When we diet we are pulling the pendulum over to the left, because we are restricting. This restriction could look like diet plans, calorie counting, “being good” & not allowing certain foods. It is also only eating healthy foods, and calling food good or bad. These are all examples of restriction in eating.
The binge side of the pendulum
Then, at the opposite side of the pendulum we have the bingeing & lack of control. This looks like what we think of as overeating to varying degrees.
Maybe it’s eating extra servings of food when you wouldn’t usually. Maybe it’s uncontrolled eating, like the big cupboard raids. It could also be the scheduled “treat days” that you are factoring into your diet.
How they affect each other
The restriction affects the binge side of the pendulum & the binge affects the restriction side of the pendulum. To what degree varies according to how extreme your actions are.
When you restrict a little bit, the pendulum pulls a little over to the left. Over time your body & brain realises that there is restriction and forces the pendulum to swing through to the other side. For simplicity, let’s say it’s the same amount.
It makes you eat more than you would usually maybe. An example of this is hunger. If you allow yourself to get too hungry you find yourself eating more, eating differently, or eating with less control.
Now imagine that restriction is more extreme. Imagine that you are cutting out whole food groups. Keto for example, where you are taking out all the carbs, or those shakes diets, where you’re removing actual food.
Now your body and brain is going to give you a more extreme response. Now you’re raiding the cupboards, binge eating, eating a lot of the food that you have been restricting so hard. The binge restrict pendulum has swung all the way through to the far right.
Thats not the end of it though, because what goes up must come down, right, and in similar measures. This means it is swinging back through into restriction.
Why is that?
Because now you’re telling yourself that you’re done something wrong and need to make up for it. You feel guilty. That leads to dieting again.
What do you want instead?
Instead, you are looking for a gentle swing left and right at the bottom of the pendulum curve.
You want the binge restrict pendulum to be less binge-restrict, and more a gentle hunger-fullness pendulum.
You want a gentle swing to the left. To be comfortably hungry so that the pendulum then swings gently right where you eat comfortably in response.
It may swing a little further left on occasions. Say you have a long time between meals with no access to food, this creates a little stronger response, so maybe you eat a bigger meal now? But that’s ok, because it is that gentle swing and gentle response is what we are looking for, not the huge swings back and forth. Does that make sense?
So how do you achieve that? You get that gentle swing by doing these things…
- You listen to your body.
- You honour your hunger by eating.
- You honour your fullness by respecting your body’s comfort levels when eating.
- You satisfy yourself by allowing yourself the food that you want and that makes you feel good.
- You allow yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods
- You don’t restrict food types or amounts of food.
If you can do these things there is no need for your body to have the extreme responses, and that binge restrict pendulum will hover nicely at the bottom and give you no problems.
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