February 25, 2019

How Black and White Thinking Contributes to Binge Eating & Overeating

Written by Rachel Eddins

chess pieces representing how black and white thinking contributes to binge eating

Embrace the grey area. There are so, so many reasons to reject black and white thinking — many of which will help expand your perceptions and potential. However, black and white thinking can also negatively impact us in unexpected ways. One example is connected to binge eating and overeating.

What is Black and White Thinking and How Can It Limit Us?

The world is complex. We all know this, yet we all find it daunting to explore nuance. Hence, even the most open-minded individuals are susceptible to simplifying what is often complicated.

Black and white thinking is an all-or-nothing approach to how we see our world and the people in it. In psychology, this is called “splitting,” as we split things into two broad camps in an attempt to make sense of all the contradictions life provides.

For example, if there’s a person we do not like, we’re likely to paint them with a broad brush. They once did one thing that we disagreed with. Therefore, of course, this makes them irredeemably problematic. The same can be said of activities or beliefs. “Always” and “never” are popular words in the vocabulary of such polarized thinkers.

The Role of Black and White Thinking in Our Eating Choices

For anyone already struggling with their relationship to food, black and white thinking is an alluring option. Here are a few examples of how it can play out:

Good Foods vs. Bad Foods

Of course, some foods can be healthier choices than others. However, there is still context to be considered. Keeping such a list in your head makes it easier to progress into further all-or-nothing quagmires.

“I’ll start again tomorrow”

This is when you eat one of those “bad foods” early on. From here, you might as well binge or overeat because you’ve already “ruined” the day. Seeing a food as good or bad and seeing a day as ruined or pure are both polarizing thoughts.

“I’ll never change”

Eating disorders are complicated. The concept of blame does not help — especially when we default to self-blame. “It’s all my fault,” our inner voice pronounces. Or perhaps, “it’s all my mother’s fault.” Derailing your recovery with polarizing thoughts of blame is a dangerous path to choose.

Are you binge eating? Could you have binge eating disorder? Take our quiz to assess binge eating behaviors and severity, which can indicate an eating disorder.

3 Ways to Embrace the Grey Area

Accept the Learning Moments

For some, it’s very hard to question our beliefs and values. But every time you reject black and white thinking, you allow yourself space to grow and learn. Rarely does our society operate on simply all or nothing terms. Learning how to navigate and thrive in such a nuanced setting is an essential part of a happier life.

Reduce Your Dependence on Social Media

Our news feed is not a grey area. All across social media, what we see is a heavily curated collection of messages. We may think, “I’m right. Everyone agrees with me.” In reality, “everyone” is just those being funneled to you by an algorithm.

Slow Down and Be Mindful

Inevitably, we will all fall prey to black and white thinking. This is where mindfulness becomes our best defense. Stay in the moment with your emotions and thoughts. Identify when you “split” and bring yourself back to the present.

Finding a “Grey Coach” to Guide You

It can be challenging to recognize black and white thinking in ourselves. A skilled therapist is adept at identifying such patterns. From there, you will work together as a team to explore underlying causes along with strategies for change. At Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX,  we have many qualified therapists that provide strategies to help with disordered eating habits. Humans are social animals and we work best in collaborations. Your counseling sessions are clear examples of this dynamic. Our weekly meetings are both a safe space and a grey area to discover more of who you are and what you truly want. Call us at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.

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