In the past month I’ve spoken with several people who intend to start doing deep emotional work with me around their binge eating. They are interested in the One Day Intensive, or they’d like to meet ongoing.

Instead, I can tell from what they’re saying that at least part of their problem has to do with the fact that they’re nutritionally and biochemically out of balance. I know that once we stabilize their blood sugar and support their neurotransmitter production, along with making sure they are filled with satiating, nutrient-dense foods, their binging is likely to reduce, if not stop altogether.

So I tell them that I don’t want to waste their time. I’d rather we do work just on nutrition first. Often, this alone is enough to stop or dramatically reduce binge eating and cravings. If any compulsive eating remains, we can deduce that it is psychological rather than physiological in nature, and then we can start to work together on the emotional aspect. Yes, I am putting myself out of business. Maybe I should charge more?

It’s true – what you eat, how you eat, and your neurotransmitter levels can either cause or prevent binge eating. Here are the three most common nutritional causes:

1. Not Enough Food

Your body needs a certain number of calories per day. Everyone’s body is different, so everyone needs a different number. If you are not eating enough, your body will force you to make up for it eventually. If you’re skipping breakfast or eating only an apple, you will inevitably be prowling the cabinets at night. This isn’t an issue of “lack of willpower” or “lack of control” – it’s basic physiology.

2. Not Enough Nutrients

When you are hungry, your body is hard-wired to ask for two things: calories and nutrients. That’s why you’re hungry an hour after you eat fast food, or two bags of potato chips. If you get the bulk, but not the nutrients, your body will ask for more.

3. Not Enough Protein

This works in two ways. First, protein gives us energy. If we don’t have enough protein making sufficient energy, we will reach for refined carbohydrates or sugar as a substitute. Second, protein stabilizes blood sugar. If your diet is too carb-heavy, your blood sugar will spike and then crash; when your blood sugar is low, it’s common to have intense cravings for refined carbs and sugar. I see these dynamics a lot with my vegetarian and vegan clients who are not getting enough protein, and I can tell you that the ten years I spent as an almost-vegan (I ate dairy but no other animal products) were marked by weekly sugar binges. I recommend my clients eat at least 15 grams of protein per meal.

Of course, there are many other nutritional causes of binge eating; these happen to be the ones I think are most prevalent. What have you noticed about the link between how you eat and your cravings?