When wanting to stop binge eating, the traditional choice is to control your food. Just keep all “trigger” foods out of sight and you’ll be alright. But I have to ask, has that ever worked before? It never did for me and it hasn’t for my clients or patients, at least not in the long term. And I don’t know about you, but the women that I work with are looking for forever freedom from binging, not just a temporary thing.
Let’s start with a quick discussion about what makes it a binge in the first place. Overeating and emotional eating are not the same as binge eating. But all three can be disordered eating.
Everybody in their life overeats or emotionally eats at one time or another. Sitting down with a tub of ice cream and a movie is no big deal now and again. What makes it disordered eating is the mental chatter about it. It could be the lead up to it where the chatter begins. It could be during the eating that the chatter starts. And it is certainly occurring afterwards. The feelings of failure and embarrassment are present. This can happen with one piece of food or a lot of food. And these feelings and thoughts typically linger for days.
Binging carries the same chatter. The shame about the episode is paralyzing. The black-and-white thinking takes over – “I fell off the wagon so why hold back now” or “If I’m going to give in, I might as well make it worth my while.” Huge amounts of food get consumed in a short amount of time. It’s frantic. It’s scary. The feeling of having absolutely no control takes over. Feeling like it ‘has’ to be consumed takes over everything. A panic that can only be soothed with food. Not stopping even when the body is screaming “no more.” That is a binge.
The shame that follows a binge is, like I said, paralyzing. If you get up the nerve to share what you ate with someone, you are usually met with a cringe and a face full of disbelief – even if it’s not intentional. You may have at some point decided to tell your doctor, naturopath, trainer, or counsellor. And then vowed that you would NEVER do it again, because unless they understand the difference between overeating and binging, they add to the shame by their reaction.
To stop binge eating you have to start at the beginning. The food, the binge – that’s the end of the cycle.
Step 1: Deal with your body image issues
It is well documented that eating disorders are linked to body dissatisfaction. It’s not the actual size of your body, but how you feel about your body.
Unfortunately, most of us get the idea that in order to like our bodies, we need to change our bodies. This likely stems from the promises of every weight loss and fitness program out there, but that’s a discussion (maybe rant) for another time. Self esteem comes from within.
Many binge eaters and bulimics have depression and/or anxiety. This makes it difficult to feel good about oneself. Body image issues and low self esteem are heightened during episodes of depression and anxiety.
If mental health issues are clouding that, then treating them is step one. Get your depression and/or anxiety treated. I’m a naturopathic doctor as well as a coach and mentor. I can tell you that there are many natural ways to balance chemistry and treat these conditions. If that doesn’t work, then go on meds. The downside of meds isn’t anywhere near the downsides of letting your binge eating continue any longer.
Step 2: Stop restricting
Please hear me – I did not say, “free-for-all food binge that doesn’t end.” The black and white thinking of eating disorders can mess with this concept.
Understand that humans value what is rare and coveted. It’s why certain metals and stones and art cost a fortune. If it’s hard to get, we want it more. Our fun little hormone called dopamine ramps up, and the pleasure of achieving/receiving the coveted item is heightened.
So, if you make a certain food “forbidden” then the dopamine response to that food will be greater. It will take more of it to satisfy and you will want it more often. You will think about it often, which just moves the cycle along.
How do you stop restricting without going off the deep end? With structure. With support. Learning to swim typically includes floaties and a lifeguard in the shallow end. Hire someone who has done it or at least worked with it. I am but one of many qualified people.
Step 3: Practice self care
By this I do not mean go get your nails done. While a lovely time out, it is not the self care that I mean.
Self care means addressing your NEEDS. Let me explain.
When you have to pee, how long does it take you to actually go to the bathroom and pee? (stop laughing)
When you are tired, do you rest or go to bed? NOT likely. You grab a snack and drop in front of the TV or do another load of laundry, right?
Eating more than your body needs is you trying to take care of yourself. Start taking care of what you really need and you won’t feel like you NEED more food.
Sounds simple enough? Start with peeing when you need to.
Join the Uprising! Applaud Your Bod is a closed Facebook group for women dealing with these issues. Find support and resources to help you along the way.
Until next time,
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.