First things first, before I dive into my tips for dealing with binge eating, if you think that you have a binge eating disorder then seek help. I don’t care how stupid you think it sounds, how “greedy” you think it makes you sound, go and speak to a doctor. Binge eating (yes, even if you don’t purge) is a recognised disorder now (though as with many disorders not as much as it should be), that can make you feel ashamed, isolated, and physically ill.
I have found a couple of articles that have helped me with binge eating and I shall link them below; I also have some YouTube videos that you may find helpful. Binge eating is something I have struggled with in the past, and for a long time did not feel comfortable discussing- especially since I thought it wasn’t a “proper” disorder; there was nothing wrong with me, I just ate a lot. In very short spaces of time. Mainly by myself. It would fluctuate: sometimes I could go weeks without binging, and then wham I would be binging a few times a week. It takes hard work to deal with, and I think that it’s something which will always be in my head. Unusually, I didn’t fully realise that this was a “proper” issue until I was in counselling for another disorder. I’m all for raising mental health awareness and so I can do a post on my story if anyone wants to hear my epic tale- just comment below. Anyway, binge eating was something we addressed on the side, and thankfully it worked. My binge eating is only really an issue I can’t control when I’ve had a few drinks and my willpower takes a nose dive. It can still make me feel awful.
A few weeks into my final term of freshman year though my drink was spiked and whatever was in it, as substances usually trigger symptoms resembling extreme drunkenness, triggered a huge binge. It was the largest binge I have ever experienced, and left me crying on my bed. I had no idea why I was crying. And then it occurred to me that I was crying for things I had never fully let out. I’m not an emotional person, and suddenly it was like someone had pulled the plug, and all of these feelings were coming out of nowhere. Think the Grinch when his heart grows, and you have a pretty good image of what was going on. I really believe a lot of the time emotions are connected to binge eating. The next day I knew something had to change; looking back, I realised that this had been coming for ages and I’d ignored it. Even when drunk I didn’t want these binges occurring. I scoured the internet for articles, and began testing out some CBT techniques I’d been taught too.
I’m not saying that since that moment I haven’t binged at all. I have, after nights out. It’s extremely hard to pinpoint when normal drunken eating ends, and binge eating begins. But all in all, it’s better than it ever has been.
And now we get to my tips. I hope that these help anyone looking to end their binge eating, but again: I am not a doctor, please go and seek proper help. The longer you spend being ashamed, the longer it remains an issue.
- DON’T RESTRICT. For God’s sake, do not restrict. If you eliminate all “bad” foods from your diet you immediately crave them. Which leads to binging, which leads to guilt, which leads to restriction, and then binging again. Diets that tell you they eliminate cravings are a load of crap. Treat yourself, not every day, but at least a couple of times per week. Have a slice of cake and a coffee, go for a burger with friends and hell yes upgrade to thick cut chips with that. You don’t have to be perfect.
- Here’s the kicker: Enjoy and savour those treats. Binging for me is about how much I can frantically stuff in my face, so slow down, and retrain your eating habits.
- Have food that you binge on in particular? Or that you’re scared of? Make a list of them, from most possible it’ll trigger a binge, to least. Slowly expose yourself to these foods. For example: I knew that I was okay with homemade pizza, but brownies took more work. So I had homemade pizza and saw how I did. I then moved up the list, very slowly, and in situations I knew I could control. By doing this these foods don’t become “off limits”, so you may be less likely to eat as much as you can when you get hold of them.
- Eat mindfully, remove distractions so that your brain registers you have eaten and are full…
- Learn to recognise when your body is full, and when it is hungry. This can be messed up by diets that say “eat three meals a day”, and then “no, wait, six small meals is better”, and then the “you know what, just eat dust. Dust is good”.
- Maintain a balanced diet, and drink plenty of fluids.
- Stop counting calories. This has really helped me, because in place of numbers I actually have to get in touch with when my body is hungry.
- Don’t keep binge foods in the house, or if this isn’t possible (hey, my family likes food) at least keep them somewhere less accessible. I am a short person and so climb on working tops to reach things. When I’m drunk, or said thing is firmly out of reach, this usually isn’t successful. I can try for half an hour and still not reach what I want, although in the moment I am prepared to die trying- I get bored eventually and walk away.
- If you binge after nights out then don’t get so drunk. Harsh, but true. Don’t bring more money than you need, and put a trusted friend on duty. I have one that in future I shall be asking to stop me going back for seconds, and ensure I choose my drunk meal wisely. Sometimes you will need to eat after a night out to prevent you feeling like death; it’s part of life.
- Don’t let emotions build up, or overwhelm you. I find that practicing meditation, yoga, working out, writing, and occasionally talking, can all help. Often binge eating is an attempt to comfort something you’re ignoring, or because you have restricted. I can now anticipate when a binge is on the horizon by how I’m feeling, if I don’t ignore my emotions. I can then deal with the emotions, and also have a little bit of the food I fancy, nipping the binge in the bud.
When the Binge Emerges…
- Remove yourself from the situation if you can, or distract yourself. If you’re in the kitchen, leave. If at a party where nibbles are lying around flaunting their saturated fat, then move rooms. Go and chat to someone, about anything. This is so hard and when in this position I know that it can be near impossible.
- Have a happy place (I cannot believe I just called it that) or grounding technique. Carry a bracelet that is tactile and soothing to play with. Pay attention to your breaths; where do you feel the breathing most in your body? Focus on breathing in and out slowly, for 10 breaths.
- Become mindful. If you’re eating and can see it morphing into a binge, chances are you’re wolfing the food down, with your brain going “I can always have another…”. Take a deep breath. It becomes a binge when you listen to that voice. Taste the food you’re eating, slow down. Wait a while after you finish eating, the desire to binge may have faded then.
- Allow the feelings to hit you full on. If you think you can hold out, just sit and allow the emotion and desire to binge to hit you like a frigging tidal wave. Focus on the feelings associated with the binge, and not the idea of binging. Often it morphs into a different emotion, that can be dealt with, or it fades as you’re exposed to it. This can work for me sometimes, but you may find it more helpful to…
- Distract: books, YouTube, a film, meditation, magazines, pinterest…
- If it’s night time grab a hot drink, a hot water bottle, and head to bed.
- It’s weird, but put on some music and imagine after the binge. Something like Nickleback. Picture it like a movie scene, and yourself as a character who is binge eating and then going through the emotions afterwards. It puts me off due to the fact that if someone was binging in front of me, who wasn’t me, I would want to help them to stop. By distancing yourself you will probably want to help yourself stop.
- Chew mint gum. Simple but effective.
Oops It Happened…
- Okay, it happened again, heave a sigh, move on. Give yourself 10 minutes to wallow in self pity- set a timer. Again, experience the emotions. I usually get to 5 minutes, and can’t wallow any longer. Yes I feel bad, but wallowing has to end at some point.
- I actually find a meditation video on YouTube, for detox or self forgiveness; it calms me. I shall link them below.
- If this binge has occurred in the afternoon in place of evening (it’s usually evening if it happens for me) then have a cup of a herbal tea, and do some gentle yoga for digestion just to help your stomach. If you feel as if you may be sick, then skip the yoga.
- Don’t weigh in. If you do weigh yourself regularly, then leave it for about 4 days.
- Get washed and dressed. Comfy clothes, but nice. Put makeup on and do your hair if you’re into that sort of thing, wear your favourite jewellery- just because you’ve binged it doesn’t mean that you’re worthless, so don’t act like it.
- If it’s the next day then drink lemon water, warm or chilled overnight (I prefer the latter) to cleanse yourself out a bit, and get rid of bad tastes.
- If you can, carry on eating as normal. If you can’t face food then wait until lunchtime and eat something light (soup is comforting)
- Drink loads of water through the day; you’ll be retaining fluid, so this will help to ease the bloating.
- Don’t punish yourself with starvation/exercise. If today you were meant to do some Pilates on YouTube, then do it. If it would be rest day, then rest. I love walking if it is a rest day, just a stroll to calm down and get my body moving.
- Write it out. What you write may be nonsense. I don’t give a sh*t. Write it out.
- Eat a nourishing evening meal.
- Early night. It’s cliché but tomorrow you will feel a bit more normal.
Helpful Videos & Articles
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9_HPW02fFY– Meditation for Anger and Forgiveness
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qZgi8PV_mQ– Meditation for Guilt, Regret, Starting Over
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAnFAKVoEJw– BeautyCrush Stress and Overeating/Binge Eating
http://www.niashanks.com/20-tips-binge-eating/ Nia Shanks Article on Binge Eating (one of the most helpful I’ve ever come across)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kILfS-OJUEg What To Do After a Binge, Scola Dondo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2LYLfyzujo How To Stop Binge Eating, Scola Dondo