Binge eating (or emotional eating) is something that most of us have experienced at some point. People who binge eat often, may use food as their way of coping with negative emotions or body image issues. They feel they have no control over their eating and often binge in private because they feel embarrassed, guilty or disgusted with their behaviour after they have finished eating. Episodes of binge eating often alternate with periods of food restriction. This can turn into a vicious cycle.
WHAT CAUSES THE DESIRE TO BINGE EAT?
- Restrictive diets that eliminate entire food groups or particular foods
- Not eating enough food
- Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence
- Emotional trauma
- Depression or anxiety
STRATEGIES TO REDUCE BINGE EATING
While medically diagnosed Binge Eating Disorder (BED) often requires psychological and sometimes medical treatment, there are some behavioural changes that you can try implementing yourself to help reduce the urge to binge…
1. ASSESS YOUR DIET
Is your diet too restrictive? Are you eliminating too many foods? Are you eating too few calories? Seek the help of a professional to help with restoring a normal eating pattern. Focus on eating a balanced diet that doesn’t label foods as “good” or “bad”. If calorie restriction is your problem, increase your calorie intake or take a break from tracking calories altogether.
If your current nutritional approach includes a cheat meal or cheat day which triggers a binge, then perhaps this is not the best option for you. Try a more controlled option like a planned higher calorie day, where you still have a calorie target to reach but more calories to play with. This is why flexible dieting is a great option for you!
2. REACH OUT TO YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
Discuss your feelings/urges with your support network. They can help you to work through a potential binge or put management strategies in place to prevent further binge episodes.
3. DELAY THE BINGE
Try not to act on the urge straight away. Give yourself some time to think about why you have the urge to binge. Also think about how you will feel after the binge and if those are feelings you would rather avoid.
4. REMOVE TEMPTATIONS
Remove foods from your house that you know you are more likely to be tempted by. Throw out any unused foods that you have been known to binge on. Avoid them in the grocery store if you can or buy your groceries online. Work towards slowly reintroducing these foods when you feel you have more control over your eating habits.
5. KEEP YOURSELF BUSY
When you experience the urge to binge, do something to keep yourself occupied. The the house or environment that has triggered the urge. Go for a walk, go to the gym or get a massage – anything that will help to keep your mind off food.
6. DRINK A GLASS OF WATER
Are you actually hungry or are you craving that hand-to-mouth activity. Are you just bored? Have some water, tea or a sugar free cordial/diet soda to satisfy cravings without the calories and prevent bingeing.
7. DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR GOALS
When you have the urge to binge, take a moment to think about your goals. Whether it be fat loss, preparing for a competition, or restoring a healthy relationship with food. Keep those goals at the forefront of your mind as motivation to beat the binge urges. Place a photo/image that reflects your goal on the fridge or pantry as a constant reminder of these goals and motivation to continue towards them. This can also act as a deterrent to prevent binges.
8. TRACK THE FOOD YOU CONSUME
Allow yourself to see the amount of food/calories you are consuming and the effect that this is having on your progress. As we know, fat loss occurs when we consume less calories than we burn. One bingeing episode can be well over your calorie intake for the day or even the week!
9. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Don’t beat yourself up if you do give into the urge to binge. Use it as a learning experience to prevent further episodes. Why did you do it? What was the trigger? How did you feel afterwards? Realise that it will take time to overcome this issue but you CAN and WILL overcome it. Focus on positive thoughts and take one day at a time.
Make sure that you seek help from a professional if you feel like your eating is extremely disordered or it negatively impacts your day-to-day activities.