Tip 1: Develop a healthier relationship with food
Bingeing can easily get out of control, as it is often not about what you consume or the amount but the feeling you get once you start eating. It is all about stuffing yourself to suppress your feelings. The act of eating replaces the feelings you were having. Denial is not an option, and avoidance alone is not sufficient. To deal with the problem of bingeing, you must cultivate a very healthy relationship with the food that you eat. A healthy relationship with food is one based on achieving your nutritional requirements and not filling your emotional needs. To develop a healthier relationship with food, here is some practical advice :
- Avoid temptation - Make sure your fridge and cupboard don’t have food you love to binge on.
- Pay attention to your body - Work on differentiating between physical and emotional hunger. If you had eaten earlier and your stomach is not rumbling, chances are you are fine. Give yourself time to allow the craving to go away.
- Watch what you are eating - Most often, you feel disconnected from your feelings when binge eating. This disassociation is often described as feeling like a zombie while bingeing. Eat slowly while enjoying the flavors and textures. Not only will you enjoy the food but also eat less of it.
- Eat often - Binge eating at night is most often brought by starving oneself during the day. Eat well in the morning and during lunch. Try not to skip meals to avoid eating later in the evening.
- Don’t avoid fat - Dietary fats are known to keep you away from eating too much and adding to your weight. Make sure you eat healthy fats to make you feel full and satisfied.
- Fight boredom - Engage in something that requires your full concentration. Choose an activity that requires your complete attention and that you enjoy at the same time.
The importance of deciding not to diet
There is always a shameful feeling that comes after bingeing. Dieting is often attempted to compensate for the compulsive eating habit and regain one's health. But this is often not the result, and craving food sets in as a result of hunger, getting one back into the cycle of overeating.
Replace dieting with eating moderately. Go for nutritious foods that you enjoy, but don’t stuff yourself. Eat just enough. Treat yourself occasionally, say on ice cream, instead of either eating it frequently or completely depriving yourself.
Tip 2: Find better ways to feed your feelings
The three major emotions that drive people to eat compulsively are anxiety, anger, and depression. Other related emotions are fear, stress, and loneliness. When people have bad days, food is often their only companion. Bingeing can temporarily replace these feelings but not for long. How does one control these emotions without having to eat?
- Know your triggers in relation to food and moods - After having succumbed to a compulsion to consume, say, an entire box of ice cream, it is important to note down what exactly triggered you to eat. Note down how you were feeling before you ate, what you felt like eating, what you ate, how you felt when eating, and the feeling you had after eating. Upon this backtracking, you will notice that an upsetting occurrence had caused the binge. In time, you will notice a common pattern in these epidodes.
- Learn to overcome the moods that cause your binge eating - Every time you feel like bingeing, control yourself, think for a moment and find what is happening inside you.
- Know what you are feeling - Try your level best to name the emotion you are feeling. Could it be fear, anger, loneliness, shame, hopelessness, or emptiness?
- Admit to yourself you are bingeing - Being in denial will only make the situation worse. Negative emotions will be stronger than ever. Accept that there is a problem before finding a solution.
- Find out more - Get to know what is going on. What part of your body are the emotions coming from? What are you thinking in your head?
- Distance yourself - Give yourself a reality check and realize that you and the feelings you experience are separate. Feelings are merely passing waves that don’t and you shouldn't allow to define you.
Suppressing your feelings can take a toll on you at first, but as you push on you will begin to see that there is no reason for submitting to them. The emotions that feel irresistible and overwhelming are temporary. Ignore them and take control. You are the one who responds to a feeling. It is not the other way around.
Tip 3: Take back your control over cravings
Binge eating seems to hit anytime. Aside from avoiding binge triggers, the following points will help you stay in control.
- Work on the urge; don’t fight it – Look at the urge like an ocean whose waves will ridge, settle, and calm down. When you kick out the urge without necessarily battling it, the results are faster than you would have anticipated.
- Distract yourself – Draw your attention away from the urge by swimming, walking, or watching something interesting.
- Share it with someone – Talking serves as good therapy for a binge eater. Get into conversations with a family member or friend that you feel free with and open to, and this will make you feel better.
- Use delaying tactics – Making an effort is better than nothing. Find something to delay the urge and keep repeating it continually until the urge goes away.
Tip 4: Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits
Busy yourself with positive activities that have a direct impact on your physical and mental well-being and surround yourself with positive, encouraging people. When you are physically fit, relaxed, and have had adequate rest, you can easily handle anything that comes your way. But a drained, overwhelmed person can easily be derailed by a single hiccup and head straight for the fridge. Get adequate sleep, exercise often, and practice a healthy lifestyle to help you overcome binge eating.
Manage stress - Try to channel your stress and other emotional feelings to things instead of resorting to food. For example, practice yoga, do easy breathing exercises, meditate, or try sensory relaxation approaches.
Allocate time for daily exercise - Exercise is known to take care of many things. In this case it acts as a natural stress reliever, mood changer, and also energy booster. This will all help suppress bingeing.
Get adequate sleep, preferably 8 hours a night – Adequate sleep is vital for the body. Lack of sleep can build up a sugar craving when your body is looking for a fast energy boost. To control your appetite and minimize sugar cravings, make sure you get enough sleep.
Connect with others – Keep close positive relationships and participate in social activities to avoid succumbing to binge eating. Strong support networks will help eliminate triggers.
How to help a binge eater
When living with a binge eater, it is important to remember that it has nothing to do with the food but everything to do with how they manage their emotions. After eating, a binger will often feel guilt followed by shame. One must therefore avoid critiquing the eating behavior and appearance of a person who binges on food. Make it clear though that you are very concerned about their health. Keep encouraging the person to help them control their binge eating and let them decide for themselves that they have a problem.
Tips for helping a person with binge eating disorder
- Encourage them to get help – The earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the easier it will be to overcome.
- Be supportive – Always listen to but don’t judge the person. If the person relapses, encourage them and make them understand that they don’t have to stop binge eating altogether.
- Never insult, lecture, or lay guilt trips - Binge eaters are already aware of their situation. Rubbing it in will only worsen the situation. Instead, make the person aware that you are there for them and their health and well-being are all that you are concerned about.
- Try to set a very good example – Eat healthily, exercise daily, and cope with stress without resorting to eating. Keep negative comments to yourself concerning your body, or any other person's for that matter. This will serve as a good example to a binge eater.