Binge 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 sometimes alternate with periods where the person cuts down on the amount of food they eat. 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
- Boredom, stress
- Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence
- Depression or anxiety
Strategies to reduce binge eating
Assess your diet
Is your diet too restrictive? Are you eliminating foods? Are you eating too few calories? Seek the help of a professional to help you restore 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, add some more calories back in. If your current program includes a cheat day which triggers an all-out feast, then perhaps this is not the best option for you. Try a more controlled option like a re-feed, whereby you have a calorie target to reach. Flexible dieting may be a perfect option for you!
Reach out to your support network
Discuss your feelings/urges with your support network. These people can help you to work through a potential binge or put management strategies in place to prevent further binge episodes.
Delay the binge
Try not to act on the urge straight away. Give yourself some time to think about why you have the urge and what you are going to do about it.
Remove foods that you know you are more tempted by. Don’t buy them at the grocery store. Throw out any unused foods that you have been known to binge on. Work towards slowly reintroducing these foods when you feel you have more control over your actions.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Do you need help with overcoming binge eating? Flexible dieting may just be the solution!