If you’re reading this, then I’m almost certain that either you or someone you know is dealing with binge eating.
I say this because, over the past decade, rates of binge eating have increased substantially across all socio demographic classes.
This is a huge problem, not only because the experience of binge eating can be incredibly unpleasant, but also because it can negatively affect most things in life that we value, such as our relationships, occupational performance, and wellbeing.
Drawing from my experience and on existing research, I want to offer three simple, yet highly effective, tips to help you to stop binge eating.
1. Understand your Experiences
A lot of people who binge eat can’t really pinpoint why they are binge eating. Oftentimes, people lack a true understanding towards the specific factors that trigger binges. So, in order to fully break out of the binge eating cycle, the first thing we need to do is to become an expert in understanding our current eating patterns.
The best way to do this is through self-monitoring, which involves the in-the-moment recording of relevant thoughts, feelings, and behaviours related to food and eating.
You might be thinking to yourself “why in the world would I want to write down all the horrible foods I binge on and then how I feel during this time?”
Let me explain why monitoring these patterns is so important.
Completing daily records of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours associated with eating provides you with crucial information about the nature of your eating problem. It essentially allows you to become a detective, searching for clues about any problem eating behaviours you might regularly encounter. And with accurate monitoring, you will be able to fully discover the cognitive, emotional, or situational factors that trigger your binge eating.
For example, you might come to discover that you only binge eat when you experience feelings of anger, or when you’ve skipped lunch that day, or when you’ve broken one of your strict foodrules.
So, by recording your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as they occur, it becomes easier to be aware of the harmful patterns that maintain your binge eating. And once you become aware of what is going on, you will find it much easier to change, because you will know what needs changing.
Here’s a guide to what you should be monitoring:
- The type and amount of food eaten
- The time you ate this food
- Your level of hunger prior to eating (from 0 = starving to 10 = stuffed)
- Whether you perceived this eating episode to be a binge
- Thoughts and feelings experienced before, during, and after this episode.
You should find that after two weeks or so you’ll have a very strong understanding of your current eating patterns, including what precisely triggers your binge eating.
Once you know this, you’re half way to recovery!
2. Time to Eat Regularly
Drawing from my personal and research experience, binge eating often occurs after long periods of dietary restriction.
It’s natural for us to crave food when we’ve been deprived of it for long periods of time throughout the day.
Sometimes, these cravings get the better of us, and we respond by gorging ourselves on whatever we can get our hands on. This indeed explains why we are more likely to binge in the evening.
So, my second tip is to adopt a pattern of regular eating.
Research has shown that this “regular eating” strategy is the most powerful strategy to stop binge eating. It’s such a simple strategy, because all it means is for each day to eat at least 3 meals and at least 3 snacks, no more than 3 hours apart. But, you need to make sure that you don’t eat in between these meals and snacks.
By eating at regular intervals, we stop many of the processes known to trigger bouts of binge eating, such as skipping means, feelings of intense hunger, and a constant preoccupation with food.
So, each night, plan exactly what times you are going to eat your snacks and your meals, making sure that there is no more than 3 hours apart between your eating. Just a side note – some people may come up with excuses about finding it hard to fit in this regular eating schedule. However, let me tell you, I’ve never encountered anyone who can’t take a 5 minute break from what they are doing to have a quick snack!
Here is the regular eating schedule that I try to adhere to – it’s been enormously helpful for curbing those late-night binges:
10am: mid-morning snack
4pm: afternoon snack
Give something like this a go – not only should you see reduction in binge eating, but you should also see improvements in your concentration and energy levels!
3. Practise Mindfulness
This tip complements Tip # 2 quite well.
Sometimes you might have the urge to eat in between your planned meals and snacks. We don’t want to act on these urges because then you’d be engaging in grazing, which is another potentially problematic eating behaviour that can increase the likelihood of binge eating.
In order to regain control over your eating, you need to find ways to beat the urge to eat in between your planned meals and snacks. And one of the most efficient and effective ways to do this is through mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness meditation is such a powerful exercise because it involves deliberately paying attention, nonjudgmentally, to present-moment experiences, usually cultivated through meditation and body scan exercises. Being more mindful of the urges we might experience will help us to let go of any habitual or harmful responses (e.g., binge eating, grazing) because it helps us to select more adaptive ways of responding.
And, once we’ve finished our mindfulness practice, we tend to notice that our urge to graze or binge eat will have completed subsided because we were successfully able to “ride the urge wave”
Ultimately, mindfulness is a powerful tool for helping you to overcome your urges to binge. It’s also an evidence-based exercise known to improve our mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, both of which are also known to cause binge eating.
There are plenty of mindfulness apps or YouTube videos freely available – give them a go!
I hope these three simple, yet effective tips will help you with your binge eating. I know they’ve certainly given me some structure and control back in my life.
It’s really important to remember that for these tips to work, you need to practice them on a daily basis. It also requires patience. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of time to completely stop a harmful behaviour that you might have been engaging in for many years of your life.
- Website: https://breakbingeeating.com/