“I was out of control”
“I couldn’t stop”
“I had to finish the whole packet”
“It was like a wild hungry animal took over my whole body”
One of the most common problems I hear amongst my clients in clinic is that they suffer from the big B word.
Binge eating episodes can be a truly scary experience. At first they start innocent, one delicious bite, and before you know it, you’re knee deep in wrappers, containers, guilt, shame and regret.
Does this sound all too familiar for you?
For many, bingeing is a dirty word. It’s embarrassing. It doesn’t fit with how you want people to see you. So, you keep it a secret. You have a food stash that no one knows about. You hide the wrappers. You wait until you are home alone. All so that no one knows. Not even those closest to you.
Many binge eaters feel alone in their experience. But I want to tell you, this could not be further from the truth. Binge eating disorder can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. In fact, research has shown that it is the most common of all eating disorders, with equal percentages of males and females experiencing it (1). You are definitely not alone.
In my clinic I come across similar stories, where people restrict and deprive themselves of certain foods, typically “bad foods”, until they can restrict no more. When this inevitable moment comes, they crack. Food has all the power. They eat to the point of feeling sick and all in a very short amount of time. Used to being so in control, they now feel out of control. They know they should stop but they just can’t. It is at this point that the feelings of guilt and self-loathing kick in, causing greater restriction and deprivation than before. The horrible, vicious cycle begins all over again.
So how do you break the cycle?
Using both my Psychology and Nutrition background and my own personal experience with healing my relationship with food, I have put together four strategies to help you break free from binge eating.
1)Understand the reason behind why you binge
Firstly, you need to look at the emotional reasoning behind the binge. From my Psychology background, I can not begin to tell you how interconnected the relationship is between food and our emotions. Undoubtedly, what we eat affects how we feel and how we feel affects what we eat.
I want you to ask yourself, what do you want the food to do for you? Are you looking for food to comfort you? To fill something that is missing inside? To bring pleasure? To relieve loneliness? Or do you use food as a reward? A reward for eating ‘clean’ all day or for working hard, putting dinner on the table, putting the kids to bed, doing the washing and folding and finally, finally, finally….it’s ‘mummy’ time and you can sit in front of the TV and reward yourself.
Once you are aware of what you are actually wanting from the food, you can begin to let go of the bingeing. You can start to experiment and play around with how to fulfil those reasons, without food. Instead of turning to food as comfort, maybe you phone a friend and go for a walk. Instead of turning to food as a reward at the end of a busy day, maybe you buy yourself a deliciously juicy novel to read at night instead. Does this happen overnight? Of course not. But if you commit to finding out why you binge and look for other, healthier alternatives to fill this void, it can happen.
2)Let go of the restrictive talk
From now on I want you to catch yourself when you start thinking restrictively. Don’t be fooled, you don’t have to be on a hard-core diet to be thinking restrictively. It can be as sneaky as thinking things such as:
“I need to eat really healthy today to make up for last night”
“I’ve got to eat perfectly today so I can look good in my outfit on Saturday night”
“I am going away this weekend and I know I will eat crap, so I will cut back on my portion sizes this week”.
If you do catch yourself thinking like this. I want you to come back to the present moment and replace it with the phrase, “how can I eat with balance today?”.
When we shift our mindset from restriction to balance, we see food not as “good” or “bad” but rather what can I eat to nourish and fuel my body. All foods become allowed.
This is why I also really encourage you to have a healthy dessert each night or throughout the day. It is when we deprive ourselves, that we in fact crave the food more. If you need help starting this, I am here to help you. Start by having one or two pieces of dark chocolate at night and allow yourself to be fully present and enjoy it, without guilt. Incorporating this into your day is so important to healing your relationship with food.
Remember, perfect eating is not healthy eating.
3)Make sure you are eating enough during the day
This one is a game changer. When we are eating regularly, every two to three hours, we are keeping our blood sugar levels very happy and this in turn can be a huge step towards overcoming your bingeing habits.
It is when we wait until the last minute to eat and when we let our bodies get to the point of starvation that we end up overeating. We get ‘hangry’. A feeling that no one, not even your worst enemy should go through (am I right?)!
Instead, I encourage you to start having three main meals and snacks for those times when you feel peckish throughout the day. Snack inspiration includes: a banana, apple with peanut butter, yoghurt with berries, bliss balls, veggie sticks with hummus. Listen to what your body feels like, which I know, is much harder said than done.
Ensure that your main meals are balanced and include a form of quality protein, wholegrain carbohydrates, a source of good fat and of course, lots of veggies. When we eat a balanced meal, we are consuming the macronutrients to keep our bodies satisfied and well fuelled! Life’s too short to be running on half a tank.
4)Remember you are enough
You are enough. Just as you are. There is nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to change for anyone. Don’t waste your life thinking differently.
Let yourself eat. Let yourself live. Let yourself love. Don’t wait until you are skinnier, smarter or prettier. Because that day has already and always will be there.