“How the hell do I stop binge eating?!” is a veryyyy common question that I hear from ladies all the time.
Let’s be forward: binge eating sucks. It is difficult and frustrating and painful and feels hopeless. I know this because I struggled with it deeply for years. What started as just a few episodes here and there of some mindless snacking gone haywire turned into nightly premeditated - yet compulsive - feasts on foods that didn’t even make sense. I just needed to do it. I needed the binge. I needed the heaviness and the drowning out of all the things that made me feel frustrated in my life.
And after every single binge, I'd ask myself again, “How the hell do I stop binge eating?”
This led to (nearly daily) re-commitments to “clean eating”, swearing off sugar forever, killer workouts in the gym even though my tummy was still bloated and swollen from the previous night, and other tactics and plans that I’d hoped would make me just stop wanting to freakin’ eat.
Sound familiar? This is something I work on deeply with my clients. Let’s work together here!
So here are a few essentials to stopping binge eating:
1. Compassion. Listen, sister. You are NOT going to “solve this problem” overnight. You just won’t. Unlike what the diet and fitness industries have tried to sell you, there is no magic pill that just makes you change in a day or week. We’re talking about undoing years (usually) of negative body image, disordered eating patterns, and funky feelings around food. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN QUICKLY! And that is okay. So be patient and speak kind words to yourself - the same way you would a friend who is dealing with something difficult - because you deserve this level of compassion.
2. Recognize that binges are often a sign of deprivation. If you’re restricting certain foods (or just believing that certain foods are good and bad), you will binge. If you’re not eating enough your body is going to lead you to binge because you’re HUNGRY. End of story.
3. Let it happen. Get curious. Get slow. Binges are compulsive and thoughtless. Which is why they’re so hard to figure out- because we’re never actually conscious when they’re happening! SO...the next time you start to binge, tune in for a second. Ask yourself, “What feels good about this? What am I getting from this? How does it feel?” Be curious: “Hmm, I’m feeling sad and the binge is helping me feel distracted from that sadness. Interesting.” Go beyond just ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Are you feeling grounded, sick, excited? Binges are a beautiful sign that something isn’t quite right. Use that sign, be grateful for it, and be curious about it.
4. Use hindsight. Sometimes it’s hard to be present with binges, so using hindsight is also a great tool to use until you’re able to tune into your binges as they’re happening. After a binge - and after you’ve given yourself that huuuuge dose of forgiveness and self-compassion - ask yourself, “What did I really need in that moment? Was I feeling bored, sad, anxious, happy? What led me to the food? What could I have done to soothe myself?” Remember, labeling binges as “bad” is another form of black-and-white, wrong-versus-right, restricting mindset thinking. As in, if you keep willpowering your way away from binges, they will keep happening. Instead, view binges as helpful. Say, “Wow. I was so bored and the food was something that brought me joy. Interesting. I wonder if there’s another way I can bring joy into my life that doesn’t leave me feeling so sick.” See that? No judgment or self-hate talk. Just curiosity and forward-thinking.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Do these steps sound feasible for you? What helps you with binge eating?