A Background On Binge Eating
Do you ever feel like you just have no control over your appetite? You try to do everything right, and you may even be doing super well all day, then by evening you get the urge to just eat everything in sight. Sometimes you can’t stop. Sometimes you don’t want to stop. I’ve certainly been there. I still do on occasion. It’s frustrating, it’s scary, it’s emotionally taxing. Episodes are usually if not always accompanied by feelings of shame or guilt and depression. Why can’t your body just listen to you?
Binge Eating is a recognized eating disorder that can be just as dangerous as other disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. It’s also a lot more common than other eating disorders. Studies have found it’s more than three times as common as bulimia nervosa and anorexia combined.
Signs that you have a binge eating disorder include eating large amounts of food very quickly in a short period of time; an inability to stop eating even when you’re full; eating continuously throughout the day rather than at planned meal times; hiding or storing food for later. (Binging can be planned. Did you know that? That was one of my problems. I always stockpiled food for later when no one would see me eat it.)
There are also emotional signs in case you didn’t recognize any of the physical symptoms. These include feelings of stress that are only relieved by eating; embarrassment over how much or what you’re eating, or embarrassment over eating at all; never feeling satisfied regardless of how much you eat; feelings of not being present during an episode, or like you just have no control over your own body.
What typically causes binge eating episodes? Binge eating is strongly linked to emotions. Many people with binge eating problems either are depressed or have been before. Other feelings linked to binge eating are low self-esteem, loneliness, or other negative thoughts towards ones self. Children who were rewarded, comforted, or dismissed with food on a regular basis are at risk for binge eating disorder, even without any negative emotions fueling the need. (I ate when I was bored. I feel that played a large part in my binge eating habit later on in life.)
Binge eating has also been shown to occur alongside other eating disorders(bulimia nervosa), other conditions such as Prader-Willi Syndrome, or problems with the hypothalamus. (The part of your brain that controls appetite among other things.)
What are the risks of an under managed binge eating disorder? Binge eating can often cause or encourage the development of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, if your binge eating disorder wasn’t already triggered by negative emotions such as depression and low self esteem, it can certainly cause them.
Tips On How to Manage Binge Eating
Please understand first and foremost, these tips are things that have worked for me and may or may not work for you, too. This is also not medical advice, so if you do suffer from any eating disorder, I encourage you to seek help from a medical professional. That being said, let’s get to the list.
1.) Move your scale
Are you constantly checking and rechecking your weight and getting emotional over the numbers going in the wrong direction? Do those feelings trigger frustration and ultimately lead to cramming whatever food makes you feel better into your mouth as soon and fast as possible? Try moving your scale to a more public area. You’re less likely to continuously step on it if there are other people around or if it isn’t as easy to access. If that’s not an option, consider getting rid of it altogether.
2.) Don’t Restrict, Give Yourself Permission
The first thing people with binge eating problems will usually think of is that they need to stop eating the foods they crave entirely. By not allowing yourself to have the things you love, you set yourself up for the risk of gorging yourself on it later. Instead of disallowing yourself your usual foods, try adding in new, healthier foods. Have more fresh fruits or veggies at meal time.
When your diet consists of healthy, natural foods that provide your body with all the nutrients it needs, you will feel full and satisfied a lot sooner, and you’ll be less likely to binge on your trigger foods and instead be able to enjoy them in moderate amounts.
3.) Replace Trigger Foods With Healthier Alternatives
Take a look at the foods you usually end up binging on. What kind of foods are they? No matter what it may be, I can bet there’s a healthier, lower calorie alternative you can try.
Ice cream – for example – can be replaced with low fat frozen yogurt. You can get the same flavors in the same serving sizes for about half the calories. I personally have found I like the taste of frozen yogurt much better, too.
Cakes and pastries can be replaced with homemade muffins or fruit or veggie breads(think banana or zucchini. Yum.)
Are you a huge fan of cookies? There are so many options to have healthier cookies. Make your own at home and use natural ingredients such as bananas or applesauce instead of sugar. If you’re not good at baking, try switching to nutrition bars instead. I’m a fan of Clif bars and Lenny and Larry’s cookies myself.
Greek yogurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise in things like egg salad, or just a sub for regular yogurt in general.
The list goes on. Take some time to go through your grocery store and explore alternatives next time you go shopping.
4.) Snack On Things That Take Longer To Finish
If you find you don’t have a particular trigger food and you’re just likely to binge on whatever you have in your home, start keeping snacks around that take time to eat. Raw carrots and celery are good options. They both take time to chew and you really have to take your time with them. Broccoli is also good. Maybe some crunchy granola bars as opposed to the chewy kind. If you like cheese, start getting it in block form instead of pre-shredded or sliced. Taking the time to prepare it yourself can help keep you from going overboard on proportions.
5.) After Every Meal, Brush Your Teeth Or Pop A Breath Mint
Have you ever tried drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth? Nasty, right? It works the same with just about anything you eat. The strong, minty flavor lingers on your taste buds and makes eating anything soon after rather unpleasant. If you get into the habit of brushing your teeth after each meal time, you’ll be less likely to go back into the kitchen right away for something else. The mint can also settle your stomach and trigger an “I’m finished” response that tells your body it’s time to stop.
Fun Fact: Did you know most restaurants give away those little peppermints as a means to help settle your stomach after a large meal? However, most peppermints are almost pure sugar now, so unless they’re made using real peppermint oil, it’s unlikely they’ll help. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
If you don’t have time to brush after mealtime or you’re away from home and can’t access your tooth brush, breath mints are good for the same purpose.
6.) Be Patient
It takes time to develop any habit. Unhealthy eating habits included. So naturally it’s going to take time to break those habits as well. It’s going to take time and dedication. It’s not going to happen overnight. Keep at it though and in time you’ll wonder why it was ever a problem at all. You can do it!
7.) Avoid “Fad Diets”
Fad diets are any kind of diet that promise ridiculously quick results for the time period given, or promise easy results without exercise or just eating healthy. They’re popular because they tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth. These diets usually require you to restrict calories, often to an unhealthy level. As we said before, restriction is bad. It leads to feeling dissatisfied, which leads to binge eating, which leads to guilt, and it’s a slippery slope of unhealthy emotions that you just don’t need to deal with.
Stick to eating healthy, nutritional meals. Whole grains, veggies, fruits, lean meats, beans, etc. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed if you want a tasty snack now and then. Food shouldn’t have to be evil.
8.) Keep your trigger foods away from home
This one is pretty simple. Note that I don’t say “never eat your trigger foods again.” We covered that earlier. However, you can control the amount you eat by keeping it out of the house. Keep your home stocked with your good food, and when you feel like something extra special, make a trip and get it. Again, don’t feel guilty about it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something special.
9.) Make A Plan
Stick to the plan, always deliver! Just kidding. But who doesn’t love that movie? Back to the point. Make a plan. Figure out your day. When do you wake up? When do you sleep? You want to get your calories in somewhere in this period.
So, plan out your meals. Plan out your snacks. Sort every meal by calories. Eat the most for lunch, second most for breakfast, third most for dinner, and everything else in snacks. Plan out what time you’re going to eat. Eat your meals at regular intervals and have your snacks in between. Make them last as long as possible. Chew slowly, take a sip of water between each bite, and just enjoy it. I’ve found by doing this, if I want to eat between meals, it’s easier to say “Just 30 more minutes until lunch time.” Or “Just 10 more minutes until I have a snack.”
10.) Drink Enough Water
You probably hear this a million times in a week. That’s because it is super important. Drinking enough water throughout the day helps prevent your body from retaining fluids because it’s dehydrated. Extra fluid retention equals extra weight retention, for one, but also when you’re feeling hungry even if you just ate, you’re likely just thirsty. When you feel like you want food between meal times, drink a cup of water first. The feeling may go away. If it doesn’t, go ahead and have your snack a little early. Don’t feel guilty about it!
11.) Keep Yourself Occupied
Similar to when you’re thirsty, it’s also possible you’re not hungry, but just bored. This was a HUGE problem for me as a child. I was home schooled and we did our learning on a more relaxed schedule. This meant more free time during the day. I didn’t always know how to occupy myself, but I really liked eating. So that’s what I did.
You can easily prevent this by filling your day with more productive activities. Go for walks or to the park. Bring a book to read. Go for a drive. Turn on YouTube and follow an exercise video. Research something you’re interested in. Start a blog about something you’re passionate about. Go see a movie with friends (but skip the snacks.) Pick up a new hobby. The possibilities are endless.
12.) Make It To Go
If you find yourself at a nice restaurant with large portion sizes, it’s very easy to get carried away and often you can feel pressured to finish everything on your plate. You can fix this by asking the waiter to bag half of your meal before they serve it. Or even share a plate with the person you’re with. This helps lower the cost, too, so bonus!
13.) Keep A Reminder Somewhere You’ll See It
Sometimes just reminding yourself that you’ve had enough or that it’s not time to eat yet goes a long way. You can do this a number of ways:
- A classic is to put post it notes all over the place. Maybe tag all your food with them or stick them on the fridge and pantry doors.
- Set a text background on your phone. If you use your phone a lot, you’ll get a helpful little reminder every time you turn it on.
- Wear a customized bracelet. Those little rubber sporty ones are always cute. And gender neutral.
Those are just a few ideas, but you can get creative and make reminders however you feel would benefit you the most.
14.) Don’t Feel Guilty
It’s easy to have an unhealthy relationship with food, but it’s definitely something you don’t want. Food is fantastic. You shouldn’t have to hate it or even blame it for having control over you. Just remember that every type of food can be categorized as energy. You’re always using energy, you always need energy. It’s all a matter of when and how you use that energy. Loving energy is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t feel guilty.
Struggling with any eating disorder is not easy. It’s important you surround yourself with supportive and caring people. Consult your doctor if you feel you’re suffering from one and begin taking the steps necessary to recover and take back control over your life. What you eat does not have to define you.
Thanks for reading! Remember someone out there cares about you.