Binging is one common problem among women and men today, but there are many ways to stop binging that anyone can do right now, at this minute. I know how imprisoning the binging cycle is. I’ve suffered three times in my life, for about 6 months each time. It’s terribly painful, both mentally and physically, yet the cycle is a vicious addiction that is hard to quit. Most people binge out of stress alone. Though it may be associated with disordered eating or a food addiction, most of the time the very first binge is created from stress. It’s so easy to turn to rich, sugary, fatty, salty, and creamy foods when we’re stressed. These foods are comforting, they don’t judge us, and they immediately calm us because they’re rich in addicting properties. All of these foods stimulate the same neurons in the brain that release chemicals identical to those released when someone does drugs, alcohol, etc. It’s the same addictive cycle, even though food is technically legal. We turn to these foods because they “numb us out,” so to speak. I’ve been there, and maybe you have too, but luckily there are proven ways to stop binging and gain relief. Don’t wait any longer to put these into practice. Freedom from binging tastes so much sweeter than any food you could imagine.
1. Pinpoint the Stress
First, before we touch on food-related ways to stop binging, it’s vital to think about what type of circumstance usually happens, or what thoughts you have, right before you binge. Maybe it’s late at night after the day is done, and you want to relax and not think about things. Or, maybe you binge out of anger, after a fight, or perhaps right when you get home from a stressful day at work, or just from work in general. Finding out what type of situation and circumstance usually instigates the binge will help you become more aware, which is a huge step of progress in helping you stop. I know for me, it usually happened at night, when everyone was in bed. I was going through a really hard time, and I was a little overweight and rarely ate much all day. Then, at night, it was my time to eat without judgment from anyone and usually, there was always some type of anger or resentment within me about my life at the time, or even someone in my family. Sometimes, when you’re upset about something subconsciously, binging can happen without you realizing it. Pinpoint the source of your stress, and awareness will begin to help you cope in a different way as you’ll see below. If you have to, make a list, and keep it somewhere only you will see it. It can help create a visual for why you’re turning to the unhealthy habit to begin with.
2. Get Rid of It
Now that you know why you’re binging, or have an idea, it’s time to get rid of the poison, or the food, so to speak. I truly hate to throw away food, and usually think of any kind of way to save it, with one exception: binge food. When I decided I was really ready to stop binging, and really ready to change, I threw every single binge food out. It was so hard to see those half empty jars of nut butter in the trash, or those gluten-free boxes of cereal I justified, and even the “healthy” granola bars. Yet, I knew that if I left them there, I would probably just eat them all in one sitting anyway, embarrassingly. So, which was worse? Throwing them all away, or trashing my body with them instead? Think of your typical binge foods as “poison” if you have to at first. Food is not “bad” and “good,” but for some of us even the healthiest foods can be “poison” when they become more powerful than our willpower. Quit torturing yourself and stop buying them. You’ll feel the biggest sense of empowerment when you do. Then, go shopping for healthy foods that don’t create an addictive cycle for you. We all have our “vices.” Maybe yours is fast food, ice cream, or healthy foods like nut butter, and even dried fruit. Whatever it is- get rid of it. It is the first step to helping you get clean from binging- right now.
3. Eat More
That’s right, to stop binging, I want you to eat more, during the day, at all your meals. Most people who binge restrict during one or more meals during the day. If you don’t restrict yourself, great! Then you’re on the right track, but if you do, I want you to make yourself eat a small healthy breakfast, a modest size lunch, and one snack in the afternoon with some protein and healthy fat. My favorite of the moment is organic nonfat Greek yogurt with cinnamon, stevia, flax, and 1 tablespoon of raw coconut butter. My favorite breakfast is ½ cup rolled oats with almond milk, flax, chia, cinnamon, and stevia. Lunch is something with veggies, leafy greens, and protein. Oh, and I never miss my after lunch square of dark chocolate either. I allow myself to eat healthy foods that I love all day long, and this is crucial to helping you stop binging. When you satisfy yourself all day without overeating, but eating healthy size portions, binging just sort of dissipates on its own. It’s okay to enjoy food- in fact, I want you to! I just don’t want you to do it in one session where you allow it to make you numb and uncomfortable in the form of a binge.
4. Confess to Someone
Another top piece of advice I would give anyone looking to overcome binging is to tell somebody! Even if it’s through email, or over the phone. Telling someone about your struggle with binging is eye-opening in terms of helping you see why you’re struggling so much with binging. For me, I told my mom, as hard as it was, because I knew she lived with me and would be able to hold me accountable in a loving way. I told her the agony I felt the night before, what was causing the binge, and she held no judgment, just concern. Somehow, just releasing that was all I needed to have more control overcoming the bad habit. She never told me not to eat anything, but simply listened when I needed her to. Find someone, anyone, who will do the same for you.
5. Don’t Look Back
One of the most important things to do is think of yourself as a new person. Tell yourself you can do this, and you’re not incapable of healing from binging. Millions of people suffer from this, and you are not the only one dealing with this battle. Tell yourself you won’t look back, and will look ahead. That food no longer serves you, nor does that habit. Give yourself the freedom of a new start, and start today.
6. Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability is different than willpower. Holding yourself accountable is a kind, yet firm way of reminding yourself you deserve better and need to make changes. I held myself accountable by doing this: right before I began to head to the kitchen to binge, I literally said to myself, “Heather, you deserve better and you deserve more than numbing yourself out with food. There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning with guilt, pain, and having to start all over. You are better than this.” I seriously said that every single time I wanted to binge. Food journaling, writing it out, and trying to do another activity never worked for me like most people advise you to do. Maybe they will for you, but for me, I had to verbally express accountability to myself to stop. Over the period of one week, I was free of binging and felt free. Try it, and let me know if it works for you too.
7. Focus on New Things
The most important way to overcome binging after you’ve broken the cycle is to focus on new things besides food. Find a hobby, focus on your job, or start focusing on paying off debt. Anything! Just find something to put all your effort into, and go with it. It will help you stop thinking about food so much, and help you approach dealing with your stress in a new way. We all have things in our life that stress us out, so it’s important to focus on things that can positively change our lives so we don’t revert to unhealthy, self-defeating habits like binging.
If you’re struggling with binging, you are not incapable of overcoming the habit, I promise. If you’d like support with this issue, feel free to visit me on my blog, The Soulful Spoon, at soulfulspoon.com. You can contact the National Association of Eating Disorders at nationaleatingdisorders.org for professional help as well. Do you have a healthy tip for ways to stop binging?