Binge-eating is characterized by uncontrollable eating and resulting weight gain. People who binge frequently eat large amounts of food (beyond the point of feeling full) in a short time period. There is a sense of feeling out of control over their eating. Frequently the episodes are following by contempt and shame.
This article will present 5 smart tools to take control of your binge eating and begin the journey to sanity and health. [Of course, it should be said upfront, that anyone with an eating disorder should be under the care of a licensed professional, such as a medical doctor.] The tools presented here are not to be construed as medical advice, but are given to be used in conjunction with your medical program.
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What, then, are some ways to begin the journey back to healthful eating?
Here are the 5 smart tools to assist you along the way:
1. Recognize your triggers
Usually a binge episode starts long before your first bite! In order to help you nail down what is happening prior to your overeating, it is helpful to keep a record. This entails writing down in a food diary what you are eating, how you are feeling , where you are, who are you with and what you are thinking. You can do this in a journal or search the web for food diary apps for your phone.
I like using a written journal. Once you have recorded a week’s worth of data, the fun begins. Look for patterns. Is the binge after a stressful interchange? Is the same person involved prior to each time? Is it always a social occasion? Or is it the same time of day? Early evening is a common time. Is the same food involved in the binge? Sugar? Fat? Salt?
2. Remove trigger foods from your immediate environment
Maybe it is Twinkies, or chocolate, or ice cream. Once you have identified your trigger foods, remove them from your house. It does not mean you will not overeat, but it certainly slows you down and gives you some space to use some of the other tools.
When the urge to binge begins, you can still choose to go out and get the food or you might take some time to pay attention to what you are feeling underneath the urge and focus on what you “really” need. Is it food? Or is it the comfort of a friend’s voice? Or do you need to sleep?
Which brings us to the third tool:
Many people skip meals thinking they can lose weight, only to get so hungry by evening that they eat everything in site, usually unhealthy food.
Buried anger can often be a trigger to binge episodes. Identify the anger and address it.
Food often serves the place of providing comfort; it is always present and it does not talk back to us. It can be a lot easier to pick up a donut instead of the phone.
There are great studies that show people who do not get enough sleep tend to overeat and be overweight. If you are tired, take a nap or go to bed. It’s a safe place too!
4. Eat mindfully
This is perhaps the best tool of all and it takes a lot of practice. What this means is that you do not eat in your car or while doing another activity. Sitting down at a table without the TV, radio, newspaper, books or other distractions, eat slowly, keeping your focus on the experience of eating.
One resource I use is an apple mindfulness exercise by Thich Nhat Hanh. How does the food look, how does it feel in your mouth, is it satisfying? By slowing down and eating mindfully, you bring your attention to the present moment. At first, many people notice that there minds are racing with thoughts such as, “I should hurry up so I can get something done!”
There can be a real discomfort that comes with sitting still with your thoughts and if this happens, simply re-direct your thoughts to the food and to noticing how your body is reacting to the meal. See if you can savor and truly enjoy what you are eating.
5. Focus on self-affirming messages instead of critical self-talk
– Here are several foundational beliefs that can change your perspective.
– There is no such thing as failure; everything is simply feedback.
– You are always exactly where you need to be.
– Everything is for your eventual benefit.
– The only time is NOW; stay present. Are you OK right now in this moment?
– Everything is OK in the end; if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.
– Every behavior (no matter how destructive it looks) is meant to satisfy a true need. Find out what the need is and find a better way to satisfy it!
– Forgive yourself and others!
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