When I was at university, many moons ago, I’d binge on soft candy. I’d be so tired and strung out from working two jobs back-to-back while also trying to study or write assignments, that I wanted a quick fix of energy and due to my frazzled state of mind, I had no stop button, so I’d eat a whole packet in one sitting.
When I lived in London in a crazy share-house 15 years ago, my favourite treat was ice cream. I loved Ben & Jerry’s Fish Food flavour, and Tescos would often have a deal to buy two tubs for 5 Pounds. I’d buy the two and then hide the tubs way back in the freezer behind the frozen peas and way-too-old frozen leftovers in containers, so nobody would find my precious ice-cream. Then when I could, I’d sneak into the kitchen and devour a whole tub, on my own, as quickly as I could, before anyone could catch me, but also so that I wouldn’t have time to think about what I was doing and maybe avoid feeling any shame and guilt following my binge.
Do these stories sound familiar? Maybe you have your own particular vice- chocolate, potato chips, cheese and crackers or maybe it is more random and you get into moods where you will eat as much of whatever it is that you can get your hands on.
What I want you to know, is that it IS possible to stop this reckless cycle of over-eating and bingeing- for good. And, it really isn’t that hard to do with some simple shifts in the way you think in your relationship with food
There are so many reasons why we binge eat. Sometimes the idea of eating a whole tub of ice-cream is just too irresistible. Or perhaps the delicious dinner you have just eaten was too good not to have third helpings of. It can sometimes be a feeling of sadness or loss of control in some area of our life that leads us to mindlessly eating a whole packet of Oreos or Pringles, perhaps in an attempt to feed our emotions rather than feeling them.
Whatever the reason, the outcome is often the same at the end. A feeling of disgust, guilt, shame. It can be scary when you feel like you have lost complete control of you mind and actions, but I assure you that you’re not going crazy and that with some practice, it is possible to reign in the binge-eating patterns.
1. Whenever you eat, slow down
Start to practice mindful eating where you are both aware and present of every mouthful that is going into your mouth. Really taste the flavour, experience the texture sensations, and receive the pleasure you are seeking when eating that food. Also switch off the TV, take away the distractions and immerse yourself in the experience of eating.
2. Enjoy your food
Which leads us to actually enjoying what you eat. Food and eating is and should be a pleasurable experience. Scoffing down food at a fast pace and without thought is not enjoyable. You need to start taking pleasure in the whole ritual of eating in order to stop the over-eating.
3. Honour your hunger and fullness
Do you actually know how to recognise physical hunger when it appears in your body? Do you know how it feels when you are satisfied and satiated- but not too full?
Get intimate with these feelings, and honour them.
4. Avoid your triggers
We all have a food that we know we cannot resist. I cannot have huge amounts of chocolate around me as I can’t stop at just one small piece. Know what your trigger foods are and just avoid buying them and keeping them around you. Thinking you can be strong enough not to eat them is ridiculous. You are setting yourself up for failure and a binge and turning into that person I know you don’t want to be.
The same goes for trigger situations or people. Does hanging out with certain people cause you to have feelings that lead you wanting to binge? Do particular situations cause you to lose all control and stop paying attention to what you are eating? Avoid these people and situations as much as you can, or at least recognise and acknowledge the likely reaction that it will bring up in your so that you can adequately prepare.
5. Don’t diet or limit the food you eat
Most bingeing and overeating occurs when we are putting controls on our body and what we feed it. This leads to us wanting and craving the thing we are restricting, which will then inevitably lead to bingeing out on that thing you are depriving yourself of. Don’t diet or put restrictions on yourself- learn to trust that you know what is nourishing for your body and what is not and get rid of the controls.
6. Eat enough nutrient dense food
Other cravings and binges can occur when our bodies are undernourished from one of the key macro or micro-nutrients, when you don’t eat enough protein, carbs or fats, or if you eat poor quality foods. You will be way more likely to overeat in these situations when you get the chance, because your body will try to compensate for what it has been missing out on but actually really needs for survival.
When you are craving something it usually means your body is needing a vital nutrient to run optimally. Enjoy your natural appetite by letting by go of junk and eating real, healthy and natural food as often as possible, and crowd out the space for any over-eating to even occur.
7. Trust and give thanks
Stop being fearful of food and start trusting your own hunger and the need to eat. Trust your body and its natural functions and your natural appetite. Then be grateful for being hungry and alive with each meal you eat.
8. Get conscious
If you feel a binge coming on, pause and take deep breaths, then reflect on what you are about to do. Create a moment of consciousness by taking a minute to pause before you then go and make a nice soothing cup of tea, instead of bingeing. In the time it takes to boil the water, steep the tea and take a sip, you will have allowed a level of higher thinking to come into your mind which should prevent the binge and the thoughts leading up to it, from ever happening.
- What do you think about these tools? Which ones resonate the most with you and why?