Binge eating gets the best of us. In the evenings, out at social events, after some cocktails at dinner… Pick your vice. We all feel it.
The feeling of being out of control. Of feeling physically empty or lacking without giving in to your cravings.
And overall feelings of failure when you feel like you’ve let yourself, and your diet, down.
Because 33% of Americans are obese and on average trying 4-5 diets per year unsuccessfully, we can safely assume this is a pretty big issue.
Why does binge eating actually happen?
According to Dr. Michael Mantell with Greatist, binge eating is always a result of dealing with negative emotions.
The process of compulsive binging applies equally to food, drugs, and even people with a shopping addiction.
These negative emotions have 3 categories:
- Psychological – Things like anxiety or stress
- Chemical – Pleasure chemicals like oxytocin that is released in the brain when we eat sugary and overly fatty foods
- Cultural – Where the people you are around and the culture you live in places pressure on you to consume more
Because binge eating can be caused by any of these, there is no one size fits all solution.
There are also different levels of addiction.
Not everyone who buys a pair of jeans becomes a shopaholic, and not everyone who eats a piece of chocolate eats the entire bag.
Each person will have their own level of addiction and optimal protocol to solving this problem.
6 Steps to Stop Binge Eating
P.S. This also applies to emotional eating!
1. Listen to Your Body First and Foremost
When we slow down, breathe, and bring our attention to our bodies, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the rest and digest mode for our body).
By doing this, we help separate our animal brain and desires from our pre-frontal cortex, which helps us make better decisions.
This is why studies show meditation, yoga, and mindful eating are incredibly effective for those who binge eat.
Slowing down, chewing your food 20 times before swallowing, and not eating while watching tv or on your phone are all ways to be a more mindful eater.
If you aren’t into yoga or meditation, try this…
Allow the feelings of desire for junk food. Acknowledge them. Say hello.
Don’t try to fight them and don’t give in. Just accept what you are feeling and think about why you are feeling it.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Why am I craving this food?
- Am I actually hungry? Am I bored?
- How will I feel after I eat this food?
- Will I immediately regret it?
Then give yourself one hour to wait. If at the end of the hour, you’re still desperate for it, maybe allow yourself to give in.
But you will be much more conscious of the decision-making process around this food.
Do your best not to give in and begin to break the power the food has over you.
2. Discover Patterns With a Journal
We all have triggers in our lives that can lead to binging.
It could be a particular restaurant you visit, a friend you hang out with, or just any time you are on vacation.
By journaling your thoughts and walking yourself through the steps that led up to the emotional eating, you become more mindful of what’s happening.
This is why keeping journals and food logs have been proven to help dieters lose weight faster and keep it off.
We also have a short video on emotional and binge eating on our Youtube Channel, The Health Nerd, that you might find helpful!
3. Become a Master of the Salad Question
This is one of my favorites and it’s both extremely helpful and extremely infuriating.
It’s very important for you to be able to determine if you are actually hungry or just craving food because you’re bored.
Are you so hungry that you would eat a salad right now instead of [insert food craving here]?
I find that the answer, at least with myself, 9 times out of 10 is usually a loud and resounding NO.
Insert apple or broccoli or whatever other healthy food you have on hand in your kitchen if it’s helpful.
And if your answer is NO, you know that you don’t actually need the food. You’re just bored and wanting something.
Don’t let it have that power over your decisions. Might as well call it a drug.
4. Be Aware of the “What the Hell” Effect
This is an actual psychological effect where a small diet slip-up causes people to say “ ahh what the hell!” and eat everything in sight.
This kind of binging often leads to serious and hurtful feelings of shame and guilt afterward.
It also often associated with bulimia when the shame and guilt gets so bad that someone feels the need to purge the body afterwards.
In this case, your mental health is at stake far more than your general health.
Keeping triggers and temptations out of the house will help you fight this. Keep bad food out of the house. Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry.
Also, positive self-talk can be effective if you’re in the midst of a binge-eating session.
Saying things like, “Every little bit counts, so I’ll stop eating now.” mid-binge can help.
Every calorie that you don’t eat is a calorie saved.
5. Become the Veggie Monster
Depriving yourself too much on a diet can cause binge eating.
But here’s the thing, most veggies are so low calorie that it would be basically impossible to eat too many if eating them in their natural state (i.e. veggie chips do not count).
Eat plants, especially leafy greens, like there’s no tomorrow, and do not have a set limit for yourself.
You can binge on as much spinach salad as you like guilt-free.
6. If All Else Fails, Get Some Help
Circling back to the first point I made, everyone is a little different. Some people have brains that are highly susceptible to addiction.
If binge eating is something you have struggled with your entire life and none of what I just said has worked, it’s time to reach out and get professional help.
If you need a plan to help you stop binge eating and emotional eating, our 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge does just that.
The plan was designed to help you better recognize boredom eating, emotional eating, and binge eating, as well help you overcome all of them. It will teach you how to change your eating habits and learn what we should and should not be eating.
Our clients lose an average of 10-21 pounds in 21 days and absolutely love it! But even better than the weight loss is the feedback we get from people about how the program has taught them how to change their eating habits and find a diet that truly works for them in the long-term.
You can read more information about the 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge by clicking here.