Key Strategies for Approaching Binge Eating

Today we’re going way back to our Quiet the Diet roots and talking about binge eating. This topic is near and dear to the work that we do with our clients and is deeply personal.

So what actually is binge eating? Apart from the clinical definition, we like to look at it as any type of loss of control while you’re eating, and being driven to eat by a gnawing feeling rather than true hunger. If you’re currently struggling with binge eating, we hope that these tangible strategies and models help you feel a little less alone and a little more seen in your unique, individual experience. 

3 Different Models for Binge Eating (choose the one that resonates with you)

  1. Liberalize all food restrictions 

We know that the more that you cut out specific foods like bread, cake, potatoes, whatever it may be, the more you end up binging on those foods – there is compelling scientific evidence to support this. The reason that food restriction often leads to binge eating behaviors is because of a psychological survival instinct that all humans have that tells us to urgently seek out food when we feel like there isn’t enough around. 

  1. Support your nervous system

When we feel uncomfortable inside of our bodies many of us utilize food as a tool to deal with this emotional and physical discomfort. Focusing on nervous system support and stress support can help us to regulate ourselves so that we don’t feel as impulsive, flighty or triggered in difficult or intense moments. We will get into a number of specific strategies for nourishing your nervous system shortly.

  1. Take a break from triggering foods

First off, I want to acknowledge that this model is fundamentally contradictory to the first model. But we included it because getting foods that are extremely triggering to you out of your house is quite different from eliminating foods from your diet purely because you deem them “bad” or “unhealthy”. The truth is that we live in a world with a lot of new age foods that our ancestors wouldn’t recognize. Big corporations spend billions of dollars on research and development engineering these foods to be so hyper palatable that when we start eating them, we don’t want to stop. These foods essentially override our intuitive hunger and fullness cues, making it nearly impossible to eat hyperpalatable foods intuitively to a certain extent. So in this third model, we’re really looking at reducing our intake of these triggering, hyperpalatable foods and prioritizing whole foods. By consuming adequate nutrients, vitamins and minerals we can effectively create neurotransmitters that keep our nervous system happy and us feeling stable. 

10 Tips for Transforming Binge Eating:

  1. Trauma work comes first. If you’re binging because of deep seated trauma or intense emotional pain that has not yet been processed, it’s really important NOT to prioritize changing your binging behavior(s). In this case, treating your binging should not even begin until any trauma therapy or emotional work has been done because removing the tool of binging before you have other coping mechanisms in place can be really dangerous. 

  1. Work on increasing your self confidence. We want to start to cultivate a positive self image by speaking nicer to ourselves, gassing ourselves up with affirmations or mantras, or whatever other self love tools work for you. These strategies can help to lift you out of your binging behaviors by instilling confidence in your ability to sit with discomfort and ride it out on your own. 

  1. Change the narrative of binging being “bad”. When we really think about it, binging is actually a form of self preservation – a form of protection. It’s extremely valid and it makes sense that you are doing it. You’re not a horrible person and it is NOT shameful! 

  1. Introduce an intentional pause before eating. Stephanie Marafox, a somatic eating practitioner, talks about somatic eating as the step before intuitive eating. In other words, if we jump right into intuitive eating before we are able to feel what’s going on inside of our bodies, we can’t eat truly intuitively. In order to eat somatically, we must pause between our trigger (maybe: “I feel bloated”, “I want to binge”, or “I’m stressed”) and our response (reaching for food) and then proceed. 

  1. Name your feelings of discomfort as they arise. By acknowledging our feelings, we eliminate any power that they have over us. This could look like saying what you’re experiencing out loud either to yourself or to someone else. Simply voicing your immediate emotions and naming them (if you can) tends to calm your nervous system down because your body feels heard and seen.

  1. Change your response in the moment. Instead of reaching for food right away, you can try calling a friend that makes you feel grounded and heart-centered, walking outside and noticing your surroundings, or doing something that gets you present, and safe in your body. Because when you’re present during a binge, in whatever way you’re able to be, it will totally transform the binge. 

  1. Journal when you are feeling badass. While we often get the advice to journal when we are triggered or activated, it can be more powerful and effective to journal when you are feeling really strong and like your most authentic self. This simple practice can help remind us who we are at our core, and that this incredible person exists all the time even when we are having negative thoughts. 

  1. Bring in a loved one. If moving through your urges to binge alone is just way too much right now, I’ve found that sitting with your partner can be really powerful for many of my clients. This is because being honest and open with them can help to make your binging feel like less of a secret that you’re harboring, or less taboo. Once your feelings are out in the open, there is usually a sense of relief. From my experience, I’ve learned that it’s important to choose someone who brings you strength AND helps you get into your body, somatically, rather than asking how they can help or launching into the fixer mode. 

  1. Harness the power of touch. This may sound corny but sitting or laying on the ground, putting your legs up the wall, wrapping your arms around yourself, or even literally holding your own hand can give you a sense of comfort and help you ride out the feelings. 

  1. Write out a manual for how to get through life. As a journal prompt, think about when I’m feeling __ way, ___ is what helps me in the moment. Also, it can be a list of strategies that you find soothing that can introduce a new routine and start to rewire your brain. Things like taking an Epsom salt bath, doing a yoga flow, talking to a friend on the phone, etc can be helpful in turning to something aside from our default pattern of binging.

To summarize all of this, remember that binge eating is something to be experienced, and experiencing binge eating is the transformation. So any way you can experience it, whether you write a manual for yourself of how to experience it, lay on the ground and let the wave of discomfort flow through you and still binge, bring consciousness to it by calling out feelings that arise, and more will transform a binge. 

Want to hear more?

Season 4 of the Quiet the Diet podcast just launched and we thought it was only fitting that we kick it off with an in depth episode on binge eating – Binge Eating: A Revolutionary Approach for Those Who Feel Out of Control. Let us know what you think!

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