How To Stop Binge Eating – How I Beat It & What I Tell My Clients
Ahhh the big B word. This topic is close to my heart and many others. Binge eating is a common issue I see in clinic effecting my clients, and a problem that I myself used to suffer from years ago before becoming a nutritionist and having a healthy relationship with not only food but myself.
Before I changed my diet and lifestyle 8+ years ago I was no stranger to working out intensively because I felt guilty from binge eating. I would be really “good” (aka healthy) for days, then if someone put a block of milk chocolate in front of me I’d happily demolish ½ a block or more, followed by some ice-cream and then whatever else came into my path. I felt like a victim to food, and felt I had no control over it. Food governed my life in an unhealthy way. I’d eat dinner, then go for another one or two servings, feel extremely full, then once again happily demolish ½ tub ice-cream or chocolate (chocolate and ice-cream are my weakness) just because I had “cravings” that needed to be met. This went on for years. Being a foodie and enjoying cooking and baking I used to make a sugar-filled brownie (back in my unhealthy days) and would often finish off the whole thing in 1-2 days. I struggled to say no to treats, or any food really. This did not help my IBS symptoms at the time either, but I felt I was out of control and didn’t know what was wrong with me.
Then I went and studied holistic nutrition and things changed. I learned about how the body and mind works, and how food affects us on a physical level. I then …
- Changed my diet to a wholefoods non-restrictive diet
- I quit sugar
- I started to look at food as fuel and nourishment
- I slowed down
- I forgave myself
- I made healthy food swaps
- I tuned into my body and hunger signals more
- I started meditating more and practicing more self-love.
Now being in practice, as I mentioned above this is something very common that I see regularly in the clinic. It’s a vicious cycle, but the cycle can be broken. It does take time and it’s not a quick fix, there is no magic pill to stop you from binge eating. You first have to decided that you want to take control of your life, especially your health, and that you are worthy of it. You then have to commit to change, (change is always mentally the hardest part) and be mindful that it will take time to change eating patterns, maybe even months, but with willpower, determination and the want/desire to be healthy and live a balanced life you can get there.
There are several reasons behind binging: stress, anger, even happiness, constant dieting, and deprivation, or physical needs such as to keep your hunger in check, ensuring you’re eating the right macronutrients at each meal. Often to combat binging we need to build up self-esteem, so we feel worthy of allowing ourselves to have a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Knowing how physically and mentally challenging this can be, I want to offer all of my beautiful followers some tips that you can incorporate into your life so you can take control of your eating habits. If you feel you need more help, maybe some personal guidance or a personalized plan to follow to help get you on track, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me today. I’d love nothing more than to help you find a healthy balanced relationship with food.
Here are a few ways you can help to heal your relationship with food:
Begin each binge with a pause
During a binge (which actually begins in your head, before food ever touches your lips), it’s important to realize that the part of you that wants to eat regardless of the repercussions is present and in control. Use this as an opportunity to create some space for thoughts and reflections before or during the binge. Pause, and gently ask yourself to try to wait 60-90 seconds before putting the food in your mouth.
Get rid of diet and deprivation
There’s a good chance that a diet is what leads you into binge eating in the first place (yup – that’s me, guilty)! From personal and clinical experience, strict diets, especially those that revolve around limiting or completely eliminating foods, food groups, or macronutrients only add fuel to the binge eating fire. The solution is not found in a diet, so give up dieting and stop looking at or focusing on all the foods you “can’t” eat.
This is a crucial starting point for breaking the cycle. It’s self-love. You fell off the wagon, that’s okay, you’re only human. It’s time to get up and remind yourself that it’s okay to fall off the wagon sometimes, we all do it, I still do it even being a nutritionist, I’m human. But knowing when to stop, and learning when is enough is key. Being strong and learning from this experience is vitally important, and being strong enough to turn away from extreme or restrictive dieting.
Move forward – learn to break the cycle
When you do have a binge/overeating day, try as hard as you can to quickly forget about it and move forward and start the next day fresh with a healthy outlook focusing on nourishing healthy whole and unprocessed foods only. The more you dwell on the things you have already eaten, the more you will go on to continue eating more and more and the negative cycle will continue. The best thing is to break the cycle as quickly as you can and move on to thinking … “new” “fresh” “nourishing” “healthy”.
Be mindful – tune in, slow down
Food can be a very effective numbing mechanism. It is much easier to reach for a packet of biscuits than to admit that you’re feeling lonely, anxious, tired, stressed or overwhelmed — and actually be present with your discomfort. Learning how to feel our feelings is an essential part of healing.
If you find yourself wanting to reach for food when you’re not truly hungry, stop, take a breath, and ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” When the answer arises, practice sitting with the emotion, letting it move through your body however it needs. Maybe you need a glass of water, to call a friend or a family member, maybe you need a nap, a walk around the block for some fresh air, an early night, or to cosy up in bed with a good book. Maybe you didn’t fuel yourself correctly with your previous meal so your blood sugar levels aren’t balanced so instead, you need a healthy protein-rich snack, which leads me onto my next point…
Keep healthy snacks on hand
This is KEY! When you do truly feel hungry make sure you’ve got a healthy snack on hand that will satisfy your sweet tooth and satiates your hunger levels. This may involve a little food prep in the weekend or one weeknight, but putting aside 15-30 minutes could be a life savor! My personal favourite treats are my chocolate bliss balls, a protein smoothie, chocolate protein bar, 1-2 boiled eggs or a handful of nuts.
Remove the pressure to eat perfectly and be a perfect human in general
No one is perfect, and I sure am no exception! All you can do is try your best. Eat in a way that actually works for your body, that honors your body, forget what others are eating, we all require different things. This is what I teach my clients, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you.
Seek professional help
Exploring the urge or need to binge and practicing self-love and kindness may reduce the frequency and intensity of binges, but it’s also not a bad idea to seek support. Counsellors who specialize in treating eating disorders can help you sort through and understand all the information you’re gathering and guide you on your journey.
Because our relationship with food is so complicated and powerful, it takes much more than nutritional knowledge to repair it. But with patience, self-exploration, and support binge eating can be beaten. For those who have tried to cope with binge eating using restrictive and punishing methods before, ask yourself if they have worked. If not, maybe it’s time to try something different.
One more thing….
What I practice myself and encourage my clients to remember is that it’s what you do 80% of the time that really counts as this is what brings balance and vitality into your life. It’s ok to have a little flexibility with what you eat and do, just remember to jump back on the healthy self-love bandwagon straight after any binge and don’t let it spring into negative overindulgent eating habits.
I hope this helps you on your health journey to wellness!!
Nat x x
Hi I’m Natalie, a Registered Clinical Nutritionist, health influencer, blog writer & recipe creator. My own health complications prompted me to make positive diet & lifestyle changes, revitalize my health leading to a career change from the corporate world to nutritional medicine. I believe in a wholefoods approach to good health, focusing on simple strategies for modern, busy people.