6 Honest Tips to Stop Binge Eating Today
Learn how to curb the cycle of binge eating with these simple habits.
Binge eating is a huge problem for many of us, and as we grow anxious due to the overwhelming amount of information we receive every day (social medial, e-mail, private messages on several apps) and the peer pressure to succeed in our work, we tend to take it out on the easiest source of pleasure available, eating.
Kicking this habit to the curb, however is not a piece of cake, it is a massive struggle as you will be facing one of the most complex enemies... your own mind. Nonetheless, when you do overcome binge eating, you will be prepared to face almost anything because your willpower and self esteem will be sky high.
Understanding that failure is part of the process grants you the moral fiber to endure. You will indulge, and that is fine. Don’t make a big deal of it and get back on track as soon as possible. Resisting the temptation of buying snacks when you go to the market is but a small step, the real challenge is conquering your own mind! Here are some the ways you can begin to challenge and curb the habit of binging.
1. All or nothing
Get rid of the “all or nothing” mentality, in other words the black and white thinking as going to the extremes won’t work. Many people may struggle with this mentality daily, going through life with no middle ground, it’s either something’s beautiful or ugly, successful or unsuccessful, which is really wrong.
When you binge eat, you usually have this idea of a perfect diet, how it should or shouldn’t be and you either abide by that or you don’t, creating an ideal illusion. What happens is, on the first slip up you will feel like you’ve failed and possibly continue the cycle of failing.
The most common mistake is to start binging after a small slip, like eating chips or fries with your lunch. It may trigger a bad emotional response that will make you feel bad about yourself and just “throw in the towel”. If you stop and think about it for a few seconds, it is not reasonable to eat more just because you had a minor lapse.
Get rid of this mentality and give yourself a bowl of ice cream at night, or some burgers and fries when you go out with your friends. You don’t need to be in total control of every little aspect of your diet. In fact, you won’t ever be! Perfect scenarios are unrealistic and are ultimately just going to lead you to failure.
It is hard in the beginning, but when you prove to yourself that you can challenge that thought and refrain from binge eating after any little mistake, you’ll become less of a black and white thinker to find comfort in the gray areas, which is great.
2. Drop the “Don’t do it” mentality
Remember that the real challenge is against your own mind. That happens because we’re programmed to think about our problems and solutions in a cartesian way. It’s either one option or the other; but reality is way more complex than this black and white approach.
Changing habits takes time, and embracing failure as a part of the process is not bad. Much the opposite: it is the best thing you can do to make sure you endure on your goals!
Stop trying to fight your own mind. You won’t overcome your urges by fighting or denying them. The first step to solve a problem and change a bad behavior is by accepting that you have a problem and seeking help. Don’t ignore it, and especially don’t beat yourself up for having unwanted thoughts popping in your head all the time. If you try to fight it and get mad when you have a bad thought, it will just trigger more of the same thoughts.
To explain this a little better, follow through on this exercise:
Take a deep breath, close your eyes and don’t think about a pink elephant. If you tried it, the first thing that popped in your mind was the pink elephant. Right? This is natural and is called the ironic process theory, defined as a psychological phenomenon that causes something to surface when we make deliberate attempts to suppress it.
The more you feed that “don’t do it” mentality, the more you are going to do it. Your desire to not do something, the urge to resist those thoughts are actually putting them into action, and making them stronger and stronger over time. Sooner or later, you’re going to submit because you’re exhausting yourself by overthinking. It will bring you pain and foster a vicious cycle of binging and guilt.
The key here is to stop agreeing with that thought! Just reverse-psychology your brain, and instead of thinking “Well, I can’t have this” or “I should be eating that instead of this” you must say to yourself “I am choosing to eat this” or “I get to have this right now”.
When you do it and accept, the urge to keep eating will become smaller and smaller. Let’s say you are eating a burger instead of a salad; if you’re a binge eater, you are going to have negative thoughts like “I shouldn’t be eating this burger, I can’t have fries with it”, but when you have the salad, you’re going to think: “Oh, I wish I could have that burger”. Do you see the problem?
Instead of doing that, if you’re eating your salad just think: “Hmmm, great, I’m choosing this salad over that burger!” and the same goes with the burger. Then you are not feeding the “I can’t” thoughts, and you won’t trigger binging and the ironic process goes into the drain.
3. Learn to let it go
Whenever you have an unwanted thought or the urge to binge, take a deep breath and just let it go. Let your attention lurk and wait for that thought to pop by. As soon as it emerges, acknowledge the thought and let it go, if you do it right the though will fade and come back later. As soon as you get used to it, the gaps between one thought and the other are going to stretch further apart.
When you least expect, you’re going to think: “Hey, I haven’t thought about binging for two days!”
The reason we become so overwhelmed with our binge-eating thoughts is the repetitive narrative that goes on in our heads over and over again. We’re just creating a story and attaching more negative thoughts into it every time we try to suppress the cravings.
If you think “I can’t have this food”, you’ll probably think “Why am I thinking this? I should stop it right now!” and then, the ironic process kicks in and you’re overwhelmed with thoughts like “Don’t go in the pantry!” or “Don’t open the fridge” but what you’re doing is attaching more and more thoughts into the cycle, making it stronger. Don’t resist the thoughts. Just let it go.
This cycle of negative thoughts are just creating intense resentments towards your thoughts and yourself, making you desire and crave, leading to more suffering.
4. Know thyself
The best way to overcome a bad habit is replacing it with a good one. Our minds are not like computers, where you can delete a file. You can’t just delete a memory or a habit, but our brains are very plastic and you have no limitations about changing your own habits. All you have to do is focus on the things that you want, and your subconscious mind is going to make sure you act accordingly to achieve those goals.
That way, you get to know yourself better and understand what is behind the binging. Ask yourself: what’s your true desire? Are you really desiring food? Are you really hungry right now?
Odds are, if you’re a binger, you’re not eating because you’re hungry. There could be different things your body is craving, but since you’re overwhelmed with negative thoughts, you can’t understand what those cravings are and you just assume that you want food.
Many people find that a common reason that triggers binging is boredom. Without something to do, your mind starts drifting and your consciousness will be geared towards the “can’t eat” thoughts and they will trigger the cycle. You get restless, and then you’re eating because you want to feed your soul. Literally.
That’s a big problem! So when you find your true desire, you can work towards fulfilling it rather than using food to replace that desire.
Try this: whenever you’re desperate for a snack, drink a glass of water and wait. If you’re still hungry, drink another glass of water. You will probably forget about the food and if you do need to eat even after two glasses of water, then it was really hunger.
The worst that could happen is your hydration levels will be higher than the sun.
When we’re going through troubling situations like a breakup or some kind of loss in the family, things can get emotionally draining. One of the first response of our mind, is subconsciously thinking that binging is going to give us some sort of comfort, happiness or relief because food is good and pleasurable.
However that will not make you happier, instead it will lead to a lack of control, more suffering and a lower self esteem, triggering more binging. Find something that you really love, and work that out.
5. Don’t starve yourself
On the very rare occasions that you are really hungry and you are starving yourself, your body is going to crave food even more. And when you finally give in (this is a fight you can’t ever win) you are going to eat as much as you can. This will start another vicious cycle upon which your body will hold on to all the fat in your metabolism and even create more fat when you eat, and if you’re starving, survival mode is on.
That means you are going to gain a ton of weight when you binge, then you starve yourself with no weight loss and put on even more weight. So if you’re binging because your body needs nutrients and stability in your diet, you’ve got to listen to this: Eat nutritious meals!
Nutritious meals are going to relieve your cravings and help with your overall health. Go for bigger meals and less snacking, and pack them nutrients in. Add rich foods like avocado, nuts, oils, some carbs and a lot of fibers from fruits and/or veggies to your diet. Have them on every meal to keep your body nourished.
Interestingly enough, if you stop to think in terms of our brain, back in the day when we were hunters and gatherers, our brains were wired to a specific way of survival. Those wires are still there! They are the same mechanisms, but our world and our lifestyles have changed a great deal. So even if we live in a world of abundance, choice and variety, we still end up putting ourselves in survival mode.
We still crave fats, nutrients, protein and vitamins. However food nowadays lack nutrients and are loaded with chemicals, GMO’s, artificial flavors, deep fried dishes with empty calories. So we eat food that makes us feel full but doesn’t actually nourish our bodies.
Our brain doesn’t see the difference between good fat and bad fat, good sugars and bad sugars. All it sees is that we’re eating and providing sugar energy. Then we crave more, because our brain is wired into that energy, these low nutrient foods are also high in everything else, making you crave for more.
Burgers, fried foods, ice creams, they all light up our brains and get it overexcited, while nutritionally the body is starving, making our brains still crave food because we need nutrients to survive. While the cycle of unhealthy eating continues.
6. Picture perfect body? That’s a lie
Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? That you’re unattractive, too fat or too skinny? I bet you have. Everyone feels that way, at least once or twice in their lifetime, and generally way more than that. While it is not natural, it is very common because of the constant peer pressure we are bombarded with every single day.
Understanding the mental aspect of binging is very important if you want to get rid of it. We are constantly bombarded with picture perfect bodies in commercials and on social media. But guess what? That ideal type is not real! It is airbrushed, altered, photoshopped along with plastic surgery and makeup. All of these things combined creates a false narrative of what the average person looks like.
It happens 24/7, everywhere we look, there is something to lie to us and make us feel that we are not perfect.
The scariest of it all is that this is not something random. Product placements, sales, social media posts, all these big businesses in the image industry makes a living from making the average person feel uncomfortable about their physical self, it’s a ploy to get your dollars.
Weight loss products
Flat tummy teas
Those are constantly being displayed, quietly telling you that there is some sort of magical solution that will turn you into that perfect, fake dream of a person.
This works because when we’re on automatic (or “zombie”) mode, we are always comparing ourselves to the images out there and with an ever changing ideal beauty to achieve, we will never be able to keep up.
What we do need is whole food, plant based foods packed with vital nutrients our body really needs. No fads are going to nurture you. What is beneficial for your body is good old healthy food. If it is a fad, it is probably not worth it. So if you like soda, don’t drink the diet option because you think it is more healthy, because it is not. Drink it because you like the flavor. It is okay to drink or eat something unhealthy once in a while - remember, grey thought not black and white.
If you are too strict with your diet, you’re bound to run into challenges and don’t buy stuff because they promised you a different body type or they are diet-fad-friendly. Buy them because you enjoy it, without overindulging.
Don’t trust the media or the magazines, if you need help, go see a professional: your doctor, your nutritionist or your dietitian… make sure your personal trainer is licensed and don’t believe in quick fixes or miracle diets.
Love and accept yourself, and work on becoming a better you daily.
Focus on your good qualities! What do you love about yourself? What are you really proud of? The more you feel good, the more positive thoughts you have, the more you’ll exude confidence into perfecting your own body, not into reaching an ideal and impossible type of body.
Feeding negative thoughts lowers our self esteem, creating a lack of emotional maturity which helps us delay gratifications. So low self esteem means craving for instant gratification, and those are always unhealthy.
“Self esteem stimulates the desire to invest in ourselves and provides energy for self-discipline.”
When you feed into body positivity, instead of buying into this game, you will see your life shift completely.