Nearly 2.8% of American adults suffer from a binge eating disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Someone suffering from a binge eating disorder may be within a healthy weight range, which can make it difficult to recognize just looking at people. This eating disorder can affect a person both physically and emotionally, often generating shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression. The shame and guilt increases likelihood of feeling a need to hide their behaviors and binge in secret. Because binge eating occurs due to a compulsion, people often experience a loss of control. A recent article by The Diabetes Council shared tips and strategies from 54 leading experts to help stop binge eating. They offered some great advice, and we listed a few of our favorite tips below.
- Eat slowly and mindfully. Eating slowly and being aware helps us to know when the body has had enough. If you struggle with binge eating, try chewing each bite 10-30 times, put down your fork or spoon between bites, and take a few breaths before continuing. Use your senses when eating. What does the food look like, feel like, smell like, sound like and taste like? When your senses are present, so are you. Focus on your meal and notice if the food is satisfying. By slowing down and staying present, your mindfulness will assist you in paying attention to your body cues instead of your compulsions.
- Be aware that your mood affects how you eat. If stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotions are leading you to binge, try to identify and implement coping skills that will help you minimize your emotional distress. Know what your personal triggers are that contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression and be prepared to navigate around them. Be mindful of who you surround yourself with and practice setting healthy boundaries in your relationships. Also note that often stress, anxiety, and depression can cause people to lose their appetites. When we restrict food (intentionally or unintentionally) we are also at a higher risk for binging to meet our bodies cravings for food. Even if you do not feel hungry, try to nourish your body continually healthily and give it the fuel it needs.
- Don’t eat alone. If you are struggling with binge eating cycles, enlist support from your support system. Eating with a friend, family member, a dietitian, or a therapist can help people get through challenging moments, especially in early recovery. If there is a certain time of day that is most challenging for you, ask them support during this period. Know your triggers and be brave enough to reach out to those around you.
- Eat regularly throughout the day. Meeting the body’s nutritional needs throughout the day is important. Skipping meals or snacks, ignoring hunger signals, or limiting food groups are all depriving your body which contributes to people craving excess amounts of food. Eating every 3-4 hours helps to keep your energy and mood on an even keel. Keep meals balanced with macro nutrients of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to feel energized and satisfied through the day. Low energy, restriction of food, and/or mood changes can be triggers to binge.
- Have a plan. Put together strategies that help to distract, calm, soothe, or relax you when you feel the urge to binge. For example, “When I’m stressed, I’m going to call a friend.” It’s also super helpful to identify some of your warning signs that may suggest that your distress level is rising so that you can implement coping skills before you are overwhelmed. For example, “My thoughts are starting to race. I know that when my thoughts race, I am anxious. What do I need to do to take care of myself in this moment?”
- Incorporate foods you enjoy. As mentioned previously, restricting food or certain food groups can be a trigger to binge. Work with your dietitian to develop a plan that includes foods you enjoy, while also providing you balanced nutrition. It’s important that you enjoy what you are eating, or you won’t have a plan that will be able sustain you long-term.
- Have a mantra. Fill yourself with love and compassion. Having a phrase or statement you can remind yourself of when things get challenging (as they will sometimes) can be powerful. For example, “I’m committed to listening to what my body needs;” “I’m worth it;” or “The discomfort I am experiencing right now is temporary.”
Most importantly, seeking support and guidance from someone that specializes in eating disorders can help you to resolve binge eating behaviors and create a healthy relationship with food. Recovering from an eating disorder is not easy. Your eating disorder has served valid purposes over the years, so try to be compassionate with yourself as you and your support team find other ways to meet those needs. It is also important to remember you are never alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with a binge eating disorder or other eating disorder, Magnolia Creek is here to support you. For more information, please complete our contact form or call our admission team at 205-409-4220.