I used to binge a lot and when I say a lot at one particular time in my life it was a daily occurrence. My kind of binge would be influenced by a bad day, sh*tty week, and sometimes just because I physically felt like I couldn't stop myself. I felt like I was in a very vicious cycle, and sadly at the time I felt like I was trapped in it forever.
I wonder, have you ever felt the same way?
It took me a while to overcome bingeing and I can happily say I rarely ever, if ever binge, unless I choose to (which I will explain below).
This brings us to the start of a very important blog, why do we binge, and, how do we stop bingeing?
Why do we binge?
I don't believe there is one particular reason; however, bingeing is found to be a coping mechanism for some people. So I am going to cover the 3 that I mostly resonate with:
It masks feelings and in the moment provides us with an instant hit of the good feelings we desperately want to feel (hello chocolate!). So, with that being said we can only presume bingeing is a form of avoidance. Avoiding discomfort such as stress, sadness, frustration, depression, anxiety, etc, is common because let's face it no one likes to feel this way!
Distraction, it fills a gap, and it fills the feeling of boredom. Doing nothing can often feel quite uncomfortable, such as just quietly sitting and watching the TV, or sitting at your desk at work when you don't want to be there. Another excellent example of distraction eating is when plans are cancelled, and you have no idea what to do with your free time, you don't like being alone, and the feeling of being bored and alone is a perfect opportunity for some to distract themselves from themselves and eat food to 'fill their time'. Distraction and avoidance are very similar and very common; I will talk about this later on.
Dieting history! Many of us have dieted at some point in our lives. Exclusive dieting has been popular for many years such as "don't eat carbs after dark," "sugar-free diet," "clean diet," all of these diets are exclusive and encourage you to cut food groups out. What happens when we cut out food groups? We CRAVE them like hell, and when we crave food it becomes irresistible, right?! Restrict, diet, can't resist, binge, fail, which is precisely where I found trapped myself a lot.
Of course, there are probably other reasons you can think of, maybe it's habitual, perhaps it's something your mother did, perhaps you secretly binge? The one crucial thing you should know is it's very normal, and I can assure you, you are not alone!
How do we stop bingeing?
The answer to this is quite simple; you just stop.
"IT'S NOT THAT EASY!!" - you're screaming in your head.
No, it's not, and you are right; it's not THAT easy. However, you can overcome it.
The truthful answer is this, you have to teach yourself a new way of coping, and yes it is going to suck, to begin with, but do you know what else sucks? The aftermath of a binge, that horrible deep, hurtful, self-loathing feeling you can't shake off for hours, days even. At some point, you have to choose to binge? Or to find a new way of coping?
So this is what I have personally tried and tested; it helped me understand why I binged and how to stop.
“The 3 minute timer”
When you feel that a binge is on its way, stop what you are doing and place a 3-minute timer on. Give yourself those 3 minutes to do NOTHING, and in these 3 minutes, ask yourself what is going on in that mind of yours.
Have you had a rough day?
Are you going through some rough times?
Did someone say something to you that upset you?
Yes to all of the above?
Well, learn to sit with that feeling for a while. Allow that feeling to brew, yes it feels terrible, and yes it feels uncomfortable; however, genuinely allowing yourself to feel will enable you to understand why you are struggling to *cope*.
What can you do to express this emotion?
Maybe you need a good cry?
Perhaps you need to scream (I highly recommend doing this in the car with your music blaring)?
Perhaps you need to clear your head and go for a walk?
Or perhaps talking to a friend/family member might be more helpful?
Before you know it those 3 minutes will be up, you'll understand why you wanted to binge and will have come up a method of coping, which may even be just taking some gentle slow breaths. Try this method each time you feel the urge arise and let yourself FEEL rather than masking the feeling with food, and this works well with boredom too.
There are always going to be times in your life; you feel a bit bored. I'm sure you can think back to when you were a child and being bored from time to time, maybe while you were dragged around town for new school shoes? Or doing that "favorite family walk" that you despised? You did it because you had to and guess what, in life sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do (annoying isn't it) and embracing boredom is one of those things! I have always been what I like to call a 'busy body,' I hated having nothing to do, "what a waste of time!!" I would think, now with practice; I crave having nothing to do. How many of you sit down to watch TV or read a book and then think, "Urgh! I can't possibly sit for another moment the washing needs doing, the bathroom needs a wipe down, I better pack my lunch for tomorrow, oh and I haven't checked facebook for 15mins", sound familiar? Distraction is our enemy. Why won't you allow yourself to sit and just do nothing? Do you think your self worth and purpose is only achieved by 'doing?'. Let me tell you something vital, you are worthy of chilling the f*ck out, you are worthy of giving yourself 30mins of doing absolutely nothing. When we can't switch these busy body habits and thoughts off, you crave constant distraction. When there is nothing to do boredom eating or bingeing just physically becomes another thing to fill our time. It sucks to have made plans, and they get cancelled, yes it does, but the food is not the answer. It sucks to sit at our computer desk when we can't wait for home time, and food won't speed that up either. Embrace boredom, you will find a lot of peace in yourself there.
Ah ha, the final piece to my jigsaw puzzle! Stop cutting out food groups, eat in moderation, allow yourself a bit of what you fancy
"So let me get this right, I am allowed to eat a chocolate bar?"
"I am allowed to have pasta.?"
"Are you lying to me??"
You can lose weight and eat the things you would usually binge on in moderation. You can eat all the food groups if you want to lose weight.
The most crucial factor to consider when trying to lose weight is the total amount of CALORIES we consume, the calories we consume over time will dictate our weight. Eat too many and move too little you'll gain weight, eat enough and move a bit more you'll maintain, eat less than you need and move a little more often than normal you'll lose. Calories in VS Calories out is the formula, and there are no food groups that need to be excluded from that equation.
Something equally as important here is teaching yourself how and when to stop. Some foods, in particular, may be what we call "trigger foods" such as chocolate, ice-cream, crisps, very yummy and very more'ish. Because of your past dieting history when you eat this particular food you might feel like you want to eat more because it's so god damn tasty, or perhaps just by eating it you are reminded of all of the times you gorged on it, and this thought motivates you to want to do the same. Well, my advice here is to teach yourself to know when you have had enough.
Can you put the spoon down in between bites and see if you’ve hit the sweet spot?
Can you put the bag back in the cupboard once you've had two handfuls?
If not, you've got work to do, and the only way around this is to keep practicing and become mindful of how you feel at that moment.
"I can stop here I've hit the spot."
"If I have any more, I will start to feel a bit sick."
"If I keep eating, I am eating just for the sake of it."
It is surprising how little of something you might actually "need" at the time. Practice and don't ever expect to be perfect either, there will always be something that tastes SO damn good you want it all, perfection isn't the goal, practice and making gradual progress is.
At the top of the blog I said I don’t binge unless I choose to and by that I mean this…
There will always be occasions that you want to eat more of something tasty. Giving yourself permission to “binge” because you are really enjoying something is VERY different to bingeing to mask, distract or restrict. The main difference is giving yourself a choice and permission! When you do something because you chose to you own the action. When you do something mindlessly you don’t own the action and that’s where the self-sabotage is born! Some weeks we’ll have a take-away and I will give myself permission to eat more than what I normally would, sometimes I eat a bit too much pudding because I like it however, I don’t bully myself! I know it doesn’t happen every day and I know I can still have pudding tomorrow.
What to do if you have a binge!
While working towards bingeing less, you will still encounter many binges, because we can only learn from our losses. Below are a few tips that I can offer to help you stop bullying yourself because life is too short to bully yourself, and it's certainly not fun either!
STOP & FORGIVE! You are only human, and it is normal not to be able to cope straight away. If you switched off from bingeing "just like that" you'd be a robot, or it would feel too forced, you'd eventually resent the practice, and once again you'd feel doomed! Learning from losses is all part of the process, you are only human, and you need to learn to forgive yourself.
TALK to someone about it, or write it down in a journal if there is no one you can or want to talk to. This is something that hugely helped me, openly talking about not being able to cope, bingeing, and sharing that with someone helped me to talk about my feelings more. "I just took 3 spoonfuls out of the Nutella jar again, and I don't know why, I couldn't stop it!" I would say. "That's okay, don't worry, it happens, tell me what's on your mind?" my partner would reply. Communication is such a healer, and so is admitting we need a little more support. If you write it down, it might help to mind dump what's on your mind right now, even the art of writing can be very therapeutic.
WALK or exercise. Okay, I have to be careful when I give this advice, what I am not saying is "go and burn off all of those calories in an attempt to undo the damage" what I am saying is this, if exercise or simply going for a walks helps you to feel better then do that. Sometimes clearing the mind through movement is helpful. I have found that even a 20min morning walk has helped me figure stuff out and I was able to forgive and forget.
FAST, another touchy subject again. I am not saying, "don't eat because you binged," I am simply saying, "listen to your hunger signals and if you aren't hungry, don't eat until you are." If you binged on a takeaway and are full to the brim having a break and waiting for hunger signals might help you to regain some confidence and teach you to know your hunger and fullness limits better.
EAT HEALTHY, FILLING MEALS! If your dieting history was an exclusive one and you are used to eating barely anything, sometimes eating more to fill you up for longer can be a challenge. You might be very used to eating just salad and fruit, so the thought of eating potatoes/rice might freak you out. When we eat such light meals and never really feel full, the temptation to binge can occur more often. So trust the process, eat a little more protein and starches with your meals. You might find you crave a lot less when you are more satisfied with your food.
If you have binged in the past or binge currently remember you are NORMAL.
Take some time to understand why and once you know why work towards finding a new way to cope that doesn’t leave you feeling terrible. Perhaps try one of my suggestions above.
If you find you can't do it alone, then, Online Coaching might be an excellent option for you as I have helped many women overcome bingeing.
If however, you have struggled with an eating disorder and need help a counselling service such as CBT may be the best option for you.
There is absolutely no shame in seeking further support at all! Asking for help is a courageous act, and you will find strength in that! I hope this blog was helpful, and please do comment or email me if you would like to chat further!
Coach Angi x