Binge eating is defined as the seemingly uncontrollable consumption of large amounts of food which are not purged afterwards. Although it is normally associated with eating massive amounts of food in very short periods of time, it can also be eating constantly throughout the day to add up to a large amount of food.
People who binge eat love the over-full feeling and will always eat, even if they don’t actually feel hungry. They often don’t experience any joy out of eating and will do so until they begin to feel sick or are in physical pain. Binge eating is usually a result of emotional problems and although it feels like you can’t control yourself, there is a way to get out from under it.
1. Identify Your Triggers
Nearly everybody who binge eats does so for a specific reason, so identifying the thoughts and feelings that you’re having before you begin to binge eat will help you create a strategy to either avoid these triggers completely or to deal with them in a healthier way when you do confront them.
2. Keep a Food Diary
The Center for Behavioral Medicine in Chicago performed a study in which they asked 38 overweight participants to keep a food diary as they tried to lose weight. The study found that this practice helped them lose weight and gave them more control over the amount of food that they ate during the holidays.
Make sure you keep it as simple as possible, and keep track of the food and the approximate amount rather than worrying about trying to count calories. What is more important is that you include everything that you ate or drank throughout the day.
3. Find Other Socialization Options
If you’re like most people, social gatherings happen around food, which makes it difficult to control yourself when you’re surrounded by friends who are also eating and enjoying themselves. Instead, begin to plan social activities that aren’t focused on food. You can go for a walk at the park, visit a pottery shop to paint your own pottery, go for a bike ride, or try out a new fitness class at your local gym or community center.
4. Eat Fruit First
Because the most over-eaten foods are the calorie-heavy, fat-laden foods, focus on the foods that are lower in calories and fat to fill up on before you move on to some of the heavier foods. That means focusing on things like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. When you fill up on these foods, you’ll also get extra vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
5. Remove Temptation
Purge your home and office spaces of any unhealthy foods, so you don’t even have to worry about resisting temptation. Cookies and other similar sweets can be replaced by pretzels and rice cakes, and frozen treats can be replaced with frozen yogurt. You can fill your fridge with baby carrots and pre-made fruit salads, and your desk drawer with nuts or salt and butter free popcorn.
6. Use Your Table for Eating
Rather than letting yourself sit in the semi-darkness of your living room and eat in front of the TV, take the time to actually sit in your well-lit dining area and focus just on your food while you eat. When you are more aware of what you are eating by seeing, smelling, and tasting it more fully, you’re more likely to stop when you’ve had enough rather than eating simply because the food is there.
7. Break Your Meals Up
This is particularly important for those who tend to binge during meals or late in the evenings. By eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, you can keep your hunger at bay and benefit from more stable blood sugar and energy levels. By feeling satisfied throughout the day and never reaching that feeling of hunger, you can better avoid binge eating.
8. Don’t Diet
Although this sounds contradictory, it’s important that you don’t put a bunch of restrictions on yourself and what you are allowed to eat or how much. This can cause stress which can lead to over-eating.
Instead, simply replace the unhealthy foods that you’re eating now with healthy choices so you can lead a healthier lifestyle. When you are eating whole foods, you will get more out of them and will automatically begin to eat less.
9. Follow the 10-Minute Rule
If you feel like you want to eat something in between meals, take a moment to ask yourself: “Am I really hungry, or am I bored or using food as an excuse to procrastinate?” If you’re still not sure, take 10 minutes to involve yourself in something else (preferably productive if you’re at work), and then see if you’re still craving something. Sometimes, you may just need to drink a glass of water or chew on some sugar-free gum to satisfy your desire to have something in your mouth.