9 Steps to End Binge Eating and Make Peace with Food
Do you ever find yourself compulsive eating? That is, feeling “compelled” to eat when you’re not really hungry? What is out of balance in your life? Read through some of these steps and see if you can identify with any of them. Identify one small thing you can do this week to begin to restore balance in your life.
1. Break free of scarcity mentality and black and white thinking.
Do you find yourself fearing that there won’t be enough for you? Have you conditioned yourself to feel deprived by yo-yo dieting? Do you maintain a scarcity mentality for yourself by not keeping enough gas in the car, or buying the cheaper ___ when you could afford a slightly nicer one? Do you buy into the mentality that you’re somehow flawed or undeserving? These are all signs of black and white thinking and living with the scarcity mentality.
The scarcity mentality will keep you feeling anxious, deprived, and hungry for more! These can all be triggers for compulsive eating or binge eating. An abundance mentality assures you that you are enough and that there will be enough for you. Of course, this is a very complex process. To begin with, start by noticing when you’re in the trap of black and white thinking. If yes, check in with yourself and identify what you really need. What is true? You can adjust your behaviors to create abundance around you. For example, keeping gas in your car, cash in your wallet, a variety of groceries in the refrigerator, and a variety of clothes that fit comfortably in your closet.
2. Practice self-compassion.
Believe it or not, many other people feel exactly the same way you do. We’re all in this together. Each one of us has self-doubt, worry, and a longing to be accepted and understood. It’s ok. You’re ok. Beating yourself up does nothing but ultimately lead to shame, which can be a powerful trigger for overeating. Rather, focus on compassion. Compassion does not necessarily mean that you’re “off the hook” (for those of you who are afraid of not motivating yourself with the drill sergeant). Compassion simply means that you understand. You empathize. You get it. It makes sense that you feel a certain way given your unique circumstances. Self-compassion involves: 1) acknowledging your pain in a gentle and understanding way, 2) recognizing that you’re not alone in your struggles, and 3) observing your pain without judging or suppressing it.
To make it more effective and soothe the anxiety that might come with an urge to binge eat, place your hand on your heart. This simple act of touch can actually soothe physiologically in a way you might need!
3. Watch out for the Inner Critic!
Watching out for your Inner Critic is along the same lines as practicing self-compassion. Unchecked, your Inner Critic can disconnect you from yourself depleting your energy and concentration, destroying confidence and denying experiences of joy, satisfaction, or pleasure. This can lead to imbalance, anxiety, depression, and compulsive eating. Keep in mind however, that your inner critic is there to keep you safe. So, acknowledge your inner critic, but then find alternative ways to feel safe.
– Recognize the Inner Critic in statements such as, “you are too…”, “you always…”, “you never…”, “you should…”.
– Ask yourself if this statement would be appropriate to say to a child, or would it sound abusive?
– Step back into mindfulness of the present moment. This is where truth lies. Check in with your body sensations. Connect with your physical self, pay attention to your breathing, and feel yourself grounded in your seat with your feet on the floor. Notice the emotions that are present. Be curious about what is happening.
– What events, actions, or physical or emotional sensations triggered the Inner Critic? Separate what is objectively true from assumptions of the Inner Critic. For example, “I ate dessert and now I am feeling very full.” Delete anything afterwards, such as, “I’m so stupid. I can’t get anything right.”
– Ask yourself what you need and nourish yourself if you can.
4. Accept emotions versus avoiding them.
Tune in and slow down to identify your feelings whether before or after you’ve reacted to them. Oftentimes, we’re driven to move away from uncomfortable feelings with whatever strategies we can, which includes numbing them with food. This creates a build up of intensity that either blows up or come out sideways in the form of increased appetite, urges to binge eat, or physical symptoms such as anxiety, migraines, or illnesses. When emotions haven’t been repressed, their lifecycle is rather short, lasting about two minutes. When we can observe and compassionately accept our emotions rather than repress and avoid them, we can find peace and comfort. They dissipate and you are restored to a balanced state.
5. Honor your hunger and fullness and eat foods that satisfy you.
Honoring your body’s needs keeps you from feeling deprived and triggering the voracious appetite of primal hunger. Recognize whether you have meal or snack hunger and feed yourself accordingly. Check in and ask yourself, what am I really hungry for? Is it salty, sweet, cold, warm, crunchy, creamy, smooth? Find foods that are a match with your physical hunger so that you feel satisfied. Know which foods keep you feeling full longer than others. If you’re feeling tired or sluggish after eating, you may have eaten past fullness or eaten foods that were imbalanced. You should still have energy after eating a meal.
6. Meet your basic needs.
Sometimes we hunger for something that isn’t related to food. That can be an indication that our basic needs aren’t being met. Here’s a list of some of our basic needs, check in with yourself honestly to see how you’re doing in each area:
– Meaning and purpose
– Autonomy (independence)
– Sustenance (food, nourishment for mind, body, and spirit)
7. Move your body in a respectful way. Connect with your body.
When we move our bodies, we’re more connected and in tune with our bodies. This does not mean you have to punish your body. Experiment with different ways of moving your body and discover what feels right for you. Stretch, dance in your living room, walk your dog. For this week, make a commitment to try just 5 minutes of movement for as many days as you like. Keep it simple.
8. Connect outside of yourself.
This can include connecting with others, nature, animals, children, the elderly, spirituality, or your community. Connection is tied to our basic needs and without it we might feel a deep loneliness or emptiness inside. Connecting to anything outside yourself counts. This can include growing something in a garden, adopting a pet, volunteering in your community, or trying a new activity.
9. Identify activities that give you a sense of purpose.
Finding purpose doesn’t necessarily mean finding some big, elusive, meaningful thing. Purpose exists in everything we do. Find out what matters to you. Take time to consider truly what your deepest values are. What do you want your life to stand for? Consider all areas of your life: friends, family, career, health, leisure and so forth. Once you’ve identified what really matters most to you evaluate your typical day. What activities support these values? Identify them and choose to have an attitude of purpose (versus resentment) next time you engage in these activities. If much of your day is spent on activities that don’t support your values, it’s time to reevaluate! How can you incorporate one small thing to support your values?
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