Coping Strategies for Binge Eating
Coping strategies are tools to help you manage urges to binge eat. They don’t come naturally so give yourself some time and compassion for learning and practicing these new skills. Here are a few to start with, see if there is anything on the list that you could try this week. If you’ve found something that works well for you, please share!
Done Deal Delay
Using delaying tactics can help you separate an urge from actual hunger. When an urge to binge or simply eat when you’re not hungry surfaces, you can easily get caught up in thinking about it as if it is a “done deal.” Rather, try and notice the urge, pause for five-ten minutes, practice deep breathing strategies and simply “notice” the urge. When you “surf” the urge like this, noticing each and every sensation in your body without acting on it, you may find that the urge actually rises and falls and over time, decreases in intensity. If this feels too difficult to start with, you could try simply choosing to delay your urge and engage in another activity for five to ten minutes. Just because you have an urge doesn’t mean you have to act on that urge.
Because urges to binge eat or overeat can come on very strong and intense it may be difficult to practice this pause. It may be best to try and practice the delay with something less intense. Take a moment right now to notice an urge you have. Perhaps you have the urge to click on another link or surf to another page, or scratch your leg, or get up and go to the bathroom, or check your phone. For the next five to ten minutes see if you can decide to not act on that urge and just notice it instead. This will increase your “delay” muscle and help build strength for the more intense urges to eat.
For some people, repeating a coping phrase that is connected to your motivation to stop binge eating can be helpful. It’s important that it’s not punishing or harsh. Rather, something that you can remember to gently set limits with yourself. Some examples might be “Binge eating is not an option as I’ll feel sick later”, “This urge will pass”, “I want more from my life than this food”, “I deserve to feel better in my body.”
Making Your Environment Safe
This coping strategy is about creating an environment free of potential triggers. Does the environment where you live support you? Is your refrigerator stocked with a variety of foods? Have you put away diet tools that only trigger a binge later? Have you put away your scale, which can easily be a trigger for binge eating if you’re unhappy with the number. Do you have magazines lying around that trigger you? Are there clothes in your closet that no longer fit?
It’s important to take an honest assessment of the items in your environment that support you feeling positive about yourself vs. the items that remind you of feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, failure, and not being good enough. Even if items such as the scale or dieting tools can make you feel positive at times, there is also potential for them to trigger intense negative emotions. The goal is identify things that have the potential to trigger you in a negative way and remove them. They’re not supportive of your best self. Pack things up in a box and store them away, get them out of your regular sight, or give them away if you feel ready to do so.
Identifying and Breaking Your Habits
Do you know when you are most vulnerable to binge eating or overeating? What does the process typically look like for you? Break it down into the smallest steps you can find. Your goal is to find habits that you might not ordinarily be aware of. Perhaps it starts with eating a certain food, getting up from your desk at work, coming home from work (transition times), or getting in your car. Each of these actions can be the start of your typical habit. For example, you come home from work, look in the pantry, look in the refrigerator, get out something to eat, and start eating without ever really stopping to check in with yourself. These habits can occur mindlessly and automatically, just as we sometimes manage to get home and don’t necessarily recall the whole journey there.
Think about what your habits might be. Then stop and identify what you can do different to break a link in your typical pattern. If getting home and opening the pantry is your typical pattern, do something different on your way home or make a point to get home and immediately put on walking shorts. Just do one thing differently in your pattern so that you can begin to break the habit.
Connecting with Your Needs
When you have a strong urge to eat and you’re not physically hungry stop and ask yourself in the third person, “self, what are you really feeling right now and what do you need from me?” You might not be able to identify exactly what you’re feeling, but a general sense or a sentence is fine. What do you really need? Common examples are: to take a break, to let off steam through physical activity, to get some rest, to connect with someone, to soothe myself, to protect myself. The better able you are to identify your needs and meet them, the less you’ll need to turn to food as a coping strategy.
Get Help for Binge Eating
What coping strategies for binge eating do you currently use? Share your strategies with us. If you’d like more personalized assistance from a specialist, contact us as we’d love to help you get out of the cycle of binge eating or compulsive overeating. We regularly offer a twelve-week program to help you make peace with food along with weekend workshops. Our therapists in Houston specialize in binge eating disorder and can help you or your loved one recover. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to help you!
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