Many people, including me, struggle with comfort eating, which is sometimes called binge eating (or “compulsive eating”), particularly when it is accompanied by a feeling of being out of control. Although most of us experience emotional eating from time to time, binge eating can be a serious condition. I’ve found a few tips worth sharing, but keep in mind that some folks will need to visit a doctor or therapist in order to manage a binge eating problem.
My personal goal is to eat only when I am hungry and to keep emotional eating to an absolute minimum. The first step, for me, is paying attention to my eating. If I decide to have a snack, am I really hungry? If not, then I’m probably emotionally eating.
Here are a few simple ideas:
- Find out what’s really causing you to overeat. People who binge or compulsively overeat are often driven by painful emotions that they do not want to face. Eating disorders are symptoms of deeper issues, so heal the pain that is driving the behavior. Depending upon your underlying problems, this could be as simple as finding an effective meditation or relaxation technique, or you might need to see a therapist. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for help with this! It may feel a little embarrassing, but think of how wonderful you’ll feel after you get through it!
- I also like to remember that I am not “denying” myself anything when I refuse to binge eat… I am taking care of myself. Stopping the binge is an act of love, not an act of deprivation.
- Find an alternative behavior to replace bingeing. I like to keep in mind some pampering activities that I can use to sooth myself without food. You might like a hot bath or shower, or a walk or drive in your favorite neighborhood or park. How about some good music, candles, flowers or a message from a loved one, a massage machine or, if the budget allows, a professional. Try calling an old friend!!
- It may sound counter-intuitive, but some experts suggest that it is hard to focus on weight loss and stopping binge eating at the same time. Try focusing first on ending binge eating—you specific weight loss goals can be revisited in the future.
- Eat when you’re hungry. You have probably already discovered that starving yourself is a good way to cause another binge. Give yourself a break: starvation will likely not stop the binging.
- Focus your thoughts on something other than food. We give our cravings a lot of power when we think about food. Instead, try thinking about things that make you happy, like family or fun times, or things that make you feel good about yourself, like accomplishments or things you’re good at.
- Use a cooling off period. When you have a craving, tell yourself that you are going to wait 15 minutes before you eat. During that 15 minutes, use your tools, including the other thoughts listed here, to manage your emotions. After 15 minutes, you may still feel the desire to eat. For me, this means I am actually hungry, so I eat!
- Rome wasn’t built in a day. Easy does it. If you find yourself bingeing or overeating, do not beat yourself up (which for me would lead to more bingeing). Take another cooling off period; the urge is likely to go away.
Before I sign off, as always, I want to encourage you to visit HealthyWage, which provides health incentives for everyone. Incentives make accountability fun, and studies show that incentives increase your odds of success. Check it out! Best wishes everybody!