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How to Stop Binge Eating for Better Health

We all eat too much from time to time. But if you regularly overeat while feeling out of control and powerless to stop, you may be suffering from binge eating disorder or a harmful habit of binge eating.

I personally developed a severe case of binge eating disorder during my childhood that led me to become obese by the age of seven. It took me more than fifteen years to get over it, and it highly affected both my personal and social life.

This article will present some tips and tricks to stop binge eating and improve your health

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder[1] is a common eating disorder where you frequently eat large amounts of food while feeling powerless to stop and feeling extremely distressed during or after eating.

You may eat to the point of discomfort and be plagued by feelings of guilt, shame, or depression afterwards, beat yourself up for your lack of self-control, or worry about what compulsive eating will do to your body.

If you too are struggling with binge eating, keep reading because this article is just what you need.

If you have binge eating disorder, you may feel embarrassed and ashamed about your eating habits and try to hide your symptoms by eating in secret. You may find that binge eating is comforting for a brief moment, helping to ease unpleasant emotions or feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. However, reality sets back in and you’re flooded with feelings of regret and self-loathing.

If you binge eat regularly, you gain weight, which only reinforces compulsive eating. The worse you feel about yourself and your appearance, the more you use food to cope. It becomes a vicious cycle: eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food for relief.

As powerless as you may feel about your eating disorder, it’s important to know that binge eating disorder is treatable. You can learn to break the binge eating cycle, better manage your emotions, develop a healthier relationship with food, and regain control over your eating and your health, just as I did.

As any mental problem, both the causes and the solutions are not that straightforward. To get over any binge eating disorder, self-awareness is paramount.

Causes and Effects of Binge Eating

Generally, it takes a combination of things to develop binge eating disorder, including your genes, emotions, and experience. In my personal case, I grew up being extremely fussy with food. Because I almost never liked what was served to me at my school’s cafeteria, I would simply refuse to eat and, once back home, clear the kitchen from all the bread and crisps without letting my parents see me.

Some of my clients developed binge eating disorder because of social pressure from their parents in their early teenage years. Social pressure to be thin can add to the feeling and fuel your emotional eating. Some parents unwittingly set the stage for binge eating by using food to comfort, dismiss, or reward their children

Children who are exposed to frequent critical comments about their bodies and weight are also vulnerable, as are those who have been sexually abused in childhood.

Many people also develop binge eating disorders because they find in food an easy way to supress feelings of anger, depression, loneliness or lack of attention from their parents. Depression and binge eating are strongly linked. Many binge eaters are either depressed or have been before; others may have trouble with impulse control and managing and expressing their feelings. Low self-esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction may also contribute to binge eating.

But why do you still binge eat, even though you no longer feel social pressure, fussiness towards food, or strong negative feelings to suppress?

The truth is that old and reinforced habits are hard to break and are wired in our subconscious mind.

The disorder is treatable. Your doctor can help you stop and, later on, get to and maintain a healthy weight. The first step is to understand why you’re engaging in this activity and then how to stop binge eating.

Overeating vs. Binge Eating

If you sometimes experience a mild version of the symptoms I’ve listed above and have only sporadic episodes of overeating, there’s a much simpler way of treating the issue.

It could just be an old habit of clearing the plate or mindlessly going through the whole bag of chips you’ve just opened. These episodes happen to everyone, but they’re not necessarily a way to suppress feelings.

If that’s the case, and you spotted yourself doing so sporadically, you might be simply overeating.

The path to breaking an old habit starts with getting to know yourself deeply and becoming mindful of your emotions and their triggers.

Be Mindful When Eating

You could stop overeating for some time by creating an environment where food is scarce, but, for most westerners like us, that’s not an option. Food is plentiful, and the choices at our disposal are endless.

This means that to stop overeating, the only solution is to learn how to spot and manage the triggers that are causing it.

Be aware that being able to notice your emotions on the spot and stop yourself before acting out of an impulse is not easy. Most people tend to get overwhelmed by their feelings and act impulsively. For this reason, before suggesting any “tricks” to stop your overeating habits, I recommend you develop a daily mindfulness meditation practice.[2]

Meditating daily has the power to help you better understand your feelings and step back from the behaviors that are jeopardizing your health and happiness.

If you want to get started with a mindfulness meditation, this article may be able to help.

Practicing mindfulness in my early twenties didn’t just help me to get over binge eating disorder, but it also helped me to quit smoking and using recreational drugs.

How Mindfulness Helps You Stop Binge Eating

The way mindfulness works is very simple. The more you train yourself to notice your feelings when they arise, the better you become at pausing and letting them go away.

Let’s imagine a scenario where you’re home alone and you start to experience a feeling of boredom. You quickly remind yourself that you are single and lonely. This thought evokes a strong and uncomfortable feeling of either frustration, sadness, or even deep depression. The pull to try to suppress those negative feelings is very strong, and, in your subconscious mind, the solution that is deeply weird is to look for comforting food.

At this point, if you have easy access to food, your impulse is to reach for it. You may at this point try to exert willpower, but, as long as the negative emotions persist, the impulse of binge eating won’t disappear.

Eventually, you’d fall into temptation and start eating. You say to yourself that you’ll have “one more bite,” but there’s a voice inside your head saying “I’m such a failure at resisting temptations, I might just stop trying and eat the whole thing,” and that’s exactly what happens.

In this example, if you were able to notice the arousal of the feeling of boredom, you would have stopped there and, after questioning the feeling, maybe think about something to keep your mind occupied, like calling a friend, getting ahead with work, etc.

Noticing the arousal of your first feeling (the least negative one) would help you to avoid the escalation of feelings that inevitably lead to binge eating.

A Simple Trick to Stop Binge Eating

A simple trick to help you notice your feelings and pause before letting them escalate is to wear a rubber band on your wrist.

Whenever you notice the arousal of one of the feelings that are usually leading you to binge eating, stop there, pull the rubber band, and let it hit your wrist hard enough to be painful.

At this point, your brain will register that “it is painful to experience that feeling,” and your mental focus will shift from the negative feeling to a physical sensation: pain.

Be aware that pain might be enough to help distract you from a weak emotion, but it won’t do much when it comes to dealing with strong and overwhelming emotions. Therefore, whenever you find yourself overeating because you didn’t manage to stop the escalation of emotions, just forgive yourself and acknowledge you’ve tried and that you are making progress.

Final Thoughts

With time, if you make mindfulness a regular part of your life, you’ll notice that your negative emotions become weaker and weaker, and you’ll start to develop a healthier relationship towards food.

There is no magic to it, just hard work and consistency. With these practices, you can learn how to stop binge eating and change your life for the better

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