Four burgers, a sack of chips, a jug of soda, half a chocolate cake and one large tub of ice cream. Sound like an unhealthy lunch for a family of four? In fact, it's a list of food eaten during someone's binge.
Even if you know that one binge can destroy a whole week’s worth of effective weight control, when you’re on the verge it’s hard to stop. Here are five strategies that can bring you to a necessary halt in the heat of a bingeing moment!
The simplest steps are often the most effective. CalorieKing member Amanda says the word "mindfulness" sums up what it takes to stop her from going through with a binge: “Being mindful means thinking about why I'm bingeing, how it will affect me tomorrow physically and mentally, what purpose I'm using the food for. Just thinking about the binge itself – what to eat, how to hide it from others – won’t stop me. But being mindful will.”
Next time you’re about to binge, stop for a couple of minutes and ask yourself Amanda's three key questions:
- Why am I bingeing?
- How will it affect me tomorrow?
- For what purpose am I using the food?
Use your journal if you like, but be careful as it can be upsetting and counter-effective for some people. Amanda explains that, for her, writing in a journal delays binges but doesn't always stop them. “It does distract me but sometimes I get myself worked up writing about something that makes me upset and that reinforces the harmful feelings, so I still end up bingeing.”
Have a diversion plan
You can’t binge when you’re busy doing something else. Many people successfully beat binges by having a few positive diversions ready for when the urge to overeat hits. Every time they feel they’re about to binge-eat, they respond with a planned alternative behavior.
For example, you might promise yourself that every time you’re about to binge, you will work in the garden instead. Although it will be hard to follow through with this diversion at first, if you practice it enough you may find that you “think binge, do gardening” almost automatically.
Other good ideas for diversions:
- Take a bubble bath
- Go for a walk
- Go out to a movie
- Clean out a cupboard or drawer
- Get online or phone a friend
It’s a simple strategy, and it works. A huge percentage of people who have struggled with binge eating say that getting on the phone as soon as they feel the need to binge is their number-one tactic for averting the disaster.
“I’ve called my mother and boyfriend when I was feeling ready to binge before and it has stopped me,” says Amanda. “Bingeing is something I do when I feel alone and not confident enough to fix my own problems. It's an effort to make myself feel better because I don't see any other way to help myself. So it is beneficial to know that there are others out there who will help me.”
The honesty that can arise by talking to someone is also very effective. “The most effective way I ever beat a binge was to admit to a friend that I felt like bingeing to make myself feel better,” says Amanda. “It seems so silly when you actually say it to someone, because you know that it won't work.”
Amanda says she actually favors going online to chat to someone rather than phoning. “Almost every time, I'll go online (to CK forums (YES! Forums are BACK, baby!), instant messenger friends, or multi-player video games) because I don't want to face the ‘rejection’ of calling a friend to find that they're not home.”
What matters is that you find a way to interact with other people immediately. The simple fact of knowing you’re not alone can help you avoid a binge.
Attack back! (Slowly...)
When the urge to binge hits, many people feel they're being attacked by an outside force. If you feel like you’re being attacked, it’s natural to respond with reactive, aggressive behavior such as overeating. However, that’s not the way to do battle with the "Binge Monster".
Instead of panicking and reacting too fast, you need to do the opposite. Slow down, take 10 to 15 deep, slow breaths, and close your eyes for a minute. Do everything you can to slow yourself down and confirm that you are in control. It’s very similar to dealing with a panic attack.
Of course, it may be that depression rather than stress is the state you’re in when you’re about to binge. If this is the case, take a slightly different approach and find an active way to fend off the binge feelings. “Many times the state I'm in when I binge is a feeling of depression, so I have no need to relax. Activities that make me more alert (exercise, puzzles, homework) are better than relaxing”, explains Amanda.
Listening to music, exercising, or doing a simple stretching routine can also help you let go and free yourself from the “clutches” of a binge-eating impulse.
Count yourself out
This technique is not for the faint-hearted! It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Next time you’re feeling the urge to binge, lay out all the food you think you want to eat. Then add up the calories and fat in every item – have the CalorieKing food database or the CalorieKing Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter handy. Calculate your grand total and then decide whether or not you still want to binge.
When the food that’s supposed to make you feel better is transformed before your eyes into thousands of calories and piles of fat, it can really make you think twice.
As a final note, it's important to realize that Binge Eating Disorder is different from struggling with the occasional binge and is usually best addressed with therapy and professional guidance. For more information about Binge Eating Disorder, click on the related article link below.