I used to think bingeing was caused by a short circuit somewhere in my brain and I felt so powerless to stop it. Here are some of the strategies I’ve learned that can prevent or even stop a binge.
Feed myself. Sounds a little counter-intuitive right? But I don’t mean bingeing; I mean feeding myself well and predictably. Perhaps you can relate to this pattern: I’d skip breakfast and have a protein bar and coffee for lunch. I’d been going strong all day long so by the time I got home, I was starving. I’d think, “I worked hard all day and I did well on my diet. I deserve this (snack, meal, glass of wine, etc.)!” Then I’d proceed to eat enough for three meals and two snacks in a short period of time in front of the TV. When I binged in the evening, I’d skip meals again the next day and my binge-repent-repeat cycle continued. I now recognize that my reaction to restricting food is to binge later. Now “Prepare, prepare, prepare!” is my mantra. I try to carry portable meals and snacks with me so I won’t ignore hunger and binge later in the day.
Change the environment. In the past, when I got home, I’d make a beeline to the refrigerator or pantry. I’ve changed that transition between work and home by heading straight to the shower to relax and rejuvenate instead. The 3:00pm timeframe is also a high-risk time for me so I’ve learned to have a snack in the afternoon to take the edge off my hunger until I can prepare a meal. I also eat my meals at the table instead of in front of the TV. I put some classical music on and enjoy each bite of what I’ve prepared.
Identify and deal with stress. I used to automatically (like Pavlov’s dog!) reach for crunchy, salty carbs when I got stressed. It took many years to recognize that stress was my number one trigger, but now that I know, I am able to say “Stop!” and pause for a moment to ask, “Am I hungry or do I just need to relieve this emotion or feeling?” I am more patient with myself and take the time to use strategies to relieve stress, like the simple act of breathing. Taking a few deep breath calms me down and interrupts the negative self-talk, allowing me to begin to de-stress.
Regular movement. Something that helped me tremendously to stop a binge in its tracks is movement. I can hear you groaning! It may be the last thing I want to do but it’s one of the most effective ways to change the little voice in my head telling me that food will make me feel better. I started small. I walked to the mailbox or tried to stretch and touch my toes. Now I attend a water aerobics class at my local YMCA and its fun! The gym may not be for you, but what about walking through a museum or an arts and crafts fair or if mobility is an issue, sitting in a chair and moving your arms to some music? Find something, anything you like to do to get moving.
Be gentle. If, despite all my new strategies, I still binged, I was gentle and patient with myself. Rather than triggering another binge with guilt and shame, it allowed me to figure out what was going on and learn from it. I have a choice to build myself up, not beat myself up. Mindful eating has been the path to kindness and curiosity and I deserve that!
Celebrate! I’m blessed to have a husband who supports my journey and celebrates the success I’ve had with the Am I Hungry Mindful Eating Program for Binge Eating. He’ll occasionally leave a card by the coffee pot in the morning, or simply say, “Great job!” Success breeds more success so celebrate every small but significant step on your journey to your new life and freedom from BED.