I often get asked what “cured” my binge eating disorder. The honest answer is that there was no ONE thing that made me stop binging right away, but looking back now there were some crucial steps I took to recover from binging.
Keep in mind that any type of healing or recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Although I wish I could snap my fingers and make you see how truly amazing, strong and powerful you are, it takes time to see it for yourself.
I always say that binge eating “fades away” meaning that after you commit to healing and take the necessary steps, the binges happen less often, become less severe, and eventually the urges subside (almost) altogether. Of course, at any point, something may trigger you back into old patterns, but by then you will have re-wired your brain to see and handle things differently.
Below I’ll give you 10 things that helped me stop binge eating. And no, this won’t be a list of shitty advice like “brush your teeth” or “paint your nails” because not only do those things not work long-term, they also fail to address the root of the problem. As much as I love good hygiene and a pretty manicure, distracting yourself from the problem will only make it worse.
And a quick disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor an eating disorder therapist. I’m a health coach who focuses on food and body-image struggles due to my personal experiences and those of my clients’. This advice should not be taken in place of a professional’s.
So let’s get into the 10 steps to help you STOP binge eating:
1. STOP CALLING YOURSELF A BINGE EATER.
Seriously, words are sooooo much more powerful than we think and if you’re always saying “I’m a binge eater” guess what your mind is going to think you are? A binge eater! It’s very hard to let go of something if it becomes a huge part of your identity. Try this instead: “I’m a wonderful human struggling with binge eating… but not for long because I’m getting over this!”
2. No, really. You’re not a binge eater.
Even if you’re not really into the law of attraction and the power of our words, here’s another truth: you are not a binge eater. You are struggling with binge eating at this moment because perhaps you’ve had a past of restriction, there’s lots of stress in your life, you have unhealed emotional trauma, you name it! So many things may be going on where you’re using binge eating as a coping and survival mechanism. If your body is doing something to keep you alive, then you’re not a binge eater. You’re simply experiencing years of evolutionary adaptation where your body is trying to keep you alive because it thinks you’ll die if you don’t eat. You’re not a binge eater. You’re a survivor baby!
3. Stop labelling foods as good or bad.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Whether I was dieting or binge eating, I was always in a thought process of “oh, I already F’ed up today, so might as well just binge.” This happens when we label certain foods as “good” and other foods as “bad” because, by extension, we make ourselves “bad” for eating the “bad” foods and “good” for eating the “good” foods. This kind of black-and-white thinking leads to an all-or-nothing mentality. If all foods were neutral, then a huge aspect of all-or-nothing goes away. Think about it, when was the last time you beat yourself up for eating an extra serving of broccoli? I hope never because broccoli is labelled as a “good” food so we don’t feel guilty for eating extra. What if the broccoli and the cookie had the exact same moral value of 0? → NO MORAL VALUE. Food has no moral value so you’re not good or bad for eating certain foods. The less you label foods and extend those labels to yourself when you eat them, the more neutral you’ll feel around food, especially when the urge to binge strikes.
4. Eat the next day NO MATTER WHAT.
I remember skipping lunch and attempting to skip dinner too because I thought I ate too much the night before and disguising it as “intermittent fasting.” But eating the next day was crucial because I knew that no matter what, I was worthy of fueling my body. To an extent, we’re all creatures of habit so it’s important to ritualize your healing… and eating is healing. Eating the next day no matter how ‘bad’ your binge the night before was is a way to communicate to your body that “hey, I know you’re trying to keep me alive and I know you’re scared and I hear you so I will keep feeding you as long as it takes you to realize that I will never purposefully starve you ever again.”
5. This brings me to #5… STOP RESTRICTING.
After I gave up trying to look like a fitness model (got pretty close if I’m being honest) … I found myself binge and eating more than I ever had done before on anything and everything (even things I didn’t like!). I felt so miserable, hopeless, and ashamed because no matter how hard I tried or how many times I’d “start on Monday”, willpower and self-control kept failing me over and over again. This went on for years before I finally took the initiative to heal my binge eating disorder with the help of a coach.
And I did this by telling my body that it’s allowed to eat as much as it wants because it was compensating from all the years of deprivation I put it through. I was anorexic in my teens and this caused my body to become so scared of any deprivation. After many months of ups and downs, my body heard me and realized that food will always be there and it won’t be deprived ever again. The binges started happening less often, became less severe, and eventually stopped altogether.
I did still chose chocolate and ice cream over more nutritious foods because I had become so dependant on these over the years although the binging stopped. I worked on building healthy habits SLOWLY into my life and started looking at food as a way to nourish my body.
6. Ask yourself, “Where else in your life are you restricting?”
No, there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with you personally if you binge eat (regularly or occasionally). Yes, there is something deeper going on but likely you’re restricting yourself (from either food or other, more spiritual things like love, happiness, joy, freedom, etc… binge eating can be a spiritual manifestation as well). I HIGHLY recommend journaling on this subject as it can be a big eye-opener to see where you’re holding back in your life. When I did this exercise, I realized that I was restricting my voice, meaning I wasn’t speaking up when something (or someone) hurt me out of fear of being rejected, abandoned, or thought lesser of. After I noticed that pattern, I was able to take a step back from a binge and ask myself “where, when, and WHY did restrict my thoughts, feelings, and emotions?” GAME. CHANGER.
7. Remember that thinking about restricting has the same effects as actually restricting.
Your brain can snap into feast or famine mode from just the thought that there might not be enough food. If you ever struggle with binge eating, bulimia, and/or chronic dieting, keep this in mind and notice what triggers you to restrict and ask yourself, “What happened last time I restricted?” Hopefully, you’ll see that restricting only perpetuates the cycle illustrated below:
8. Don’t try to employ willpower or self-control, instead, approach the situation with kindness and compassion.
The common misconception about binge eating is that it’s simply a lack of willpower or self-control, but trying to employ willpower or self-control when your body is in survival mode is nearly impossible. We have willpower and self-control when it comes to waking up in the mornings, not doing drugs, and when we’re in traffic (lol!), so why does it go away when we have the urge to binge? Because trying to control basic human needs is what lead us here in the first place, so of course, your body wants to prevent that. Instead of beating yourself up, speak kindly to yourself and approach the situation with gentle curiosity as you work through the triggers and pain points. Self-compassion will take you farther than self-hate ever will.
9. Spend time cooking for yourself.
Food is a relationship like any other relationship: you have to bring to the table what you want to receive back. So if you want a good relationship with food, you must put good energy into your food and the best way to do this is to spend time making yourself an amazing meal. Not only does this allow you to make something you enjoy, but spending that extra time cooking for yourself communicates that you care for your body and that you’re ready to listen to its hunger signals, cravings, and desires. I hated cooking when I first started to do this but after time you really do begin to take pride in making food for yourself and your partner/family. I still don’t like cooking meals that take forever because well, I don’t like it! But baby steps and a bit of effort is all it takes. You’re worth it.
10. Bless your food.
The metaphysics of food is REAL. That’s why I keep saying that you must bring good vibes to the table if you want a healthy relationship with food. A simple way to do this before every meal is to bless your food. Simply just say thank you in your head or out loud before you eat. Me and my boyfriend also ask each other what we are most grateful for before we eat at the end of the day :).
If you found this blog helpful then you may like to read another one of my blogs ‘What to do after a binge‘. Loves xox