Experiencing bingeing and overeating is distressing. You feel ashamed, scared, and panicked to undo what was done. You feel helpless and alone. What most people don’t know is that bingeing and overeating is actually a restriction problem. You don’t want to address the restriction because you feel like you need it to make up for overeating. Restriction is incredibly normalized in our society and it’s often praised and admired.
In order to stop bingeing you have to address restriction. We have to shift how we think about the binge restrict cycle into the restriction leads to bingeing cycle.
Signs you’re at high risk to binge
You tell yourself not to eat certain foods
Your way of eating isn’t maintainable without cheat days, bingeing, or breaks
If you eat something you feel wrong about whether that’s because it wasn’t healthy, “out of the ordinary”, “extra”, or drinking alcohol, you look for ways to “make up for it”
You feel out of control or excessively think about foods at parties, eating out, or most social gathering
On a regular basis you notice your hunger and find ways to put it off or fill up on something
You feel a sense of pride when you go long periods without eating
What To Do
Chances are you relate to many or all of the above binge risks. So what do you do next? You already know you need to start addressing restrictive behaviors and mentality. But where do you start? Start with one behavior and thought. From there you’ll build momentum and learn the process through repetition.
After a binge or overeating episode, eat the same as usual. Don’t restrict or compensate. You will want to resist this. It will feel wrong and uncomfortable. But you must do it otherwise you are setting yourself up for the next cycle. Maybe not today or the next. Some people have daily cycles others every few days others weekly or more.
Work into your diet a food group you binge or overeat frequently. Usually this is a sign you aren’t getting enough of that nutrient. Choose this food group in a way that feels supportive. If you find yourself bingeing on carbohydrates it’s likely that you aren’t getting enough of them. If you don’t feel comfortable adding specific foods you binge on, be proactive. Practice adding food groups to your meals and snacks. Here are some examples:
Overeating sweets at night? Try adding oatmeal with your eggs in the morning
Can’t stop eating peanut butter? Add slivered almonds to your chia pudding or yogurt, use real salad dressing at lunch, add olive oil to your vegetables, add butter to your potato.
Throughout your day: add pita chips with hummus and veggies, add quinoa onto a salad, try a sandwich instead a wrap, turn eggs into a breakfast burrito, add granola to yogurt and fruit.
Now that you’re eating more and getting the nutrients your body needs, it’s time to add into your diet a food you restrict or try not to eat. Choose one that helps you feel anxious but in control and make it actionable. Use foods you frequently overeat or want to overeat and come up with exposures that feel challenging but are safe enough to build your confidence and erode deprivation over time.
Here is how that could look:
Food that you restrict or tell yourself not to eat: potato chips
First couple times: grab an individual bag at work for lunch two times a week for 3 weeks.
Next few times: bringing a large bag home from the store. Know that you might eat it quickly.
Next few times: bringing a large bag home from the store. It might last longer, you might think about it less.
Eventually: regularly buy large bags, enjoy them, sometimes more, sometimes less, you may forget about them in pantry. Or you may eat them daily. You will trust yourself with them.
Consider triggering people, time, places, or emotions. Beyond not eating enough or having enough foods you enjoy in your diet, figure out if there was an emotional trigger, person, or situation that led to you bingeing/overeating.
If so, figure out additional ways to support yourself in these situations. Make a self care plan for transition times in your day like after school to home or work to home. If possible, take a short break from eating with a person that triggers you to binge.
Aside from working with a dietitian, you may find you desire a therapist that understands eating concerns. Talk with a trusted friend. They can help you come up with plan and support your emotional needs.
Breaking the binge eating cycle can take time, education, and support. We work with clients here locally in Columbus Ohio. We know our expertise is specialized and may not be available in your area. For that reason, we love working with clients virtually through our secure video portal. Click the work with us tab and inquire to become a client.