Binge eating is a prevalent issue that plagues countless individuals grappling with their food dynamics. Characterized by consuming substantial quantities of food within a brief timeframe, this behavior is often entangled with emotions of guilt, shame, and a sense of powerlessness. Beyond the physical discomfort it induces, binge eating takes a toll on mental well-being, self-esteem, and, though less significant, one’s fitness aspirations.
In this article, we’ll explore strategies for avoiding and overcoming binge eating and achieving your fitness goals.
1. Identify Your Triggers
The first step in breaking free from the binge is to identify your triggers.
Triggers can be anything that causes you to turn to food, such as stress, boredom, or negative emotions. By understanding what triggers your binge eating, you can begin to develop strategies to manage those triggers and prevent future binges.
One effective strategy for managing triggers is to keep a food journal. Write down everything you eat, along with your emotions and any situations that may have triggered your binge. By tracking your food and emotions, you’ll gain insight into your patterns of behavior and can identify triggers that you may not have been aware of.
2. Eat Regularly
Eating regularly is an important step to gaining control over your eating habits.
Make sure to eat at least three meals and three snacks a day, spaced no more than 3-4 hours apart.
Eating regularly and flexibly can help eliminate problematic dieting behaviors, reduce binge urges, and increase sustained energy throughout the day.
3. Problem Solve
Do you ever find yourself feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by a bad situation?
Learning effective problem-solving can be a great way to cope. For example, if you struggle with overeating when you’re feeling down, try this 4-step approach to problem-solving:
- Identify the problem: I often turn to food when I’m feeling down or stressed.
- Think of a range of possible solutions: I could call a friend, listen to music, exercise, or write in a journal.
- Consider the implications of each solution: Calling a friend might help me feel better, but what if they’re not available? Listening to music might help, but what if I get bored? Exercise could be a great way to relieve stress, but what if I’m too tired? Writing in a journal could be a great way to express my feelings, but what if I don’t feel like it?
- Pick the best solution(s) and act on it: Based on the pros and cons of each option, I think exercise is the best choice. I’m going to go for a walk or do some yoga to help relieve my stress and feel better.
4. Tackle your food anxiety
Do you have certain foods that you consider “forbidden”? This could be because these foods tend to trigger binge eating and make you feel anxious.
However, avoiding these foods completely isn’t always necessary to manage weight (and food anxiety).
To help reduce your anxiety around these foods, create a list of your forbidden foods and rank them from “most forbidden” to “least forbidden.” Then, gradually reintroduce the foods from the “least forbidden” list into your diet.
For example, if cereal is on your “least forbidden” list, you can try adding a small handful of cereal to your regular breakfast smoothie. By doing this, you may realize that eating the cereal doesn’t cause weight gain or any other negative outcome.
This process may take some time, but over time, you may notice that your anxiety decreases and these foods are no longer binge triggers.
While binge eating is a challenging problem, by identifying your triggers, eating regularly, learning to problem solve and tackling your food anxiety, you can begin to overcome binge eating and achieve your fitness goals.
Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, and that progress takes time. With dedication and perseverance, you can break free from the binge and create a healthier, happier version of yourself.
Dr Jake Linardon
Dr Jake Linardon (PhD) is the founder of Break Binge Eating and works as a Research Fellow at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. Jake’s work involves trying to better understand and treat eating disorders, particularly through the use of innovative technologies. Jake has published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, across the world’s leading psychiatry and clinical psychology scientiﬁc journals, and serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Eating Disorders and Body Image. Jake is passionate about increasing access to evidence-based care among people with eating and body image issues.