At times, all of us have eaten a bit, or a lot more than is comfortable in our bodies. Holidays, celebrations or sometimes mindless eating in front of the TV can leave us feeling overly full. For some, this way of eating is more common and happens more frequently than we’d like. The new DSM-V, the Psychiatric Association’s manual on diagnosis, has created a diagnosis under the eating disorder umbrella called Binge Eating Disorder or BED. Whether you meet the criteria for this disorder, for bulimia, anorexia, or you just find yourself overly stuffed at times, these tools can be helpful:
1. Notice what types of foods you’re binging on and write them down.
It helps to look at your behavioral patterns. Some people find themselves eating excessive sweets, some are more geared towards fats or starches. Some people with emotional eating tendencies excessively eat any kind of meal including vegetables. See if you can find a pattern in your binge choices.
2. Notice what you DON’T binge on.
Are there any types of foods that you’d never consider in a binge or never feel the need to over-eat? In a recent session, a client was relaying the guilt and shame he felt after a binge. He reported that he doesn’t usually allow pastries in the house, but was feeling strong recently and thought it’d be okay. He found himself finishing off the pastries he had in one sitting. Upon further investigation into what foods he was allowing himself to eat regularly, the client determined that he felt very satisfied when he ate waffles and allowed himself to eat waffles multiple times per week. I asked him if he ever binges on waffles. He was shocked when he thought about it and said that – no – he never binges on waffles. Ok, great, so there’s no waffle binging going on, but how does that help? Follow me here.
3. Take a look at what you ‘allow’ yourself to eat regularly.
What foods do you consider safe? In an attempt to be healthy, lose weight, or just get control over your food choices, you may be very rigid or restrictive about what you allow yourself to eat on a regular basis. Perhaps your choices look benign enough like chicken and veggies multiple times per week. Write down what you’ve eaten over the past 3 days to 1 week or track your food for a week. What do you notice?
4. What is missing from your regular eating habits?
Take those same meal journals and notice what you don’t have there. If we consider all the food groups: protein, fat, starch, veggies, fruits and dairy – are there any food groups missing? Are there lots of repeated meals without much variety?
Now I know this might seem completely insane and a bit scary, but HERE’S THE KEY to quit binging. Ready?
5. Allow yourself to eat the foods you binge on.
Try adding a portion or 2 of the foods you don’t allow yourself to eat and some of the most common foods you binge on to your regular meal schedule. I know this might seem counter-intuitive. Our society tells us to resist, have discipline, diet harder, avoid sugars and carbs and fats and this may be the only voice you’ve ever heard that encourages these things, but just give it a try for a month or even a week and see what happens. If you are on the anti-carb kick, but then you find yourself binging on carbs, try adding a normal amount of carbs to each meal and see what your body craves after a while.
Here’s the rub – We are creatures of desire.
Food is part of life! It’s nourishing and delicious and sensual. When we restrict ourselves from eating foods we love, we may lose weight in the short run, but this does not happen without consequence. Our animalistic nature, our Id, it craves pleasure and passion and vigor. If we force ourselves to live inside a rigid box of rules around food and body, we will always desire to break free and stepping outside of that box causes immense shame and fear. I am not telling you to overeat or teaching you how to binge differently, but what I am suggesting is that you try to take the power out of the foods that haunt you.
If you regularly binge on entire cartons of ice cream, see what happens when you have a cup every night for a week. What emotions come up when you eat it? Can you journal about them and bring them into your therapist? What do you find yourself craving after that week of glorious freedom with ice cream?
If you live near The Main Line of Philadelphia or West Chester and want to learn more about binging and how to quit, or you’re not sure where to find support for your feelings around food, you’re not alone. Please feel free to contact me at 610.314.8402 – I’d be happy to help you find support.