My Top 5 Tips to Overcome Bingeing
A while back I started being more open about my struggles with bingeing and emotional eating, and how for me, losing 100 pounds meant I had to look my bingeing in the face and start to unpack why I was struggling and how to heal. I noticed when I started sharing about it more openly and I posted some excerpts from a book I was reading that a lot of you expressed that it was helpful and that you also struggle with the same things.
So, I promised to start sharing more and more about that part of my journey and do a round up of some of the simple tools that have really helped me over the past couple years. Some are things I’ve added in recently and found helpful and some are tools I’ve been using since starting my journey.
To be transparent, it hasn’t been a perfect journey or even a linear one, but it has been so rewarding and I don’t think I would have gotten this far in healing my relationship with my body and food if I hadn’t put in the inner work too. So, all of these tools I’m going to share – they aren’t a silver bullet, but they do help provide a foundation and with consistent use, you’ll start to see some changes.
Let’s jump in!
I am a huge fan of self-help and personal development books of any kind, so it stands to reason I would also love to read about the topic of bingeing, nutrition, health and emotional eating.
There are a few books in particular that I’ve found quite helpful over the years:
a) You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay – this book is not specific to bingeing or emotional eating, but speaks to healing in general and I love her work. This was the very first personal development/self-help book I read and it is one of my all time favourites to this day.
b) End Emotional Eating by Jennifer Taitz – this book speaks to addressing emotional eating from the perspective of using dialectical behavior therapy skills and I found it quite helpful both with emotional eating and bingeing. It has lots of activities you can do to provide insights, but also to help you manage the urge to emotionally eat. This is the book I shared an excerpt from that you guys loved.
c) Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon – this book is amazing for debunking diets and understanding set point weight and the impact that diets have on both our minds and body.
Journaling is one of my top recommendations for just about anything, but especially working through bingeing and emotional eating.
I find it helpful when I feel a binge coming on to slow down and free write and just let anything pour out that needs to be let out. I find that when I first start, I write about seemingly small things and by the end I’m feverishly pouring my heart out over something I had no idea was connected to those seemingly small things.
This practice really helps me connect the dots to understand the way that some daily interactions or stresses are actually connecting to some deeper meaning or deeper rooted emotions for me. Generally by the time I’m done writing, my urge to binge is also gone.
If you find it feels a little bit awkward or you aren’t sure where to start – that’s okay! You will get used to it. In the beginning I found it helpful to write out to myself “What emotion is asking to be felt right now that I would cover up with bingeing?” and then just let it flow and write anything that comes to mind.
3. Urge surfing:
Urge surfing is one of the best and most simple tools I’ve found for when you’re actually in the moment, feeling the urge to binge. It’s one thing to read a book or plan ahead when everything is going well, but it’s another thing entirely when you’re facing that urge head-on, in the moment.
The concept of urge surfing is essentially to acknowledge your craving or urge to binge/eat emotionally and rather than try to distract yourself or pretend it isn’t there, to just let it be and let it ebb and flow. Sometimes I find distractions helpful, but often when I am wanting to binge, the feeling is strong enough that distractions don’t quite do the trick. Instead, I just try to lean into what I’m feeling and let it be, without judgement.
Along the same lines, when I do this, I acknowledge for myself that I honour how I’m feeling, but will not be engaging in bingeing or emotional eating and then I let myself work through any emotion that comes up through that process. Sometimes I find this most effective when I pair it with journaling because it helps me work through whatever is coming up in the moment.
4. Empowered eating and eating enough:
Honestly, this deserves a full post of its own, but for now…
Empowered eating, in short is finding that balance of informed and intuitive eating – empowering yourself with some baseline nutritional knowledge, using trial and error and intuitive eating to really understand what your body is telling you; what it wants and needs and what makes you feel your best. This also included understanding emotional hunger versus physical hunger.
For me, this also included letting go of measuring all of my portions and putting criteria around calories, macros, etc. In lieu of that, I’ve been focusing on really listening to my body and the more I lean into that, the easier it becomes.
I know for many people, myself included initially, this step is a scary one and for those of us who suffer from bingeing, I know this step can feel like you’re setting yourself up for failure. But, I have found that doing this actually does the opposite; once you remove the restrictions and rules, things slowly level out and foods that were once strong triggers start to lose their power.
That being said, as much as hearing that sounds nice, I know it doesn’t eliminate the fear and I hear that.
So, I recommend taking baby steps that show you that it’s safe before you jump all in. I suggest starting with mindfully eating and relearning hunger cues by assessing your hunger levels on a scale before and after meals and snacks. This will help you gain an understanding of your body’s needs and cues. Then you can start to focus on actually honour those cues more fully.
A lot of people have a misconception that this way of eating will not work for weight loss and in my case that simply wasn’t true – my body needed to lose excess weight that was causing problems and between learning how to differentiate emotional hunger from physical hunger, I was able to address my bingeing and in listening to my body, it was no longer asking for copious amounts of food in the form of bingeing because it was getting what it needed regularly. The result? Losing 100 pounds while also addressing my relationship with my body and food.
5. Fulfilling emotional needs through relationships and self care instead food, including, if needed, counseling and getting support:
My experience with bingeing and emotional eating was really rooted in a lack of support that I was giving myself in dealing with my emotions, or if I’m being honest, even acknowledging them.
I had some pretty rooted beliefs around “good” and “bad” emotions and I really struggled with acknowledging that I was experiencing an emotion that I had labeled as “bad” (i.e. feeling sad, frustrated or angry).
This part was the most challenging (and most rewarding) to address.
I started with journaling and just being open and honest about the emotions I was feeling. As I said before, this was tough at first – I was so out of touch with my emotions that I often didn’t even know what I was feeling until I journalled.
I also started acknowledging openly with myself that I was seeking comfort and soothing in food and that I needed to find other ways to support myself. Some of those were simple – having a bath, going for a walk, journaling, talking it out with someone and some I found through counseling – I truly believe that there is no shame in getting help if you need it and I viewed my counseling as a personal development tool. I wasn’t going to counseling because I was broken, but because I was ready for the next level of my life and version of myself and I knew that getting there needed to include healing and working through things I had set aside.
I also learned to ask for what I needed in my relationships and express what I was feeling. I had so much fear around this and the impact it would have on my relationships and fortunately, it’s improved them for the better. The reality is, whenever I was feeling a strong emotion, even if I wasn’t expressing it openly, it would show in other ways, so it was much more effective to constructively share than let it come out in other ways.
As I said, this part is sometimes the hardest, but it’s also truly rewarding.
There you have it, my top 5 tips when it comes to bingeing. However, I do have one final thought I wanted to share before signing off: even though I’ve provided some of the tools that really helped me to overcome bingeing, it’s so important to maintain self-compassion as you’re working through healing. Relapsing and slip ups happen and it’s okay. The best thing you can do after is forgive yourself and move on – wallowing in self defeat or shame is not only unpleasant, but also counterproductive, especially if bingeing is emotionally rooted. So please practice self-compassion as you work through your own healing, it’s so important. We are all human.
Finally, I know this is a lot to take in and a pretty in-depth “top five” post, so I expect I’ll do some individual posts on all of these at some point as well, but for now, just take it one step at a time, one urge at a time, one day at a time.
I hope this round up helps you if bingeing and/or emotional eating is an area you struggle with as well. And, if you ever need help, support or just a virtual hug, I’m just a message away.