Binge eating is often very stressful and emotionally intense. And despite the fact that it’s quite widespread, there haven’t been any easy solutions on how to stop binge eating.
Those who struggle with binge eating often experience a great deal of shame and guilt. They feel that their behavior somehow makes them weak-willed or even morally inferior. They criticize themselves for their supposed “lack of willpower.” As a result, they frequently hide their challenges and isolate themselves from others.
Traditional “cures” to end binge eating have, in some ways, played into this narrative of guilt and shame. They focus primarily on behavior modification—making changes in one’s habits in order to control, manage, or end binge eating. This ignores the underlying emotional causes of binging, and often results in clients feeling as if they’ve failed when they struggle to stick with the behavioral changes suggested by the practitioner.
But there is a new way to stop binge eating:
Listen to it.
In reality, binge eating doesn’t happen because we don’t have sufficient willpower. It’s usually a symptom of a deeper need or struggle, and can be the gateway to profound healing. Binge eating has a message, and it’s important that we don’t ignore it.
True healing is not just about willing ourselves to stop binge eating. It’s about understanding that underneath the binging, there is a wisdom and a teaching that we need to uncover to grow into our fullest, happiest selves.
So where can you start the process in order to end binge eating? The first step is to begin to treat ourselves with greater compassion. This means we don’t criticize ourselves so harshly every time we binge. Instead, we remind ourselves that we’re binging because it’s a coping mechanism we’re using to handle a bigger, deeper struggle. There’s something in our lives that’s causing us stress and unhappiness, and we’re dealing with it the best we can. We’re not less lovable or less worthy because we binge.
Once we’ve stopped judging ourselves, we need to approach our efforts to end binge eating with patience and an open mind. Truly healing might take some time, and it may require us to look at areas of our lives we don’t immediately recognize as being connected to our unwanted eating habits. Ideally, we’ll seek out the help of professionals who understand where we’re coming from. Here at the Institute, we make sure our coaches are thoroughly trained in this approach to binge eating.
There is no “quick fix” when it comes to real growth and healing. Here are a few of the steps addressing binge eating may lead to:
Address and correct diet and nutrition
The larger lesson of binging might be as relatively straightforward as the fact that we need to alter our diets and eat more nourishing foods. Processed foods are often high in calories but low in nutrients. Therefore, they often leave us feeling unsatisfied. Also, when we eat too quickly or with a lack of awareness—like when we eat at our desks, in the car, or in front of the TV—we’re not emotionally fulfilled by our meals. Sometimes, we try to make up in quantity what our diets are lacking in quality, and this can lead to binge eating. Eating whole, nutrient dense foods and bringing greater awareness to our meals can help to curb this.
Stop calorie counting or dieting
It is somewhat paradoxical, but calorie counting and dieting can sometimes lead to binging. But it makes perfect sense. Calorie counting often deprives us of important nutrients, leaving us hungry. If we’re calorie counting all day long, we’re likely feeling famished by dinner, so it’s no wonder why we sometimes binge.
Examine our sources of stress
Much of the time, binge eating really has nothing to do with our diets. It’s not an uncommon practice to turn to food as a substitute or proxy for a larger emotional need that has gone unmet, or as a way to temporarily relieve the stress that a situation in life is causing. In these cases, our binging is calling us to examine our lives more deeply. Maybe it’s an unfulfilling job or a challenging relationship that is causing the stress. If this is true, it’s important that we do what we can to start addressing the root cause of the binging. We also need to realize that binging is just something we’re doing to cope with a very difficult situation, and stop criticizing ourselves for doing it.
It may not be an external situation, like a job or a relationship, that’s causing the stress. It is sometimes the case that binge eating is causing us to look within and see where we are in pain or not feeling fulfilled. Are we not living lives that authentically represent who we are? Are we holding ourselves back or making ourselves small in some way? These are some of the most challenging questions to answer, and it’s where we can use our unwanted eating habits to ultimately have a profound, positive impact on our lives.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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