how-do-i-stop-binge-eating

“I was out of control”

“I couldn’t stop”

“I had to finish the whole package”

“It was like a wild hungry wolf took over my eating”

These phrases are familiar to those of us who struggle with binge eating.  We know all too well the feeling of being in a wave of eating that we can’t stop, even though we know we “should” stop. It might be very clear that we’ll feel physically uncomfortable if we keep eating, yet we still can’t put the fork down. It can feel like a tidal wave that just sweeps us away, and then at the end, pummels us down to the beach with another strong wave of shame. Most binge eaters are all too familiar with the post-binge “I can’t believe I ate all that – what’s wrong with me?” feeling.

How do I stop binge eating?

The shame, guilt and feelings of self hatred that can accompany binge eating means that many binge eaters are not talking about their behavior. We want to keep it quiet because it’s embarrassing. It doesn’t fit with the picture of the rest of our life.  Many binge eaters feel alone in their experience of uncontrolled eating.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s believed that as many as 6 million American women are struggling with binge eating. And the numbers could be way higher.

The challenge is, our diet-culture is still giving us the message that if we just had enough willpower, we could stop binge eating. But really, if the tough-it-out and just-resist-the-urge diet mentality was the path to stop binge eating, would so many people still be in the painful loop of eating more than they need or want to be eating? If fad diets and the popular just-do-it approaches are not the way to stop binge eating, then what are we supposed to do? How do we stop binge eating? How do we calm the wild uncontrollable feeling that takes over and eats and eats?

As paradoxical as it sounds, the key to taming that hungry wolf within is to listen to it deeply.

At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, we teach that our out-of-control behavior is the body’s way of sending up a flare – it wants to be noticed. The symptoms that we experience in our body – from a simple ache to binge eating – are all ways that our body is speaking to us.  When the symptoms are loud, like pain or “I can’t stop eating,” our body is doing more than speaking – it’s yelling. Our body is screaming – “red alert, red alert, notice me now.” We believe there are important lessons to be learned here.

Most of us are trained to ignore our body’s needs, and tune-out its messages. But when we want to find a way that really works to stop binge eating, it’s imperative that we learn to listen to our body, and the binge. Listening to the body is an art that all of us can learn. It’s a process of slowing down, breathing, and getting curious about what our internal world has to say to us. Quite remarkably, the simple process of listening to the body – slowing down, breathing and bringing awareness to the body – can actually help stop a binge. By the way, these are just some of the key principles that we dive into in our premiere online program for the public – Transform Your Relationship with Food™.

This may sound too simple to be true, but here’s the science behind it.

When we slow down and breathe, when we bring our attention to our body in a curious and non-judgmental way, we are activating our parasympathetic nervous system. When our parasympathetic nervous system (also know as our “rest and digest” mode) is activated, we have that “it’s-all-OK” relaxation feeling.

That “it’s-all-OK” relaxation response is very powerful. It’s our best strategy when it comes to stopping binge eating. When we are relaxed, tuned-in, and paying attention to our body and feelings, it’s hard for the hungry-binge-eating-wolf to take over – because we are actually feeding the hungry wolf. That wild, out of control part of us needs attention. When we give it our attention, it doesn’t have to act out and take over by eating anything and everything.

However, shifting ourselves into rest and digest mode sometimes doesn’t happen in time. Sometimes, we know we’re headed towards a binge, and we don’t feel able to slow down. In those circumstances, it’s time to pull up a chair and pull out the fine china! Truly, sitting down and setting out your food beautifully will go a long way when it comes to slowing down and stopping a binge. Most of us binge standing up, or eating in hiding, or in the car. We eat in ways and places that do not signal our system: “hey, we’re eating, this could be delicious food, let’s enjoy it!”

If we can ritual-ize our binge, if we can really tune into the pleasure of our food, it’s much harder to ignore our body and override the “I’m full” and “that’s enough for now” messages. When we allow ourselves to deeply experience the sensual pleasure of food, once again, we are triggering our parasympathetic nervous system. It’s just not possible to be possessed by the hungry wild animal within, or overtaken by a tidal wave of eating, when we are in a relaxation response.

At the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, we teach practitioners in our Eating Psychology Coach Certification Training the practical, real world, and results-driven techniques to stop binge eating. We highlight how one of the keys to stop binge eating is to activate our parasympathetic nervous system and shift our body into a relaxation response. When we practice breathing and bringing pleasure to our meals, our relationship with that deep and intense hunger will change and your battle to stop binge eating will come to an end. We will hear what we really need to nourish ourselves, and that will truly improve our relationship with our food and body.

Have you had success with binge eating either personally or professionally? We’d love to hear.

Warm Regards,

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating

© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: SPECIAL 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss

Get My Book!

Get Your FREE Video Series

New Insights to Forever Transform Your Relationship with Food

 

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to check out our FREE information packed video series – The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough – you can sign up for it HERE. It’s a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. If you’re inspired by this work and want to learn about how you can become certified as an Eating Psychology Coach, please go HERE to learn more. And if you’re interested in working on your own personal relationship with food, check out our breakthrough 8-week program designed for the public – Transform Your Relationship with Food™ HERE.

  • Hannah

    I find that there are many different reasons I binge. Sometimes I’m upset at an event that occurred. Sometimes I am bored. Sometimes I’m hungry and my satiation cues don’t kick in until 2000 calories later. Other times I’m angry at someone and binge as a form of “revenge” (stupid, I know). Many times I eat because it tastes good and I can’t make up my mind about what I want to eat, so I eat it all. Sometimes I also adapt the “I’ve blown it today, so why not go all out” attitude.

    • Hi Hannah, Thank you so much for being so brave and sharing your story with our community! It sounds like you might really benefit from working one-on-one with an Eating Psychology Coach to help you with your binge eating challenges. You can browse our directory of graduates here: http://tinyurl.com/IPE-directory. We hope this is helpful, and thank you again for reaching out! Warmly, IPE Staff

  • Miroslav Kovar

    Thanks for this amazing article! I thought this might really help me, this advice made so much sense. I was often watching TV, listening to music or to a podcast while bingeing, always had a feeling of checking out of my body completely. So I tried this approach, eat slowly, with no distractions, focus only on the food. What I found is that I actually enjoy the food more, regret the act a lot less, but the quantity I consume is the same. I hear my mind saying: “You were told to not stop your binges, but go on enjoy them! And you know you would enjoy another serving…”. It’s like I finally have the permission to go overboard, there are no obstacles in the way of doing it.

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback, Miroslav! We’re happy to hear that you are able to enjoy yourself more, regret much less, and feel like you finally have permission. We’re glad you’re part of our community! Warmly, IPE Staff

      • Miroslav Kovar

        Happy to join the community! But I guess my question is – can giving oneself permission to do something harmful to one’s body be beneficial? Some time ago, I would say no, of course not. But now, thanks to you, I am beginning to see that this is probably just a part of finding the balance in one’s life…

        • Thanks for your great question, Miroslav! Slowing down and listening to your body and the binge can reveal the message your body is sending and perhaps even stop the binge. When it doesn’t, find ways to ritualize the binge. Make it a beautiful event and relax into it. So glad to hear that you are “getting” the idea behind that about finding the balance in life! Warmly, IPE Staff

About The Author
Emily Rosen
CEO

Emily Rosen is the Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, where she oversees business development strategies, student affairs, marketing and public relations in addition to her role as Senior Teacher. With an extensive and varied background in nutritional science, counseling, natural foods, the culinary arts, conscious sex education, mind body practices, business management and marketing, Emily brings a unique skill-set to her role at the Institute. She has also been a long-term director and administrator for Weight Loss Camps and Programs serving teens and adults and has held the position of Executive Chef at various retreat centers. Her passion for health and transformation has provided her the opportunity to teach, counsel, manage, and be at the forefront of the new wave of professionals who are changing the way we understand the science and psychology of eating and sexuality. Emily is also co -founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.