Binging and purging is an unhealthy behavior cycle that can be associated with very serious emotional and physical problems. In this blog, you will learn about why this behavior happens, and some steps you can take to break the cycle.
1. You’re Not Alone
If you binge and purge, you’re not alone. According to a 2003 study by the Renfrew Clinic, 25% of college-aged women have engaged in binging and purging. That’s 1 in 4 women who try it. Men comprise up to 40% of people who binge eat. And 10-15% of people with eating disorders are men.
Many people start the behavior as a weight management strategy. A significant segment of people learn binge and purge behavior from sports, especially sports that require weigh-ins such as wrestling, boxing, and gymnastics. A majority of people will discontinue the behavior when they realize it’s dangerous or unhealthy for them. But for some with predispositions, it will turn into a very serious illness called bulimia. Whether your binging and purging has developed fully into bulimia or not, but there are ways you can stop the behavior.
2. Don’t Skip Meals and Eat Balanced Nutrition
The best biological way to shore yourself up against a binge/purge cycle is to keep yourself nourished throughout the day. Starving yourself just sets you up to feel ravenous and out of control with urges to eat more than a normal amount of food later. Don’t skip meals. Make sure to eat balanced nutrition that allows your body to get its needs for protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals met throughout the day. This will keep your blood sugars balanced and give you greater capacity to stay within a range of normalized eating.
3. Check In With Your Healthcare Provider
If there is a particular food or foods linked with binging for you, you may want to cut down on those items until you can sort out where the binge urge is coming from. However, you don’t want to overwhelm or confuse yourself by creating another issue with restricting your food intake. You will also want to rule out any biological reasons behind your binging. Consult a nutrition expert, doctor, or holistic care provider to make sure you don’t have an allergy, sensitivity or digestive issue. Check in with a therapist or naturopath if you’re worried about a mood disorder.
4. Slow Down
Carve out some time to eat mindfully. Stop and sit down. Breathe. Taste and chew your food. Tap into your senses. Be present with the food in front of you. It’s hard to binge when you’re completely present.
5. Put Space Between Urge and Action
Use the restroom before you eat so that you have no excuse to use it after. Decide to refrain from using the restroom 2 hours after a meal. Keep any other purging receptacles out of reach. Have a plan for what you will do instead—create art, work, take a walk, journal, etc. Utilize loved ones to help talk you through the urge.
Notice when you tend to have a binge and purge. Are there particular times of day, social situations, holidays or anniversaries, mood swings, or work pressures that are linked to the urge to binge and purge? The more you’re armed with predicting when the cycle is likely to occur for you, the better prepared you can be to slow down between the urge and the action. When you put space between the urge and the action, you can use that space to make a different choice.
It’s often helpful to keep a cravings journal on hand so that when you start to crave a particular food or desire to binge, you can sit down before eating and identify feelings and events that surround the craving. Some things you might ask yourself are:
- What events have happened in the last 24 hours?
- What’s about to happen in the next 24 hours?
- Am I feeling sad? mad? happy? scared? sexual? lonely? bored?
- What foods am I craving?
- What need is my feeling trying to tell me to meet?
- How can I get that need met without a binge/purge?
6. Seek Adequate Help
Fighting addictive cycles is hard to do on your own. Allow yourself to open up about your struggles to trusted friends and loved ones. Let them know that you are seeking support, and then let yourself be open to receiving it!
Again, you’re not alone. There are many resources and ways to work through binge/purge urges. Stay out of secrecy and shame. You deserve help and dignity. You deserve a balanced relationship with food and your body. It’s very possible to have freedom from the compulsion to binge and purge.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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