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Are You a Binge Eater?

Are You Binge Eating and Can’t Stop?

Binge eating is defined as compulsively eating unusually large amounts of food in one sitting and is usually done secretively.  It ranges in severity from periodic incidents to the recurrent CalorieKing Blog Binge Eatingepisodes as seen in Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Binge eating is not to be confused with occasionally overeating or giving into a craving now and then.

Picture overeating on a continuum using these markers:  quantity of food, frequency, emotional distress, powerlessness to stop. The higher on the scale for frequency and quantity, coupled with emotional distress, and an inability to stop, the more severe the problem.

Even infrequent binges to mask emotions should not be taken lightly. View them as a wakeup call.  Something in your life is in disarray.  Binges are masking what’s eating at you.

Binge eating is destructive to your mind and body. But, it can be controlled.  However, it’s not just a matter of saying you will stop.  It’s too complex. It will take some digging to get to the heart of it, learning healthier ways to manage what’s eating at you, or may take professional help.

Binge Eating is Not about Physical Hunger for Food

Although binge eating is not about a physical hunger, depriving yourself or excessive dieting can trigger a binge.

Binge eaters use food to cope with or block out unsettling emotions. Food provides temporary emotional comfort and suspension of painful emotions.

Guilt, shame, remorse, and depression are common reactions after a binge episode, adding to the emotional pain.

Can I stop on my own?

You might have caught it in time before it spiraled out of control. If that’s the case, try some of these methods. If you can’t control the binges on your own or if the occurrences are escalating, it may be a full-blown Binge Eating Disorder. In either case, get the help of an Eating Disorders Specialist immediately – your health care practitioner can point you in the right direction.

Binge Self-Help

  • Identify what’s eating at you.  Write down the thoughts or events that could have precipitated the binge. Then, take a wild guess – what would be the natural emotional reaction? Keep in mind that binge eaters stifle their emotions.   Awareness is the first step towards change.  Burying your feelings doesn’t work. If it did, you wouldn’t be bingeing.
  • Recognize that binge eating is not working.  Write down how you felt after the binge.  What did you pay in emotional and psychological damage for the temporary relief the binge provided?
  • List the pay-offs you get from binge eating:  Is eating the only place you have control in your life?  Do you feel like you are finally doing what you want to do instead of what someone else wants you to do? How pleasurable is the suspension of feelings? Is the food providing comfort that you can’t get elsewhere?
  • Challenge your pay-offs. Are you really in control when you are binge eating? Is bingeing building or tearing down your self-confidence? How much comfort is food really providing?  Do you feel better or worse after a binge?
  • List the consequences of bingeing – what is the cost to you in diminished self-esteem? What toll are binges taking on your mental and physical health? How do binges affect your weight?
  • Assess the damage in the amount of fat, calories, and carbohydrates you consume during a binge. Don’t guess.  You’ll underestimate the counts by 30% or more. Instead refer to either the 2012 CalorieKing Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter (to purchase go to http://www.calorieking.com/store/) or the CalorieKing food database http://www.calorieking.com/foods/.
  • Eat a balanced diet and include some treats that you enjoy. Don’t try to compensate for a binge by excessive dieting or deprivation. It will backfire and trigger another binge.
  • Get Support. Bingeing and isolation go hand-in-hand. Make an extra effort to keep in touch with friends and family.  You may not be comfortable talking to friends or relatives about bingeing, but you do need to find a supportive environment to express your feelings.  Talk to CalorieKing members who have learned how to control binges. Check out the CalorieKing Community forum: I Feel Like Bingeing!
  • Develop a list of healthier coping strategies. Start with the question: “When I feel the urge to binge, what can I do instead to soothe or calm myself?
  • Do something physical when you get an urge to binge.  Anything can work, even pulling weeds.
  • Exercise, even if you don’t feel like it. Key words here are ‘even if you don’t feel like it’. If you wait until you do, it won’t happen. Just do it in spite of your feelings.  It builds confidence, reduces stress, and gets you out of the house – where most binge eating occurs.
  • Keep binge foods out of the house.  If you have to go out for food, it will give you time to stop and think before you act on the impulse.

If your binges have not escalated to the point where you can’t control them, putting them in the proper light can be enough to put the brakes on bingeing.   In the long run, are you really avoiding emotional pain, are the consequences adding to the original problems, are the binges playing a crucial role in lowering your self-esteem, making you more vulnerable to other self-defeating behaviors?

Finally, instead of being self-critical, be your own best friend. Would you criticize, belittle, or kick a friend who was feeling down? I don’t think so.  You would offer support and love.

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