Do you find that you eat healthy all day only to eat large amounts of food at night? You come home or finally get the kids to bed and all of the day’s stresses overwhelm you. To deal with the stresses you go into the kitchen, often the pantry where the “good stuff” is, and you start binging. Chips, peanut butter, a handful of cereal, cookies, chocolate, and whatever else looks appetizing. You then realize you had eaten perfectly all day and you’ve messed it up! What do you do? Do you stop and back away from the pantry? No. Instead, you tell yourself that you’ve already messed up eating clean for the day so you might as well make the most of it and you will get back to eating clean tomorrow. You have now awakened the inner hunger beast! Next thing you know you’re in the fridge reaching for whipped cream and then the freezer to heat up some chicken nuggets. You wake up the next day with a food hangover and you look like you are 6 months pregnant. Worst of all you’re disappointed in yourself and your self-esteem is shot.
Binge Eating is an Eating Disorder
Did you know that binge eating is an eating disorder? It’s aptly called binge eating disorder (BED) and it’s actually the number one eating disorder in the United States, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. It’s a common eating disorder amongst men and women. Most do not realize they even have it because overeating becomes a way to deal with stress.
Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder
Symptoms of BED include episodes of compulsive overeating and feelings of guilt. Those with binge eating disorder also usually obsess about their eating behaviors, body shape, and, body weight. To be officially diagnosed with BED a person must have at least one binge eating episode per week for at least three months. Episodes of binge eating are characterized by a lack of control over the intake of an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time often to the point of being uncomfortably full.
There is a lack of compensatory behaviors in people with BED. This means that, unlike those with bulimia, people with binge eating disorder don’t throw up or take laxatives to make up for a binge.
Binge eating disorder is a mental health problem as well as a physical issue. This is because negative thoughts and habits tend to trigger a binge-eating episode—and why it is also referred to as emotional eating. BED is also listed as a disorder in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) along with bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Binge eating disorder also tends to go hand-in-hand with another psychological condition such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse.
A lot of people who suffer from binge eating disorder also have a negative body image. This low self-esteem increases if the individual experiences massive weight gain due to their eating habits.
My Story Overcoming Binge Eating
I work from home so I often found myself in the afternoon binge eating until I was disgusted with myself. Afterward, I was upset with myself and disappointed with my loss of control and for sabotaging my body. This became a vicious cycle until I realized that all the food in the world was not going to take away my stress, and I was most certainly not going to feel as healthy as I wanted.
Do you notice your binge eating is triggered by boredom? Boredom was also a big trigger for me so being aware of triggers is good to know as well so you can talk yourself out of it.
Are you going through a stressful time in your life? This happened to me when I was going through an immensely stressful time in my life. At the time, I would mentally beat myself up because I never use to overeat that way! The kind of overeating I was doing was like waking up a beast and there wasn’t enough food that made it stop. I would eat so much in such a short amount of time until I made myself sick. I was then disgusted with myself for eating that way and would either skip dinner or hardly eat the next day to make up for it.
We are all guilty of this at one point or another but if you find you are doing this on a daily basis or a few times a week then it is time to get to the bottom of it. I myself suffered from binge eating disorder and overcame it using the tools I am going to tell you about. Getting to the root cause of my binges is what ultimately nipped it in the bud.
The top 3 causes of binge eating disorder are family history, dieting, and psychological issues. BED also doesn’t normally begin until mid to late 30’s! People would have never thought I was a binge eater! I was not overweight but actually a normal weight and in shape! I hid this disorder quite well as most binge eaters do!
It isn’t easy to overcome this, but you can do it. You are not going to figure out overnight what is causing it, and let’s be real, even if you did, you would not be able to address it overnight as that takes time. In the meantime, while you work on uncovering the culprit of the pantry raids you will need some tools to help you navigate through your afternoon or late-night binge eating episodes.
How to Stop Binge Eating
The following are the tools that helped me get past the urge to eat everything in sight:
- Drink water or sparkling water. This will fill you up so you won’t have much room for anything else.
- Chew gum. Not only does this give you something to chew on but if you choose a mint flavor then you also have the power of mint which makes it difficult to eat anything else.
- Brush your teeth. Nobody wants to mess up their fresh minty breath!
- Get outside. Being in nature has so many benefits, one of which being that it re centers you, calms you, and helps to take your mind off of things.
- Write down what is really stressing you out at the moment, and then throw it away! This helps you to relieve stress and get any frustrations out.
- Walk away—seriously! Distract yourself in any way that you can. I find that by distracting myself for at least 10 minutes that the cravings go away.
- Overeating in Private. Let’s face it, it’s embarrassing to admit that you can consume enough food to feed an elephant in 15 minutes, but you can! When I binge ate it was typically in private. My own husband was unaware of my overeating. I didn’t want anyone else to see me eat that way and that was a sign to me that I was ashamed for eating that way, and then feeling that way just made it all worse. By the way, if you are eating this way in private, then it is time to take the necessary steps to stop eating this way.
- Shaming Yourself. I would be so disgusted with myself after binge eating that my mood instantly changed. I would mentally beat myself for not having enough self control. This isn’t healthy.
- Strict Eating to Compensate. If you find after binge eating that you then eat really strict afterwards or do not eat at all or the next day then it is time to get your control back. If I overate in the afternoon I would skip dinner. If I binged at night then I would barely eat the next day.
The Key to Stopping is Acceptance
I sometimes feel, with women especially, that we use food as comfort. We try to be strong and carry a lot on our shoulders. When the day’s stress gets to be too much we often look to food to comfort us. So how do you find out what is really causing you to eat this way? You have to dig deep, and really ask yourself.
For myself, I realized I was attaching happiness to goals. In other words, I will be happy when I lose 10lbs or when I can finally fit into those jeans. I think we all want to achieve perfection, but that is just not attainable. Instead, ask yourself, what is attainable? If you want to lose 10lbs then focus on it 1lb at a time, and be proud of yourself with every bit of weight loss! I also had to remind myself that all of the food in the world was not going to make the stressful time I was going through any better. It made it worse because it made me feel worse about myself!
Most importantly, don’t attach your happiness to anything you do not currently have.
When I realized that for myself, that was the key to me being able to stop binge eating. I accepted myself for just how I was at that particular moment and embraced it. I realized I birthed 3 beautiful kids, beat Lyme disease, and so much more. I then became grateful for my body just the way it was. That shift in mindset was my key to overcoming binge eating.
Treating Binge Eating Disorder
If you or a loved one find yourself overeating in private and eating until it makes you sick then you might be experiencing binge eating disorder and you do not feel you can get a handle on it then it’s important to get the health care you need. There are also a wide variety of treatment options and support groups for BED that can help. Don’t be afraid to seek out a health professional who specializes in eating disorders.
I hope the above tools help you to get past the intense cravings as they did me. Most importantly I hope you now know that you are not alone. There is no shame in acknowledging you are eating this way because the first key to stopping it is to accept it. We all deal with life’s stresses, heartaches, and pain differently. You will ultimately need to learn a new way to approach food and find out what is really behind those binge cravings.
I would love to hear from you! What about this article stuck out to you? What do you think is triggering you to overeat?
Tired of being stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed?
Take control of your health, establish better, long-lasting eating patterns, and be your best self! Let me walk you through the process that worked for me.