How can I stop binge eating?

Tom has recently suffered a setback and, as a result, has found himself increasingly snacking from the fridge for solace. He’s asked Jo Lamble if she can help him stop binge eating

Q. Tom
As a 63-year-old man, I’m not your typical emotional over-eater but after losing my job, I find myself heading to the fridge more and more. Initially, I was spending a lot of time looking for another job, but with each successive knock-back, I found myself turning to food. As well as not being very healthy, I’m becoming very slovenly and that’s not helping my chances of getting another job in any way. How can I stop binge eating?

A. I’m sure so many readers will relate to your situation. When we are bored, down or lonely, we can head to the fridge. It is too hard to rely on willpower to break this cycle. It’s time to retrain your brain. Studies have shown that if you substitute another healthy behaviour for an unhealthy habit, the brain starts to crave the new habit. It can be a good idea to put a list on the fridge with alternate behaviours to eating. The list could include going for a walk, phoning a friend, making a cup of tea or writing an email to someone with whom you’ve lost contact. Without thinking too much about it, choose something on the list and do that instead of eating.

Pretty soon, you should start to automatically think of the list every time you’re bored or feeling a bit lost. And if you really believe that you need food, make sure that you have something healthy to turn to outside mealtimes. Then if you do open that fridge, you might find fruit salad or some nuts ready to be eaten. Again, research tells us that we can learn to crave healthy foods as much as unhealthy foods if we pair our emotions with better choices.

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