How to banish binge eating

Many of us know what it feels like to overeat: to be transfixed by our food and eat and eat until the plate is empty, despite no longer being hungry. And that feeling of a tummy-full of regret that comes later.

Binge eating is a condition characterised by three features:

1. Frequent episodes of uncontrollable eating.

2. Feelings of distress or upset during or after a binge.

3. Unlike bulimia, the person doesn’t try to ‘make up’ for binges by vomiting, fasting or over-exercising.

Some people might have an occasional binge-eating session, while others suffer from it chronically. In both cases, one thing is sure: binge eating happens because of a lack of self-control, often paired with an underlying personal problem. As with any obsessive habit, identifying why you engage in it is the first step to curing it. 

Here are some tips to help curb binge eating:

Avoid temptation but don’t deny yourself
You can’t binge on what’s not there. If you keep desserts, junk food and unhealthy snacks around chances are you’re going to eat them, so avoid having them in the house altogether. However, deprivation is a big trigger of binge eating, so do allow yourself the occasional small indulgence.

Listen to your body
Sometimes we mistake hunger pangs for thirst, so if you’ve recently eaten and feel the urge to eat again, try drinking water or a cup of tea instead. At meal times, eat slowly and focus on your food. Learn to savour flavours and textures.

Reflect on what makes you binge
Learn to tell the difference between physical and emotional hunger. When the urge to binge-eat hits, use the moment to reflect on what’s triggered it. It can be as simple as being bored or as complex as experiencing a particular emotion. Identifying why you overeat can unlock the key to recovery. If you’re unable to tackle the trigger by yourself, consider seeking help from a professional.

Fight boredom with an activity
Isn’t eating to keep ourselves from becoming bored a strange way to pass the time? Try to replace eating with another enjoyable activity: call a friend, watch a TV show or do some painting.

Eat regularly and don’t skip fat
Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat a meal as this will lead to overeating. Find an eating routine that works for you – that may mean sticking to scheduled meal times – and avoid skipping meals. Fat is often mistaken as unhealthy when it’s actually very good for us. It gives us energy and helps keep us feeling full, so it’s essential to include some (good) fats in our diet.

Take back control of your willpower
When the urge to binge arises, try to ride it out instead of battling against it. When you acknowledge the urge, without judging or trying to ignore it, you’ll see it passes more quickly. Reinforcing your intention not to give in to it will also help you feel more empowered.

Delay, delay, delay
Think you can’t fight the craving? Even if you’re unsure, make an effort to delay giving in to bingeing. Tell yourself you’ll hold off for one minute, then another. Try to stretch it out to five minutes. Cravings are temporary impulses and usually pass in a few minutes. Eventually, you’ll delay it so far the urge will dissipate.

Related articles:
Five ways to trick yourself into eating less
Why you can’t just ‘burn’ fat
What is fat good for?

Amelia Theodorakis
Amelia Theodorakis
A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.
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