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I Can't Stop Eating: 6 Tips to Beat the Binge

The Savvy Psychologist received a touching email from an anonymous listener who is facing a challenge many of us can relate to: she can’t stop eating.   For her, and all of us who have ever felt powerless against food, here are 6 tips to battle binge eating.

By
Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
7-minute read
Episode #22

Tip #5:  Keep track of what you eat.  Or don’t.   Two things that can work wonders for some, but wreak havoc on others, are food diaries and structured eating.  Try both, but don’t be afraid to abandon them if they just create more rules that make you feel worse when, inevitably, you don’t adhere to them perfectly.

Under some circumstances, food diaries can be great.  Writing down what you eat can turn mindless munching into mindful insights.  Log what you eat, but not the caloric content, fat grams, or anything like that.   Instead, jot down how you feel when you eat.  You may find that your eating is prompted by boredom at your latest job, anxiety, that you’re falling behind, or resentment about the distance that leads to that goodnight email.  These thoughts and feelings are your true adversaries, not the chocolate. 

Next, structured eating: this is going through the motions of “normal” eating, even if they feel downright wrong.  Structured eating involves planning and eating three meals and two snacks a day.   Over time, you’ll likely find you binge less because you’re less vulnerable to feeling grumpy because you’re starving and a mindless graze won’t crescendo into a binge.   Structured eating isn’t a diet; it’s a scaffold with which to re-build your natural body rhythms. 

Tip #6:  This will be a process.  This brings me to hating yourself.  Ideally, take your thoughts—my husband would be better off married to someone else, I’m f-ing up my life, there is no hope for me—to a qualified psychologist you like and trust.   As great as tips can be, an in-person real-time conversation is better.

The average person with binge eating disorder has struggled with it for 4.5 years.   And for those out there who have struggled for 10 times that long, don’t give up.   When you slip—and you will, fellow human—forgive yourself and start where you left off; you don’t start over from square one.  No one can take those binge-free days away from you.  Have hope and keep seeking compassionate support and building your toolbox.

Special thanks to actor Stephanie Burke for peforming the reader letter in the podcast.

 

References

Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P.A., Chiu, W.T., Deitz, A.C., Hudson, J.I., Shahly, V. et al.  (2013).  The prevalence and correlates of binge eating disorder in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys.  Biological Psychiatry, 73, 904-14.

Klabunde, M., Acheson, D.T., Boutelle, K.N., Matthews, S.C., & Kaye, W.H. (2013).  Interoceptive sensitivity deficits in women recovered from bulimia nervosa.  Eating Behaviors, 14, 488-92. 

Striegel, R.H. Bedrosian, R., Wang, C., Schwartz, S.  (2012).  Why men should be included in research on binge eating: Results from a comparison of psychosocial impairment in men and women.  International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45, 233-40.;

 

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets.