Binge eating doesn’t necessarily mean you have a serious health problem. If you struggle with overeating or over snacking it is very likely caused by your emotions. This is because, dealing with difficult emotions like anxiety, anger, loneliness, sadness or low self-esteem can be extremely hard and exhausting. As a consequence, sometimes we use eating as a relief or distraction. Obviously, it can be only a stage we are going through and there is nothing to worry about. However, if you feel that, in your case compulsive eating became a coping mechanism do NOT freak out. Take a deep breath and switch your focus to possible solutions to this problem. And let me tell you, there are plenty of things you can do about it.
What is your relationship with food?
First, you should ask yourself a simple question: “Do I eat when I am actually hungry or because I just want to?” If you need some time to answer, it basically means that you have some work to do. Don’t stress out, just look at this as a challenge that you’re going to conquer and overcome. Keep in mind that, it is very easy to confuse being hungry or just wanting something to eat. This is because, we tend to use food to entertain, distract or comfort us without even knowing that. Not to mention social situations we constantly find ourselves in. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that food can bring people together, yet it shouldn’t alter your healthy eating habits, intimidate you or even make you feel guilty. Having said that, the best solution to overcome this is to eat as healthy as you can in the situation you’re in.
Secondly, if your relationship with food is unhealthy, you should know, that any type of disordered pattern of eating can be fixed. Of course, there is a huge difference between unhealthy diet and full-blown eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa (my personal experience) or bulimia but, I personally believe that the solution to both is one and it is called – Mindfulness. This is because, even if signs and symptoms are different, the basic approach to recovery remains the same. In other words, overcoming any type of illness or unhealthy habits require consciousness and action. Right, get along with it.
Here are my tips on how you can overcome binge eating & create a healthy relationship with food:
1. Creating a healthy relationship with food
- Remember that you do NOT necessarily have a bad relationship with food but maybe you’re just not allowing yourself to have a good one.
- Find a diet that works for you – the best option is healthy, balanced & enjoyable
- Choose a diet plan that fits your personality, health conditions and goals – if you need some help, you can always consult a nutritionist, dietitian or mindful eating practitioner (you can easily find free advice online)
- Remember that there is NO diet that works for everyone
- Find food you love & enjoy eating
- Don’t make food confusing – remember that food is our fuel NOT an enemy
- Get off the scale – numbers do NOT define you. BMI is important but it is easy to freak out!
2.Build your healthy eating habits
- Make healthy eating a lifestyle NOT a short-term fix
- Practice mindful eating – think how does the food you eat actually affect your health (it’s the best way to avoid junk food)
- Remember that, the best way to get rid of an old (bad) habit is by creating a new (good) one
- Eat slowly and focus on your meal (let yourself enjoy every bite of it)
- Find healthy alternatives to fast foods you like (there are plenty of them!)
- Avoid your triggers (do NOT buy food you do NOT want to eat)
- Sit & turn off your tv when you’re eating
- Avoid restrictive diets unless your health condition requires it (restriction = binging)
- Nourish & treat yourself (with healthy & delicious options)
- Choose your cheat day wisely (stick to the healthy options)
- You don’t have to necessarily count calories – a balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense food doesn’t require it
3. Plan your meals in advance
- Keep a food journal, because writing down what you eat and drink helps you taking a critical look at your eating habits (mindful eating)
- Prepare your meals earlier (Sunday is the best preparation day – in my opinion)
- Try new foods & create your own, personalized recipes
- Create a healthy eating routine (schedule your meals because eating irregularly affects your health)
- Prepare healthy snacks (fruits or veggies) in case you will be still hungry after your meal
- Find your comfort food (healthy & satisfying for difficult moments)
4. Don’t skip breakfast
- Do NOT skip your breakfast otherwise, you will end up binging in the evening
- Remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so choose foods that will nourish you, boost your energy levels and keep you full up for longer
- Fasting (from time to time) can be a good idea, for example, if you still feel full after having eaten too much the day before. However choose fasting day wisely (for example on your rest day when you do NOT have a lot to do).
5. Buy real, whole foods
- Avoid processed and packaged foods which harm your health (they are high in sugar, high in sodium, contain trans fat, refined carbohydrates, GMO and many artificial additives and of course are difficult to digest)
- Buy & eat nutrient dense foods which nourish your mind, body, and soul (implement superfoods into your diet!)
- Don’t buy junk food because you will end up eating it and then regret it.
- Never go hungry at the grocery shop because you will end up buying unhealthy, processed food you do not even want to eat
6. Drink lots of water
- Remember that it is recommended to drink at least 2,7 – 3,7 liter of water a day to stay hydrated
- Add a pinch of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt to your drinking water – our body use salt to bring water into cells and provides trace minerals to our diet
- Drink warm water with lemon before breakfast – it will boost digestion & detoxify your body
- Buy a pretty water bottle – it’s a powerful motivator!
- Use a straw
- Drink water 30 min – 1h before every meal and at least 1h after – otherwise, it will slow the digestion process
- Make drinking water taste better by adding fruits, spices, mint, cucumber, Apple Cider Vinegar, raw honey, maple syrup
- Ask yourself a question: Am I hungry or thirsty? It is important because being dehydrated can give us the same symptoms that hunger. That is why sometimes we eat instead of drinking water. Next time just drink a glass of water before eating and you will know the answer!
7. Get active
- Move your body in an enjoyable way – choose the form of exercise that you like to stay active on a daily basis (stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin!)
- Learn how to work with your body – try some yoga, pilates or even a simple stretch
- Walk to work, shops, with your dog or even by yourself – walking help with digestion and can easily set your mental well-being and help you overcome depression, anxiety or many different types of health issues.
8. Practice self-care & Manage your stress
- Always listen to your body, because it will tell you how it feels if you pay attention to it.
- Meditate – Meditation increase the release of dopamine (do some guided meditations with positive affirmations – believe me, it makes wonders!)
- Learn how to relax and turn off your brain (schedule it!)
- If you are stressed or anxious stop & observe what is happening – don’t judge your emotions, just let them be
- Create a healthy routine (daily, eating, bedtime) – we are creatures of habits that’s why we need a healthy routine to function properly, otherwise, our circulation rhythm will be dysregulated which can make us depressed
- Make a list of things you are grateful for – it will keep you grounded
9. Build a strong support system
- Remember that if you want to overcome any type of disorder you need a strong, positive support system. Especially if you struggle with any type of eating disorder which as we know are mental illnesses and has to be treated properly
- Everyone needs somebody to talk to about her/his struggles. Don’t slip away inside yourself! It’s ok to be afraid, we are all sometimes. Ask for help and remember that you’re NOT alone! There are many groups of people that can help you overcome your struggles, fears, and diseases. Always remember that!
- Don’t hesitate to contact some support groups which you can find easily online (probably you can find some support groups in your area) Many of them are for free. Do your research and start building your support system with the help of others!
- Think about the kind of support you need: social, health & wellness, emotional, mental, spiritual, family, financial, career or educational
10. Is the hunger the real problem?
- Emotional eating, an eating disorder or disordered eating means that you probably have problems not necessarily related to food. Focus on emotions that came along with hunger – Do not judge yourself just observe how you feel.
- Focus on the present state of mind – how eating makes you feel? Do you feel guilty, ashamed, sad about eating?
- Always address your problems, solve them when they are small otherwise they will grow and overwhelmed you.
- Remember that, if you feel overwhelmed or unable to resolve the problem by yourself ASK for help! Talking with the psychologist, mindful eating practitioners or nutritionists is ALWAYS a good idea. You can contact them online and ask for advice for free.
- If you developed a difficult relationship with food and your body the best solution will be finding an appropriate treatment (you can do it online!)
To sum up, binge eating, emotional eating, an eating disorder can be healed if you address your problem and ask for help. It is important to know that it is NEVER too late for creating a healthy relationship with food. What is more, you do not necessarily have a bad relationship with food but maybe you are just not allowing yourself to have a good one.
A healthy lifestyle is easier than you think. You just have to make a decision and start your new journey. It is that simple!
Happiness is a choice – not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.
– Ralph Marston