4 steps to let go of chaotic eating
Let’s get one thing straight, and quit shaming ourselves for it. Sometimes, we binge. Yes, I happens! These moments of compulsive overeating are one of the reasons we struggle to lose weight. But they also have an emotional impact, because each time it happens, there’s a sense of failure, shame and guilt. I’ve put together this guide to help you navigate the binges and lessen their impact, both physical and emotional.
The ideal situation is that you come to a space of compassionate self-awareness and understanding where binging is not an option for you anymore. But before you get to that stage, there will be moments when you turn to food.
Why do you binge?
There are many reasons, many situations that seem to call for food, food and more food.
What’s your reason? Are you stressed? Are you numbing? Are you distracting yourself? Are you avoiding doing the work you need to do but really don’t want to do? Are you feeling down about something? What’s making it ok for you to binge? What conscious or unconscious belief do you hold about yourself that makes binging an attractive solution? What does binging do for you?
#1: Tune into yourself
Ask yourself when and why you binge. What is happening? Are you disappointed? Stressed out? Anxious? Do you feel alone, or hopeless, or unworthy? What thoughts are going through your mind? What images, memories or situations are coming up? Write these down. These will give you a clue about the underlying issues that may be contributing to your excess weight. Food is part of it, but it is also thoughts and emotions that we keep trapped in our body.
Don’t think of this as something you are doing to stop binging (for as they say: what you resist, persists). Instead, see it as a journey of discovery. The more you connect with and get close to the thoughts and emotions underneath the eating habits, the more you will understand your triggers and the better you will be able to manage them.
The other big question to ask yourself is: what do I need in this moment?
What are you really craving? Because very often, it isn’t the food, it’s something else – love, affection, social contact, validation, reassurance, comfort, safety, relaxation, touch, friendship… Again, this isn’t about replacing your binging right now, but more about bringing awareness to what you truly need, so that going forward, you can begin to give yourself more of that. As you do, you will find you naturally binge less.
#2: Change the foods
What do you usually binge on? Commonly these are high fat, high sugar, high salt, high-flavor type foods. In other words: processed foods. And it’s not just because these foods taste good, but because they are easy to get – you simply shop and eat, or order and eat. There’s no cooking involved, you can satisfy the need immediately.
So – what else can you choose that you can quickly grab, but that won’t have as damaging an impact on your body as fast-food?
Think about the foods you usually go for – what is it that you enjoy about them? Is it salty, chewy, crunchy, creamy, carby, chocolaty, crisp and light, heavy and greasy, cheesy? Now, is there a food or snack or meal that you can pre-make and either freeze or store in readiness for the next time your cravings hit?
For example – if it’s usually ice-cream, could you make a batch of frozen banana ice-cream? If it’s carbs, could you make a seeded loaf or buy a good quality whole-grain sourdough and freeze it in slices? If it’s crunchy and salty, could you make a savory seed mix and store it in an airtight container?
Also consider being ready with other types of home-made foods, for example: a large salad with rice, beans, crunchy vegetables, and a creamy nutty dressing will answer your needs for crunchy, salty, carby, but will also provide your body with nutrients your body needs. This is the sort of food you can easily batch-make in advance ready for lunches or dinners.
One more note about the food itself: it’s not about good or bad foods, but it cannot be denied that certain foods (in particular high-sugar, processed foods) can contribute to mood-swings, depression, and anxiety. By choosing nourishing foods, you are feeding your brain what it needs to thrive.
#3: Give yourself permission
Think about what happens when you try to deny yourself something. A typical example of this is when you diet. You deny yourself all the things you love, entire food groups in some cases. And as a result, you fantasise about the forbidden foods, so much so that when you eat them, your pleasure pathways go into overdrive and you can’t stop eating because it just tastes so damn good.
Binging tends to be rooted in negative emotions – so why add shame and guilt to the mix? By giving yourself permission, you are removing a layer of emotion that tends to make us binge more. Pause for a moment, acknowledge that you are seeking something, that you are seeking it in the act of eating, and that you are allowing yourself to do this as an act of self-care.
#4: Do it mindfully
The very nature of a binge is it is something you do to avoid something else – usually an emotion or an activity you shy away from. This is the very opposite of mindfulness or being in the moment.
But, interestingly, we are similarly not in the moment when we are binging – we eat quickly, don’t fully savour the food, we’re in avoidance mode.
This part of your survival strategy is about coming back to the now. Without judgement.
So, slow down. You’ve given yourself permission to do this, so do it mindfully. Tune in to the sensations in your body – savor the flavours and textures of the foods you’ve chosen, tune into how your stomach is feeling, check in with your feelings – is the food soothing the original emotion?
By doing this, you will find that your binges are less destructive, and eventually they will become less frequent.
Are you looking for support to let go of chaotic eating and get started on your journey towards wellbeing? Then click here to apply for a free discovery call and let’s work together.