If you struggle with binge-eating, you aren’t alone. Binge-eating and binging disorders are on the rise, which might be because of our stressful, fast-paced world, unrealistic body image expectations, and the availability of so many hyper-palatable foods.
Have you ever overeaten to the point of being uncomfortable? If so, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a binge-eating disorder. If you occasionally stuff yourself during holidays or special occasions, it’s not unusual or detrimental to your health.
If you binge often and are burdened by overwhelming guilt after eating, you may have a binge-eating disorder (BED). A binge-eating disorder is characterized by binge-eating at least once a week over three months.
Binge Eating Disorders
There are two types of binge-eating disorders; objective and subjective. An objective binge-eating disorder is when you eat excessive amounts of food in one sitting – much more than you would typically eat in a meal or even in a day. These binges can consist of 5,000-15,000 calories and are usually associated with food hoarding, especially “special” binge foods.
If you’ve got a subjective binge-eating disorder, you think you’ve binged and feel guilty and depressed after a meal, even if you haven’t eaten more than usual. This type of binge-eating disorder is typical if you suffer from depression. No matter how much you eat, you may have a binging disorder if you’re frequently preoccupied with feelings of guilt and shame after eating.
Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms
You may have a binge-eating disorder if:
- You feel out of control and can’t stop eating.
- You eat very fast during a binge.
- You eat beyond feeling full.
- You eat in secret.
- You feel depressed, guilty, or disgusted after eating.
You can have a BED no matter your weight, age, or gender. So, if these symptoms sound familiar, you may want to seek professional help.
Causes of Binge Eating Disorders
Psychological, social, and environmental factors that hurt your emotional state can all contribute to BED development.
Research shows you might binge eat to distract yourself from uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, boredom, or depression. It isn’t unusual to binge sometimes, but it becomes a challenge when you binge to cope with unwanted feelings.
Binge eating may also stem from a dissatisfaction with your body or low self-esteem. The cultural pressure to be thin can trigger emotional eating and binging. If you are a perfectionist or suffer from negative self-judgment, you’re especially susceptible to BED.
If you regularly diet, restrict yourself or have ingrained ideas about “good” and “bad” foods, your obsession can make “off-limit” foods seem more attractive and contribute to binging.
If you’ve suffered an emotional trauma like abuse or neglect, it can also cause you to binge-eat to distract your mind from painful feelings. No matter the cause of your binge-eating episodes, there is help available!
How to Avoid Binge Eating
Here are a few simple, scientifically-proven ways to help you stop binge-eating and improve your relationship with food.
1. Self-reflect: Take a step back and observe your behavior to identify what drives your urge to binge. Do you notice any particular feelings that lead to binging? Try to uncover the underlying causes and work on them.
A trained psychologist, counselor, or another medical professional can help you manage deep-rooted feelings that could cause you to binge.
2. Don’t Starve Yourself: When you let yourself get overly hungry, or if you follow restrictive “diets,” you create a situation that can cause you to overeat. It’s not a lack of control; it’s your biological need for food.
Eat when you feel hungry. Prioritize healthy meals containing vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruit so you’ll stay full and get all your nutrients.
3. Avoid Strict Food Rules: Humans always want what we can’t have. So, when you’re too rigid with your food choices, and you restrict certain foods, you’ll only want the forbidden foods more, and that can cause you to binge-eat. Moderation is essential. So, eat whole, nutritious, healthy foods, 90% of the time. Then, allow yourself to have an occasional treat.
Food flexibility is excellent for your mental health, and it can ensure you get more nutrient variety from the meals you eat.
4. Upgrade Your People: Being surrounded by friends and family who criticize you can contribute to binge-eating. If you have people in your social circle that adversely impact your self-worth or are preoccupied with body image, it’s ok to stop spending time with those people.
Surround yourself with people that have a positive influence. Nurture relationships with people that help you feel good about yourself and make sure that your inner voice is just as supportive as the positive people you seek.
5. Manage Your Stress: Be mindful of your schedule and avoid situations that make you feel overly stressed or anxious. Find stress-relieving techniques that work for you and participate in them often. Soak in a warm bath, spend time in nature, read a fascinating book, exercise, or meditate. These activities are all effective in helping you lower stress levels and prevent binge-eating.
It’s essential to find stress-relieving activities that work for you. You may like to clean or organize to lower stress. Creative activities, like painting and drawing, also lower stress. The crucial thing is to find what brings you joy and do it often.
6. Practice Mindful Eating: If you eat while you watch TV, drive, work, or do anything else, it can lead to binge-eating. So, if you practice mindful eating, it’s extremely beneficial. Always try to eat at a table, eat slowly, and take time to pause and taste each bite. Be thankful for your food. When you eat slowly and mindfully, it will help prevent binging and overeating and improve your meal satisfaction.
7. Say Goodbye to Negative Influences: Use social media platforms, TV shows, magazines, or other media sparingly. Research shows they increase depression and anxiety and contribute to a poor self-image. Eliminate negative influences and establish a healthier mental environment. Remember, most of the people you see on social media only post exciting, happy news. They often use filters on their pics to appear more physically perfect. And that can make you feel like your life isn’t up to par.
Cancel any social media accounts that might be contributing to self-critical thoughts. Instead, choose uplifting media that inspires you to find joy in hobbies, recreation, or ideas rather than body size.
Don’t listen to messages that promote the idea that if you’re skinny enough, you’ll be healthy and happy. Instead, remind yourself that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Make your health a priority rather than your physical appearance.
8. Drink Enough Water: If you don’t drink enough water, you’ll feel hungry. According to the Mayo Clinic, you need:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day if you’re male.
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day if you’re female.
Don’t let the word “fluids” cause you to make poor drink choices. Your body needs pure water or mineral water, so make it the majority of your fluid intake. If you need flavor, allow yourself some herbal tea with no sugar. You can add lemon, cucumbers, berries, or grated ginger to your plain water anytime you like.
Diet soda, coffee, or any other caffeinated beverage will dehydrate you rather than hydrate you, so those don’t count toward your fluid intake. Specialty waters with added vitamins, artificial sweeteners, or any other substance cause more harm than good, so save your hard-earned dollars to reward yourself with something special for sticking to your healthy lifestyle goals.
Get Professional Help
Binge eating can be challenging to overcome without guidance. If you’ve tried to stop binging but can’t, or if you know you have a binge-eating disorder, seek professional help. If you work with a counselor or other medical professional, it can help you uncover the psychological, environmental, and social triggers that negatively affect you. A counselor can help you overcome binge-eating to improve your relationship with food and quality of life.