Binge eating is a problem for millions of people, myself included. About 3% of adults will struggle with binge eating disorder during their lifetime, and that statistic increases nearly five-fold for athletes . If left untreated, binge eating can lead to serious mental and physical illness. I’m not going to go so far as saying there is a cure for this behavior, but the following tips have helped me take back control of my binge eating, and I think some might help you too.
Find a Healthy Alternative
We have a routine in my house of watching some TV for a couple of hours at night after the kids are in bed. This is when my binge eating comes out in full force. I’m a sucker for ice cream, and I could eat it until I was sick.
My solution was finding a healthy food alternative that would still satisfy my cravings. I found it. It’s a mixture of greek yogurt, peanut butter, cinnamon, a teaspoon of honey, and a 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries. This little concoction hits the sweet spot, and I even find myself looking forward to and calling it my “ice cream”.
Go to Your Food
I credit this tip for stopping 80% of my binge eating behavior. While not everyone has the same triggers, I found that the only real times I was binge eating was when I was bringing my food home. Weekly grocery shopping went well, but nightly trips to the neighborhood grocery store for the sole purpose of getting a fix were a regular.
Now if I want some low-quality food, I go to it. I don’t mean buying it at the grocery store. I mean go to a restaurant or an ice cream shop. Portions stay under control because of time and cost constraints, but I still get to eat the foods I enjoy in moderation. Unhealthy food stays out of the house.
Replace Your Binge Eating Time
Another thing that helped me was going for a walk at night after dinner. As I mentioned earlier, nighttime is when my binge eating behavior took control of me. In order to change the behavior, I had to change my environment. I thought that a leisurely stroll at night would work, and it did.
Not only did it stop (replace) the mindless eating in front of the TV, but it also killed my appetite. Going for a walk also changed my mindset to that of a more healthy individual – effectively keeping my willpower higher and keeping me in control of my body and behavior. Think about what you can do in place of your binge eating trigger times.
Don’t Mix Food With De-Motivators
Certain things don’t go well with binge eating. For me, that’s alcohol. While alcohol in and of itself will not cause weight gain, it’s the cause and effect dynamic that tends to lead to excess pounds.
Alcohol lowers my inhibitions, makes me rationalize my bad eating habits, and then the rest is history. Keeping alcohol limited to the weekends helps me keep my motivation high during the week to stay on track.
You might not have a problem with alcohol and binge eating, but there is likely something in your life that lowers the threshold at which you decide to give in to the processed food. Give it some thought and figure out what that is, and then find a way to alter your lifestyle to take back control.
Don’t Let a Mistake Turn into a Week-Long Binge-Fest
The fact of the matter is that nearly everyone with a binge eating disorder is going to relapse and make a mistake at some point in their life. It’s what you do AFTER that relapse that is so important. Binge eating “episodes” are rarely a stand-alone event. They are usually accompanied by many more binges that last days, weeks, or even months.
One binge is not going to cause you much harm. You aren’t going to put on pounds of fat, and you aren’t going to erase all your hard work from eating healthy. However, if you let that single binge turn into 2, 3, or 10 more binges over the coming weeks, that is where problems start to arise.
If you end up falling off track and binging, get right back on track – not later or tomorrow, but right away on your very next meal. If you have a healthy meal planned later in the day after you binged, eat it. Don’t worry if you’re not hungry or if you’re already over your calories for the day.
What you’re trying to do is get right back in the habit of eating healthy again. This is what’s most important for long-term success. It works for me, and I know it can work for you too.