A First-Person Account of Binge Eating Disorder
How to Cope After a Food Binge
We've all binged, whether it's because we were bored, or hungry, or even upset. This is a human reaction. After a binge you are likely to feel guilty, anxious, depressed or low on self-worth. A lot of people have done this at one time or other in their lives; it is important to recognize that you arenotalone. Instead of beating yourself up, realize that there are a number of ways to cope after a food binge, which will enable you to recognize and prevent future bingeing.
Taking Immediate Steps After Binge Eating
Forgive yourself.If you realize you are binge eating, do not be hard on yourself. Forgive yourself and recognize that there is likely something going on in your life that is affecting your emotions, which is causing you to binge eat.To forgive yourself, follow the following steps:
- Admit to what you have done (in this case, binge eating).
- Accept that you did the action, and that it is in the past.
- Reflect on who you have hurt (in this case, yourself).
- Move on. Let go of your guilt and try to learn from your experience.
Go for a walk.One of the immediate steps you can take to cope once you realize that you are bingeing is to change your environment. This action will get you out of the physical space where binge eating is happening. Take a walk by yourself or with a friend.
- Walking outdoors, especially with someone else, can boost your mood and help promote improved mental health.
- Walking after meals can also help your body process the nutrients from the food you have eaten.
Call a trusted friend or family member.Talking with someone will help draw you away from your bingeing and give you a chance to talk it over. A trusted friend or family member who knows your history with binge eating can help get you through this difficult time.
- If you call a friend on your cell phone, try going for a walk outdoors while you talk on the phone.
Try to relax with deep breathing.Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes. Begin taking long, deep breaths, inhaling for a count of 3 and exhaling for a count of 3.
Drink water or peppermint tea.Your stomach may not feel very good after binge eating, so calm your stomach by drinking water or peppermint tea. Peppermint tea is used to aid in digestion, along with soothing other ailments.
Don’t try to compensate for your eating.Don’t resort to vomiting, skipping meals, or counting calories in order to compensate for binge eating. Instead, start fresh by eating a healthy meal the next time you are hungry.
Wait until you’re hungry to eat again.Even if it’s lunchtime, don’t eat until you feel hungry again. Your body is processing the food that you ate during the binge, so give yourself some time to digest.
- When you do eat, try for protein, such as an egg or some chicken. Protein will make you feel full for a longer period of time.
Get a good night’s sleep.Getting some rest will allow your body to recover and you will begin to feel better. It is also a great chance to start again with a new day/afternoon/evening ahead of you.
- A lack of sufficient sleep can cause you to feel hungry and crave high-fat or high-carbohydrate foods, which may contribute to further binge eating in the future.
Be patient with yourself.It can take up to 3 days to recover from a food binge, so give yourself time to feel better. Be patient and gentle with yourself.
Understanding Binge Eating
Recognize the symptoms of binge eating.The National Institutes of Health defines binge eating as: “an eating disorder in which a person regularly eats unusually large amounts of food. During binge eating, the person also feels a loss of control and is not able to stop eating.”The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-5) says that this behavior must occur at least once per week for three months to be classified as an eating disorder.Check if one or more of the following symptoms is present:
- Eating large amounts of food frequently throughout the day.
- Eating when not physically hungry.
- Unable to stop eating even after the person is no longer hungry.
- Eating alone or hiding the food and the amounts eaten from others.
- Feelings of shame, disgust, depression and guilt after eating.
- Binge eating does not necessarily include purging behavior (forcing yourself to vomit).
Recognize the link between binge eating and depression.Clinical depression is linked to binge eating. In fact, a person who has symptoms of binge eating could benefit from being evaluated for depression since the two are so closely related.
- Although binge eating is more common in females than in males, both genders can develop binge eating patterns as a response to depression and stress. Females typically develop eating disorders in adolescence while males may not see symptoms until adulthood.
Recognize the link between binge eating and body image.Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror and how you feel about your body’s height, shape and size. Body image includes the way you feel about your appearance and how comfortable or uncomfortable you feel in your body. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “people with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss.”
Managing Your Emotions
Have a support team in place.Binge eating, as with any eating disorder, has its roots in strong and painful emotions.When you begin to change your eating habits, those emotions will surface and may feel overwhelming at first. To cope, find people who will support you in your endeavors to manage your emotions.
- This can include your medical professional, a nutrition specialist, a counselor, peers who will not sabotage your goals, a support group of people dealing with the same issues, and trusted and safe family members.
Seek counseling from a licensed professional.Visit a counselor or therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Follow his or her guidance in finding the right support group for your needs.
Remove yourself from abusive situations or environments.If you are able to, remove yourself from circumstances or environments that are emotionally or physically damaging. Domestic violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and physical abuse are all triggers for binge eating. You may need law enforcement and social services to help you leave a dangerous situation.
Don’t get discouraged.If you experience setbacks, don’t get discouraged. Even if you do binge eat, rest assured that you are beginning to cope with the disorder when you recognize that you are bingeing and when you step away from the food. If you immediately change your environment to clear your head and your emotions and allow your body time to recover, you are moving forward. You are not alone and there is help. Don’t get discouraged when you experience setbacks. This is part of coping and moving forward.
Preventing Binge Eating
Follow an eating plan.Preventing binge eating can be achieved with planning and support. Follow an eating plan that balances proteins, carbohydrates, sugars and sodium. You are less likely to need to binge for physical cravings when these elements are balanced.
- A licensed nutritionist or dietitian can provide you with healthy guidelines.
Have healthy snacks on hand.Stock up on healthy snacks such as nuts (unless you have an allergy), air-popped popcorn, fruits in season, and yogurt. Check with your doctor or nutritionist for more suggestions.
Drink plenty of water.Drinking plenty of fresh water will flush toxins and fat from your body. Dehydration can be mistaken for hunger and could lead to overeating. Aim to get 72 ounces of fluids for women, or 104 ounces of fluids for men, every day.
Avoid junk foods and processed foods.Stay away from all fast foods, junk foods, foods with a high fat or sugar content, and highly processed foods. These types of foods fuel cravings and can trigger an eating binge.
Address any medical issues.If you have acute or chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or other issues, see your doctor. When you begin to take care of your physical health, it is easier to commit to your recovery plan.
Get support.Develop a buddy system with friends or family. Ask people whom you can trust to be your buddy, to help you when you feel the urge to binge by being available to talk things through, and to help counteract any negative feelings.
Keep a food journal.Document the feelings that you experience whenever you feel an urge to binge. Identifying the feelings is key to overcoming the triggers that bring on these feelings. Otherwise, you tend to keep associating poor feelings with the relief of food, and that leads to bingeing. Ask your doctor for advice.
- Pay attention to when you feel like you are going to start bingeing. Use a journal to write down your feelings at that moment, along with what you ate and if you exercised. Try to track why you’re feeling like bingeing; is it because you are low on protein? Did you have an argument with someone? Journaling your feelings can help you identify potential triggers.
- Make note of goals that you’ve met, either small or large. This will help you see your progression toward healing.
Set goals.Make plans for what to do when you feel a binge coming on. Write down your motivation to not binge, post reminders around that inspire you to moderate your food intake, make weight loss or weight management plans. Doing these things will not only take your mind off of the situation, but they will help you work towards avoiding bingeing in the future and will give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Set manageable goals and aim to take steps toward reaching those goals. For example, you might say, “I want to stop eating when I don’t feel hungry.” Break this down into manageable pieces, where you might say, “I’m going to eat one meal every day where I definitely wait until I am hungry and stop eating when I feel comfortably full.”This is an attainable goal that you can build upon once you achieve it.
- Decide how frequently you could reasonably achieve goals. Some people just starting out might try for daily goals, while others might strive for weekly or monthly goals.
- Use your food journal to track your progress on these goals.
- Self-induced vomiting is a common purging technique used after binge eating. Frequent vomiting can result in metabolic alkalosis, an imbalance in the body's acid/base balance. The effects of metabolic alkalosis range from slowed breathing (including instances of apnea, the cessation of breathing during sleep) to irritability to irregular heartbeat to convulsions and coma.
- Self-induced vomiting causes stomach acid to gradually erode dental enamel, discoloring teeth and causing unusual numbers of dental cavities.
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to fight the urge to binge eat
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