How I Stop a Binge

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/27/2011 2:09 PM   :  314 comments   :  195,828 Views

By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

Binge eating has always been one of my biggest obstacles to overcome in losing weight. For me, once a binge is triggered and I take that first bite, Iím farther from stopping a binge than before I took the first bite. That first bite puts me into a frenzy and I forget all of my good intentions, aiming instead for a blissful food coma. That feeling of everything being better, calm, okay, safe and warm washes over me and I forget the guilt that will ensue for a few minutes. Tomorrow is another day, I reason. I can do better then. Deep down though, I know tomorrow will be full of regret, feelings of failure and doubt that I can ever pull off this weight loss/ fitness goal of mine.

With the help of SparkPeople and therapy, I have learned to have more control over my binge eating. I have lost 144 pounds to date and it hasnít been binge free. Iíve had my setbacks and struggles too. Iíve controlled my binges by using various techniques in this article and by using Spark Streaks. Streaks are consecutive days of doing something. I would like to share some of the things Iíve learned and gathered from SparkPeople and various forms of therapy with you.

How do you prevent a binge? How do you stop one once it starts? Those answers are very individualized, as not one answer will work for everyone. If you have tried different things in the past and given up, donít throw in the towel yet. There are many more things to try.

I went to Over Eaters Anonymous, which offered the advice to ďAvoid that first compulsive bite.Ē When I asked how I would know what bite was compulsive, I was told that it was the one I knew would send me into that frenzy that I was telling you about. Prevent the first compulsive bite and you prevent the binge.

Another technique I learned was called HALT. It reminds you to ask yourself if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired before reaching for food as a comforting tool. These emotions are strong binge triggers, so eating for the sake of eating while feeling them is not a good idea. Figure out what you are really feeling and distract yourself for a little while to address the problem mentally. Once you know why you want to eat and what the root cause is, do something about it or decide to not. Make it your choice, your decision; put things in your hands again. You are now in control.

With emotions and eating as well as anxiety, there is a pattern I learned from my therapist. First you start with an event that causes an emotion. That emotion can be dealt with, stuffed down or raised to panic or anxiety. As binge eaters, we tend to stuff it down with food. Then the binge upsets us and we feel guilt and shame. Those new emotions become a new event. That causes new eating behavior to cover the emotional overload and then we eat more. Once again the shame kicks in and we begin a spiral downward into a binge that leaves us feeling full of shame and remorse by the end. Compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder are finally being recognized as official eating disorders that can be treated just like anorexia and bulimia. Donít be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you need it. These eating disorders are just as serious and as unhealthy as their thinner counterparts. The difference is that there is a stigma attached to them because society as a whole is still unwilling to see people of size as being little more than out of control of their eating or lazy. This stigma keeps people in the dark about the gravity of their compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder. If your doctor is not familiar with these terms, and you know you need help, ask to be referred to a therapist who deals specifically with eating disorders besides anorexia and bulimia. Mention the terms ďcompulsive overeatingĒ and ďbinge eating disorder.Ē

How do you fight it?

I use my mantras to keep me strong. They really help me. My binge busters are:

"One slice of pizza is always going to have less calories than two."

"If you're going to think 'I may as well', then you should think 'I may as well not'."

"If you got a traffic ticket, would you break every traffic law the rest of the day? Then why toss the whole day over a slice of pizza?"

Keep a list of binge busters so that you can try them the minute you feel a binge coming. My favorite binge buster is a warm bubble bath, a magazine to read, and an aromatherapy candle combination. Other times Iíve been worried over finances, so I go plan out my monthly budget on SparkSavings.com. It may not yield good news always, but it helps me do something about the actual problem at hand, rather than eat.

Using distractions to figure out the root of your feelings or to give yourself time to get into a better mood can help. Sometimes Iíll go play a game on the computer and drink a huge glass of ice water. Other times I may go work out to loud music on my arm bike and drink a huge glass of ice water. The water helps in that sometimes we think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty. Both hunger and thirst are controlled by the same part of the brain and the signals can get confused at times. It really doesnít matter how you distract yourself, just keep yourself from eating and your mind on something besides food.

Be more self aware and live in the moment. Iíve discovered that in my perfectionism, I can undo things ahead of time. If itís Monday and I have an event Friday that Iím not sure how to handle, a typical thought that would cross my mind, is to binge because Iím just going to blow it Friday. So then I blow a whole week, banking that I will screw up my eating plan on Friday. Instead I should live in the moment and concentrate on what I am doing today. Living in the day and being more self aware can also prevent mindless eating, which can turn into a binge.

Staying full of healthy foods helps me to avoid being so hungry that I lose control of myself as often. My binges are now maybe once or twice a month compared to a few times a week or even daily prior to SparkPeople. I stay full of good foods that promote fullness and serotonin release such as milk, whole grain pasta, reduced fat cheddar cheese, fruit, nuts and eggs. I find that mixing protein and fiber rich foods are both filling and energizing. Keeping my mini mealtimes regular, around every 3-4 hours keeps me satisfied and in control.

I also use other physical soothers. I personally believe that eating is physically soothing, so it takes something physically soothing to replace it. Nice long bubble baths work for me, as does curling up in bed under the blankets with a good movie. What ever you choose needs to elicit the same emotion you are looking to get from overeating, or at least come close. Try different things and see what you come up with for yourself. Not everyone will find the same things soothing or appealing. It may seem that nothing is soothing in the same way, but keep looking and trying new things, no matter how out of the ordinary they may seem. The key is to find several things to turn to when your binge mood hits so that if one thing doesnít work, another will.

My house is a ďclean zone.Ē In other words, binge food isnít allowed in anymore. I have to leave the house to go get it. I purposely make it difficult for myself to get binge food. That way it canít be a mild decision on my part at night, when my binges usually hit. I would have to leave the house and go on an actual binge food run, and usually that is more trouble than the binge is worth to me. I end up eating healthier fare from around the house, and yes, sometimes too much of it. It still beats the damage I could do if given over to my chosen favorites of fast foods and grocery items. Shopping every few days or once a week instead of stocking up also helps keep the damage to a minimum.

Stock your house with foods that are healthy so that when you do binge, you reach for pre cut vegetables, lean protein, fiber rich items, fruits, salads. Some Sparkers suggested that olive oil on salad and pepperonis with veggies were their go to snacks.

How do I stop if I start binge eating?

It definitely gets tougher once you start to stop. At this point, you have to take more desperate measures. If I can gather any reserve at all, I throw the food in the garbage. I donít throw it on the top either, I make sure it is crushed and inedible. If I canít throw the food away, I have asked my husband to either eat something or throw it away for me. I am lucky he is supportive enough to help me with such things. Donít let that voice tell you that you are wasting food. Itís a trick. You either waste it in the trash or on your body, where you have to work it off in health problems and exercise and dieting later. So either way, it is a waste. When in doubt, toss it out!

Change what you are doing after you remove the food from your immediate area. Go see a friend, call someone, log on to SparkPeople and talk it out, go to the gym, put on music and dance it out, just donít do whatever it was that you were doing when the binge was triggered. In fact, if you couldnít muster the strength the remove the food from your vicinity, removing yourself from its vicinity is a good option.

Changing what you are eating mid binge may help. For instance, if you started by eating cookies, maybe you can muster the strength to add an apple and nut butter in between cookies. That leaves less room for more cookies. It also changes the taste in your mouth, so it switches things up and takes you out of the frenzy mode a bit. The combination of fiber and protein will also help satisfy true hunger, so that will be one less thing to combat.

Keep thinking while you are eating. Even though you caved in, that doesnít mean the fight is over. You can still stop. One slice of pizza is always going to have less calories than two. Keep trying to figure out why you are eating and what might resolve the problem or provide the same emotional comfort. If you do manage to figure it out, write it down and keep it with your list of binge busters. Donít forget to immediately act on it.

The moral of the story is PLAN. Binge eating is a sudden urge and itís a strong one. You need a strong plan to fight it. Donít wait until youíre about to dive into a plate of goodies before you have your plan in place. Once a binge is started, it is ten times harder to stop, so avoid the triggers, avoid the first compulsive bite, and avoid the binge.

Here are some groups here on SparkPeople that may help.

Living Binge Free

Compulsive Overeaters

Sugar & Food Addiction

Eating Disorder Support

What helps you stop a binge?


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Comments

  • SHOGGIE1
    264
    Great article! - 8/11/2011   8:22:40 AM
  • 263
    This is a very well written article!!! I learned a lot from it. - 8/10/2011   6:50:53 PM
  • 262
    I appreciate the additional help. It's better not to have the first bite, but I have figured out a way to stop the binge. Because sweets are my trigger, I tell myself out loud I can have more but I have to put vinegar on it. Who wants a vinegar soaked brownie? It is my way of making me think about why I'm eating. - 8/2/2011   8:03:04 AM
  • BEYOND_GR8NESS
    261
    I'm going to use the HALT method the next time I feel like eating something that will surely push me over the edge.
    Thanks for this great blog! - 7/26/2011   7:20:23 AM
  • 260
    Thank you. - 7/24/2011   2:02:55 AM
  • TERRYGARY1
    259
    It was good reading your article and I appreciate the tools that you have in place and have shared for handling binges. I have had issues with binge eating too. And sweets are it for me as well. But I am trying to conquer my demons on this. On July 4th, I gave myself permission to have a homemade brownie and homemade chocolate ice cream. Normally, after eating something like this, it would set me off into a binge that would just continue on....but this time something was different....after eating this...the next day I went to the gym and went right back to my healthy eating plan and was alright...I even lost 4 pounds during that week....I am proud of myself...so maybe there is hope.... - 7/23/2011   1:38:30 PM
  • 258
    i totally agree. i have to avoidthe first compulsive bite. awesome blog beth. - 7/23/2011   12:21:40 PM
  • 257
    So timely for me to see this blog. - 7/12/2011   6:34:07 PM
  • ELATEDLOSER
    256
    I started cutting back on salad dressings full of fat and calories, by using 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. I didn't care for the greasy taste of the olive oil,so now I use only lemon juice. It gives a salad a nice tangy flavor and minimal calories and no fat! I eat a healthy breakfast. Then around 10:30 or 11:00 I make a plate of fruit and veggies to sit on the counter and pick at them through the day. I usually add some cheese or peanut butter too. Then I eat a healthy supper and have an ice cream cone(a bowl is too easy to overfill) in the evening. This seems to work for me, because I have something to eat whenever I am hungry or feel like I need a snack. I drink 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day. I tried eating 3-4 meals/day, but wanted to snack in between and kept going over in calories. That plate of fruit and veggies...sometimes I even add crackers... seems to keep me satisfied. - 7/6/2011   8:42:51 AM
  • 255
    Great Blog, and very helpful information. Let me share two of my mantras with you: "I'm stronger than the food," and "I'm not that person anymore". I think your comments about planning are what I needed most. I need to *plan* for those "HALT" moments (or days, or weeks). I do the ice water or tea thing a lot, and I really have discovered that sometimes it's really Thirst! - 7/4/2011   11:46:52 AM
  • 254
    Binge eating has been a big problem for me my whole adult life. I'm starting to figure out how to deal with it, but it's been sooooo hard. Here are some things that I've learned.
    I'm learning to have a long list of replacements, things to do instead of impulse eating. Some of the items on it are just for pleasure, because that's what food is to me: the bubble bath, scented candles, looking at pictures of grandchildren, call a friend, write emails, write in a journal, give myself a manicure, work in the garden, do a puzzle. Some are stress reducers, because I eat when I'm stressed: relaxation exercises, go for a walk, workout, do my hair, listen to music, prayer, meditation. Some are jobs that need to be done, because I eat when I feel out of control and accomplishing something that needs to be done makes me feel more in control: do a little house work, pay some bills, work on a project (I'm learning Italian!), rearrange some furniture, clean out a closet or a cabinet, run some errands. I find if I have a long list of many options, one of them is going to address whatever is making me want to binge. I make myself read that list before that crucial first bite.
    Then there are some things that I must absolutely forbid for myself. Eating between meals with a book is a killer for me. Sometimes I know that just starting to read (which I love more than anything) will be a big mistake and I have to choose to do something else. The list of things, for me, must be things that it is impossible to do and eat at the same time. It's just impossible to crochet and eat at once, therefore crocheting is an excellent choice. I love to do it and I can't eat at the same time.
    Hope this helps someone else! - 6/27/2011   8:39:30 AM
  • BRISKWALKER1
    253
    In every diet it recommended that you keep a journal of what you eat everyday but it doesn't give the wonderful suggestions you made about stopping binges. Thank you for a very enlightening blog. Now I know how to proceed with this journey as binge eating is a problem for me right now. - 6/19/2011   4:51:24 PM
  • 252
    For those who can't clean out their entire house of binge foods because of other family members who do eat those foods, try this: I have one cabinet in the kitchen that is designated for foods I don't eat. Everything that is a no-no for me goes in that cabinet. And I do not open that cabinet. I tend to be a "see food and eat it" type person, so if I do not open the cabinet, I do not see any binge foods. It's not a perfect solution in that it does require some force of will to implement, but it sure beats coming across a package of cookies when my will power is low. Hope this helps. - 6/15/2011   1:22:40 PM
  • TEXASDAISY1
    251
    If I had a dollar for every binge I've had I could afford something really nice. I've learned over the years to use the HALT technique and most of the time that works. But there are those times when it is like a shark feeding frenzy and once I get that first bite of that trigger food I almost feel powerless to stop. I have found that flossing and brushing my teeth will stop a binge before it starts. Just leaving the kitchen and going to another room and getting busy in that room will help as well because I will forget about the food.

    Thanks for a great blog. I'm emailing it to my sister because I know she has issues with binging too. - 6/15/2011   12:44:40 PM
  • LENI11
    250
    Is there a way to format these blogs to print them so I can put this on my fridge? - 6/14/2011   12:52:03 PM
  • HUSKYGRRL
    249
    That's a great strategy. I'm going to try HALT next time I have an urge to continue eating after I just had a meal. - 6/14/2011   12:43:47 AM
  • 248
    Being in the midst of a week long binge, this information is apropos. Thanks for the very useful tips and mantras. - 6/13/2011   4:37:00 PM
  • KIRSTEN46038
    247
    I'm on Day 4 of a emotional eating binge that was triggered by something unintentionally thoughtless that Husband 2.0 said. This post hit me right between the eyes. You have unlocked the "rockstar of awesomeness" badge. Thanks! - Kirsten (@RNTgirl, RNTgirl.com) - 6/13/2011   2:47:40 PM
  • 246
    I loved this article. It was so helpful and I appreciate your honesty. Whenever I throw out food, I spray cleaning supplies (windex, 409, etc) on it so that I can't dig my hand in the garbage and still eat it. - 6/13/2011   10:24:27 AM
  • DIGIOV82
    245
    This was GREAT information... thanks! - 6/13/2011   9:28:14 AM
  • TYJUANNA
    244
    Good info. Thanks. - 6/11/2011   4:46:47 PM
  • 243
    I still need to clean my zone up. It is pretty good. BUT I still buy stuff for the kids, or some quick fixes when I know they are not the best. NO ONE NEEDS mini corn dogs. I will get it. baby steps. - 6/11/2011   12:53:49 PM
  • GREENMOUSE
    242
    As I read your first paragraph, I thought, "Gosh, she's writing about ME!" And I was thinking I was trapped in some perverse, self-destructive repetitive trap that NO ONE else on earth had ever done! THANKS for the tips!
    And thanks all who have commented... much to learn here! - 6/11/2011   11:08:24 AM
  • 241
    Great blog. Not only was your blog full of useful information, it also had ways for us to put it into practice. Thank you, thank you, thank you. - 6/11/2011   9:05:26 AM
  • MBWELTER
    240
    I love when I get pratical advise. You gave me a lot of it this blog. I like the HALT and I plan on using it. Also the one piece has less calories than two.

    Thanks - 6/10/2011   11:56:40 PM
  • 239
    This was amazing. Thank you so much! - 6/10/2011   10:50:36 PM
  • 238
    OMG, Thank U sooooo much for these tips!! Just like HMMILLER007 i struggle on the weekends and sometimes once in the week. I will be using these tips. I really appreciate this! - 6/10/2011   7:42:05 PM
  • 237
    You have provided one of the best reports on binge eating with strategies to combat it. Thank you for taking the time to share this. - 6/10/2011   4:20:11 PM
  • PITYPAWS
    236
    Wow, that is some really helpful advice. I like to read how others are fighting to not binge or eat the wrong foods. I like the HALT, that may work for me. I am recovering from a second hip replacement and I am not allowed to do much of anything, so physically working out the whatever is not an option for me. I spend most of my time relatively idle as even walking is an issue, it is usually with a crutch or a cane, not much physical relief in my situation. If someone has been where I am at, and managed to lose weight let me know. I had lost thirty pounds in nine months after my first hip surgery, then found out my hip was a recall and I just lost all my drive to keep losing and I gained back eighteen pounds, now I have to get rid of it and the original ten I still had to lose. I am still working with my dietician and now a psycologist who work with people with diet issues. But I am open to suggestions from people who know what it is like to be so physically restricted. - 6/9/2011   7:39:50 PM
  • GRANNY2SHOES1
    235
    Great blog! I too have learned these same strategies from OA that you wrote about. They helped some, but all too often they didn't. I guess it may be the personality factor. While I am overweight (about 40 lbs), I have embarked on this course because of health. I have many health problems caused by bad genes and diabetes. I am finding the best system for me is Sparkpeople. Not only do they have fantastic motivating articles, but the tracking system is exceptional. The posting keeps me motivated, because I can look at how I am doing each day and week at keeping within the guidelines that I know are healthy. I am only into my 3rd week on the program, but I can see the improvement in my eating habits. Even though I see improvement, like everyone else it is not consistent. This is what Sparkpeople is doing for me--it helps keep me consistent.

    Another tool I have is one-serving recipes. For those foods that I know are triggers for me, I make just one portion, so I when I eat all of what I made, it is within the parameters of good eating. I just haven't figured out a good one-cookie recipe yet. If anyone has one, let me know.

    It is good to know that I have a lot of company in this bingeing problem, because it means so many more of us to come up with more and more good ideas on overcoming our compulsive overeating. - 6/9/2011   5:56:17 PM
  • 234
    Ridding your home of all items you may binge on is a great idea; unfortunately, not a reality for me. I have a 14yr old and 3 yr old and their dad who can eat anything !! Although both my girls are BIG fruit and veggie eaters - they still like snacks too. Not all healthy :( sad to say .. but they do like their chips and cookies every now and then. Dont even get me started on my husband's sweet tooth. They have been very supportive in my weight loss and will try new foods/dishes with me. But, removing all temptation isn't an option for me and I am not sure if that is realistic either. I will have to say that my will-power amazes me sometimes. Cuz, I do love my snacks !! But I like being healthier better !! - 6/9/2011   1:45:03 PM
  • FIXKIDS
    233
    Excellent! Thank you for all the very real tips. - 6/9/2011   11:23:56 AM
  • 232
    Thank you! It feels real good to know that there are others like me out there! I am a huge no waster and binger. If there is food on my kids plate, i have to eat it. And when everyone is asleep, watch out! I will remember HALT! It is so true how people just think we are lazy, when actually we have a problem! If we were anorexic, people would be doing everything in their power to try and help us. Instead they just stare in disgust. Thank you for your blog! - 6/9/2011   9:59:29 AM
  • HUCKLEBERRY30
    231
    I have been bingeing my whole life. I am physically active so it doesn't show as much as in others. As I age, I know the extra pounds will continue to build if I do not control my bingeing behavior.
    I went to a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous in 1982 when I was 19 yrs old. Because I was not obese, I was discouraged from attending. I did not mention I was throwing up some of what I ate. Wild horses could not have dragged that admission out of me then. In fact, this is the first time I have ever admitted to bingeing and purging. I did not force myself to vomit for long, as it was too disgusting and also gave me terribly bloodshot eyes. Thank goodness for vanity! Anyway, I still get powerful urges to eat. Boredom is my worst trigger. By taking the time and effort to prepare myself interesting, delicious, HEALTHY food, I have taken some control of the junk food binges. I still eat too much and have to work again on savoring instead of inhaling my food. Portion control is another challenge. I have a few of those tiny "ice cream sample" spoons I will eat with from time to time to try to remind myself to minimize.
    I was also ready to quit SP after several failures to keep on the right path. I too am glad I did not quit and so happy you wrote this blog and it was sent to my inbox. A huge hug and Thank You! - 6/9/2011   9:09:08 AM
  • ANGELTWIG
    230
    This has really spoken to so many people, including me! My response is - with SO MANY of us out there, and society getting more and more intolerant of overweight people, how come there is so little support? I've been using Sparkpeople for 5 weeks since I started a medical weight loss program, but I still feel like I'm dieting alone without support, no different than the last 5 years. - 6/9/2011   7:22:04 AM
  • 229
    This is a great blog. I will try and remember HALT.
    Thanks for the insight. - 6/8/2011   10:16:29 PM
  • 228
    WoW. Such a real and slap in the face realization of binge eating. Eating frenzy. The next time I start to set down with the largest size container of nuts you can buy, the whole pint of cookie dough ice cream, the 2 lb bag of Twizzlers...(I could keep going) I will remember your blog and picture a feeding frenzy. And HALT. Defiantly a revelation.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your insight with us. - 6/8/2011   6:46:20 PM
  • LINDA4285
    227
    This is just what the Dr ordered, I am a nurse and I sit here most days telling people to eat a healthy diet and then I go home and the binging starts, I know it's an emotional action but do I stop, oh no, so thanks for this blog, it has made me look at the perspective. - 6/8/2011   6:30:17 PM
  • MANNSORRELS
    226
    thank u i knew some of this and needed to remember. halt is good and i want a bracelot - 6/8/2011   4:55:57 PM
  • 225
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! - 6/8/2011   3:22:52 PM
  • 224
    Thank you so much for sharing this! It was just what I needed! - 6/8/2011   1:35:28 PM
  • TRACER9
    223
    Thank you for this very helpful blog! Not only for the tips and suggestions, but for capturing and expressing the feelings around binge eating. - 6/8/2011   1:10:53 PM
  • 222
    I really enjoyed that. Thank you so much for sharing, and I plan to def use your tips to help me out. I really will use HALT. Thanks again - 6/8/2011   12:22:59 PM
  • SAMSON911
    221
    Great blog. Thank you so much for your insights and recommendations. Loved it and found it extremely useful!!! - 6/8/2011   11:19:57 AM
  • VGRAEVE
    220
    Thank you so much for you blog. It helped me to self reflect on how I sometimes use food as a coping mechanism. I will definitely use the HALT system when I know I am eating due to feelings. Again, thank you for your post. - 6/8/2011   10:50:13 AM
  • 219
    Thank you for a wonderful blog. You have hit on so many things that I have been dealing with my whole adult life. I also found a book that actually identifies with most of the things you talk about "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth. I know that when I go into my binges that it is a choice to hurt myself (instead of drinking, drugs) because food doesn't hurt anyone else but me. THANK YOU for summarizing all the tools. - 6/8/2011   10:45:13 AM
  • 218
    You've shared some great ways to help me - Thank you!!!! - 6/8/2011   10:34:31 AM
  • VALERITA1
    217
    Beth, thank you. I just retrieved your blog out of my spam file as I had quit over three years ago with SP. Your description of a feeding frenzy leading to a food coma and then extreme remorse is just what I experience when I binge. Right now I am soooo out of control......just gained 12 lbs by bingeing... then trying to diet ...then bingeing again due to the extreme pressure to lose the weight. I just can't seem to get off the rollercoaster. I am feeling very defeated. This thing is bigger than I. You have inspired me to get back to SP and more importantly...there is someone out there that experiences exactly what I do. I too will make a copy of your blog and keep it nearby...many good suggestions. I will be looking forward to your blogs in the future. Please keep them coming! - 6/8/2011   10:30:01 AM
  • AKACATE
    216
    If you got a traffic ticket, would you break every traffic law the rest of the day?
    LOVE IT! - 6/8/2011   10:25:38 AM
  • WILLNOTSTOP
    215
    Could have been written just for me:) I will keep this entry available for standby..... - 6/8/2011   9:10:35 AM

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