The SparkPeople Blog

How I Stop a Binge

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/27/2011 2:09 PM   :  314 comments   :  193,469 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

  • 314
    Keep thinking while you are eating. Don't sabotage yourself on your plan--do write down everything you eat, even your binges. The latter two-part point are two goals which I keep to, and the first point I did yesterday. It has helped me. Yesterday I kept thinking before and while I decided to eat a binge-type food: pasta. I combined two parts gluten-free and a quarter or eighth semolina pasta (an addiction) and indulged myself with butter and parmesan cheese, all measured and tracked. I have already found gluten-free as a replacement for semolina pasta, which is satisfying, which semolina pasta is not (must be an allergy, I believe). Since I already had semolina in the house and I think it is a treat, I threw it in. I am not shaming myself in this program. I am tracking everything. I'm using self-love as my guide. It's working! Learn, watch yourself, be gentle, be strong. Don't kid yourself or lie to yourself. Be honest. Good luck. - 4/21/2014   9:21:20 AM
  • 313
    This is such fabulous advice. Thank you so much. I will refer to this often. - 4/13/2014   7:40:59 PM
  • 312
    Binge eating is what made me 100lbs overweight. I've had the weight off for about 4 years now but I still battle with binges. This past winter took it's toll and I gained 15lbs back. While thats perfectly manageable, losing focus on your good habits becomes easier over time.

    Your advice to avoid that first bite, in my opinion, is the key. It's easier to not be tempted if you don't take that first bite.

    I've been given the advice from diet experts to not deprive yourself of things that may make you binge and having a small amount is actually helpful. Bull$!%. Not for me.

    And as far knowing what the triggers are; we all know what our triggers are before we eat them. We just need to be honest with ourselves really think about it.

    Thanks for your article, it was nice to see some of things that feel validated by you here.

    Good luck to you and be diligent. After the 3 year mark of weight loss is when the battle to keep it off really begins. :) - 3/12/2014   11:00:34 AM
  • 311
    Thank you so much for this article! I felt like you were talking right to me. So many times while reading it, I found myself saying "YES! That's exactly how it is!" It helps so much to know I'm not alone and that there are others out there who stuggle with binge eating too! - 3/8/2014   5:09:48 PM
  • 310
    This will be saved to my favorites to read over and over anytime I need strength. The info you shared here is invaluable and will be incredibly helpful. Thank you SO much for sharing! - 1/5/2014   1:04:39 PM
  • 309
    Great article. It's nice to be reminded I am not alone in this. Thanks! - 12/27/2013   6:22:54 PM
  • KARAWLINA
    308
    Thank you for sharing and good comments. I have a hard time to stop once I start and I'm at home. The only thing that its working for me are: MEALS. Meal means to me: 1. I prepare or buy it, 2. I st down, take my time and eat it 3. I'm thankful for it, 4. I'm done and I move on with my life.
    It also helps to keep enough time between them (at least 3 hours) and I love when I have my meals ready for the entire day, it takes thinking and temtpations away. - 12/21/2013   4:10:19 PM
  • 307
    :) Author update: I've lost 240 pounds with no weight loss surgery and maintained it for a year now. - 11/22/2013   2:58:06 AM
  • 306
    This will help me for sure, thanks! - 11/15/2013   9:12:13 AM
  • 305
    This is a very helpful article. My problem is that any/all foods are binge triggers; yesterday I had a binge, and right before it began I felt very, very hungry, so I ate until I got a grip - 800 calories later. Maybe it's because we never had enough food as kids, so I was always hungry, yet wouldn't eat until I was sure my siblings ate enough first. I don't know why I felt hungry - I had just eaten lunch. 8-) - 10/1/2013   11:47:20 PM
  • 304
    Thanks for your enlightening article! This is really motivating for me and I'm going to think about these tips, and use them. - 8/15/2013   7:37:13 PM
  • 303
    Best advice ever! I felt like you were reading my mind at several points (like knowing Friday was going to be bad so just blowing it all week!). Also the revelation that "wasting food" is not such a horrible crime - since it has far worse effects if you eat it. - 7/30/2013   10:36:38 AM
  • 302
    THANKS for the very practical down to earth suggestions. I like the idea of planning good self-care comfort strategies for us emotional eaters. - 7/7/2013   3:48:46 PM
  • 301
    I think, for me, the key is to eat nutritious foods. I often binge in place of real meals. I will find myself putting off eating as the first step toward a binge. When I eat healthy meals on a schedule, I have far less of an urge to binge, but it still comes over me and I feel that is when I need to act on stopping it by eating healthier foods. I have tried to pin down my emotional state prior to a binge, but it is elusive. All I know is I feel frustrated by my efforts not to binge and then I let myself become very hungry so I have an excuse. It is like nothing healthy will satisfy me. Weird. Maybe it is anger I'm feeling, but self directed anger or anger at the world, rather than at a particular event. - 6/30/2013   1:08:29 PM
  • 300
    So many of us binge. I think the irregular eating is the most undiagnozed and untreated eating disorder out there. Will definately talk to my doctor about it next time I'm in the office for a check-up - 6/26/2013   12:46:20 AM
  • 299
    "The second serving NEVER tastes as good as the first." Wise advice from my cousin. I'd never thought about that before! :) - 6/11/2013   9:31:05 AM
  • 298
    Great!! - 6/8/2013   12:08:12 PM
  • 297
    wow....Indygirl this is a great post. - 6/2/2013   5:30:55 AM
  • 296
    Thanks. I think this will be helpful. - 5/30/2013   8:52:22 AM
  • ETTE4ME
    295
    Wow, you get me. Some good ideas. Thanks for your honesty. - 4/22/2013   12:48:50 PM
  • SKAYE12
    294
    Thanks for the article. It's amazing how emotions can affect our eating habits. When I'm tired and/or stressed, that is when it seems like I cannot control what I eat. - 4/20/2013   7:11:40 PM
  • 293
    I too keep my home clean. I do have snacks like protein bars hidden in the back part of the house so it is more trouble to get to. The snacks are on the healthy side so when I do want something I know it is healthy. I keep fruits and veggies easily available. I have discovered that even though I have totally changed my way I eat, I can't give up the "bad" things altogether. If I go too long without things I really like then when I do eat it then I go overboard on it. I have discovered that 2 things help not binge. 1st. I don't let myself get too hungry. When I'm hungry I eat junk that's quick and easy. To avoid this I keep handy healthy snacks to eat when I'm starving.

    2nd I go out to dinner with my Mom every Friday. If I crave something during then I tell myself I can have it on Friday. On Friday I eat what I want and that is my treat for doing so great during the week. Sometimes I start thinking about Friday on Monday. On Friday whatever I order I divide in half and put it in a to go box before I even start eating. I eat the bread and butter (I love it and I don't eat it during the week) and we always have desert which we split. After dinner I feel satisfied and I don't feel any guilt because I planned for it. This is the only I can maintain during the week. I will it slows my weight but it makes my life so much easier and it prevents me from binging and by dividing my meal I don't get stuffed at the end of my meal like I used to when I went out to eat.
    I hope I have been some help and good luck to everybody. - 4/7/2013   4:08:06 AM
  • RJVBALL05
    292
    Thank you for this. Looking through the other comments, it's great to see that I am not alone. My most recent binge was just 2 days ago and it broke me down. For my entire life my eating habits have never been normal, but they never fit into anorexia or bulimia so I have been lost about what to do. I will definitely put these ideas into practice in the future and have been considering looking into getting help, though I am embarrassed about my actions and am still working through that. - 3/30/2013   12:02:58 PM
  • JILLO137
    291
    Wow!!! Great blog!! I really think the tips inside here might help me to prevent or eventually even to stop my next binge/s... I'll probably need some practice though :) Thank you so much!! - 3/15/2013   11:16:40 PM
  • MIZZKINS
    290
    I like the traffic ticket comment and HALT. The biggest eye opener for me has been realizing there is no one miracle answer to keep from binging, so have a truck load of binge buster tools, keep it handy, and keep working on loving myself enough to use it. If you want to add to your list, one of my most successful tools is to imagine my pride at the end of this day - envision my food tracker in my zones, all my water drunk, and my exercise logged, and how good I feel - focusing on one day of success is easier to grasp in desperate times than months to go until goal. Thanks for this blog, its really been helpful!! - 3/10/2013   11:25:46 AM
  • 289
    You explained my spiral exactly. I went to a counsellor before I turned 20 because I knew my eating patterns were not "normal". I was told I was silly and a perfect weight. I am now 42 and have been over 50 kgs overweight for 20 years. Thanks for your inspiring blog. - 3/9/2013   7:23:05 PM
  • 288
    I love your traffic ticket mantra one thing that helps me before I start bingeing is thinking what a weight watcher leader said she said if you can hold the food ubder water for a few minutes and still want to eat it it's probally Oik so that leaves out a lot of things like cookies and chips things I can't stop once I start - 3/9/2013   5:48:44 AM
  • KAYYAK1
    287
    I remembered your pizza idea and have used it often. Not always successfully but it really has helped.Thanks so much for the inspiration. - 3/8/2013   11:23:15 PM
  • 286
    You have given some very good ideas. Thanks. - 3/5/2013   7:33:10 PM
  • JULIA1154
    285
    This is such a great blog - I'm glad to see it again. - 2/26/2013   6:27:39 PM
  • 284
    Stop the first bite, stop the binge. My new mantra. Thanks!!! - 2/24/2013   10:36:52 AM
  • 283
    thank you beth for this blog.. Im a binge eater. I can go on a binge 5-6 days stright.
    then go 10 days and do great....i took notes.....thank you - 2/24/2013   8:39:34 AM
  • 282
    Indygirl,
    You gave me some great tools to side step the binge hole that we struggle with. I like you need to not start the binge. Thank you for sharing. - 2/19/2013   12:53:17 PM
  • HAPPYMENOW58
    281
    Great blog!!!! Good tips!!!!! keep up the super work...You are an inspiration. With your insight... - 2/18/2013   3:10:41 PM
  • BINGEEATINGMUM
    280
    Hey IndyGirl,
    Thanks for the fab tips. I have also been to Overeaters Anonymous and think perhaps I need to bring out those old books and remind myself of HALT and one is too many and a thousand is not enough etc etc. All very true. I think one does know when a bite is going to be a compulsive one and lead to a binge. I have cleared a lot of stuff out of the cupboards which is hard as you feel like you are denying the rest of the family but they too benefit from a healthier larder. I have started a blog to help me get some of my feelings on the the subject out of my head , it's www.bingeeatingmum.org.uk/blog.html
    - 6/27/2012   12:09:35 PM
  • 279
    Absolutely awesome. It made my heart sing because I have been feeling so alone in working so hard against binges. It feels good to know that there is someone else out there making every day count for something good. I especially liked the comment about throwing out food. I have done the same thing, and I always feel so good being able to stop the binge and throw the food out. It is as if I have conquered an evil monster and put it in its place. Now to just to ensure that the monster doesn't even get a moment's notice.
    Thank you for sharing your life with us. - 4/1/2012   8:31:23 AM
  • 278
    This was saved to my favorites a long time ago . . . for obvious reasons!!! After quite a bit of holiday binging, thanks for helping me the second time over. Congratulatons, too, on your great success and example! - 1/21/2012   3:40:21 PM
  • 277
    Thank you so much for all of your suggestions! You have conquered so much, and are an inspiration for me as I struggle to achieve the goals I have set. I can't wait to put some of your hints into practice! Thanks again, and keep up the great work!!! - 1/4/2012   1:22:07 PM
  • 276
    I brush my teeth. That gets the taste out of my mouth and stops the binge. If I can't brush my teeth, I chew sugarless gum. - 1/2/2012   12:57:11 PM
  • 275
    Wow! Lots of great information! Thank you! - 12/17/2011   7:36:52 AM
  • 274
    What a great support blog! Thanks for making me feel human again and refocusing my sights on the BIG picture! - 12/15/2011   2:48:50 PM
  • 273
    I distract myself by coming to SP and reading great articles like this one! - 12/15/2011   1:09:23 PM
  • GEOVAL1
    272
    WOW what a great post. glad i'm on board with Sparks. - 12/15/2011   11:35:11 AM
  • 271
    This is the best article I've ever read on the topic, packed full of insight, compassion and helpful strategy. I especially loved the "Wait, there's more! Don't give up!" attitude.

    And thanks, Sparkers who commented. The idea of a trigger food special cabinet for those who share a household with those who enjoy our "crack" foods is great. My husband is a total sweetie and he takes his cookies, chips and sweets down to his basement den. I've never been desparate enough to travel down there and rummage through the chaos. - 12/14/2011   2:56:55 PM
  • 270
    You just wrote my story. It all makes more sense reading it in black and white. Thanks for sharing! - 12/14/2011   12:53:25 PM
  • 269
    Thank you for many helpful suggestions. The "brush your teeth" one was a great way to put the period at the end of the sentence if bingeing does happen. Really appreciated the support. - 10/5/2011   3:42:06 PM
  • 268
    Thank for for this blog. It helps to know there are so many others who are wrestling with binge eating. I appreciate knowing that, when you feel so out of control and helpless, there are still very specific and practical things you can do to cope with this disorder. I'm one of those people who doesn't like to waste anything, and it really helped to read that putting extra food into my body is "wasting" it, just as much as dumping the excess in the trash. My body is not a trash can! What a vivid reminder! - 9/12/2011   10:35:17 AM
  • 2LIGHTENUP
    267
    Desperation brought me to SP today and then I found your blog.... Amazing. I wrote a few things that struck me in my daily planner so I can glance at it. I cant believe so many others are out there like me. We are all good people. Fighting the fight. I hope people will continue to blog with each other about this topic.
    What a great find SP. I can just begin to be aware and to think before I act and to use HALT. What a great tool. Now meeting people here I hope to fill the empty hole that I keep filling with food.....God Bless.. - 8/21/2011   1:14:44 PM
  • HS1056
    266
    This is definitely something I need to conquer as well. Your blog is full of many great tips and info. I will be using many of them. Thank you so much, Beth! - 8/20/2011   7:31:49 PM
  • ALTAMAMA
    265
    Your article is wonderful and so hits home. Thank you for sharing your story and your insights. My whole life I have been a secret binger and it is comforting to realize that I am not alone. - 8/12/2011   8:52:46 PM

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