I have been wanting to write about the topic of binge eating for a while now, because I know that it’s something that many people struggle with—myself included.
Even though I have lost a significant amount of weight and have a great deal of success on Weight Watchers and have, over the years, maintained much of my weight loss, I still struggle pretty consistently with binge eating. I struggled with binge eating prior to my weight loss journey (which is why and how I got over 300lbs in the first place), but I have still struggled with it throughout my journey as well.
My binge eating sessions are typically in the evenings, when I’m home by myself and am alone, and typically include either fast food, food delivery, and/or desserts. I often find myself in cycles of binge eating, where I might go off the rails for 3 to 5 days and then it stops. And I might go a few weeks or months without a binge session and then BAM! Something triggers it again and I find myself in another series of binge eating sessions.
SOME HELPFUL TIPS IF YOU STRUGGLE WITH BINGE EATING
I’m no expert by any means and still struggle with this issue, but I will share with you what has helped me to manage my binge eating behaviors and maintain my overall weight loss over the years:
- Tracking EVERYTHING (YES! Even when I binge eat, I track it all to the best of my ability. I have found that tracking my binge sessions has helped give me an awareness about what I am eating and helped me in my overall journey know what behaviors are really the cause of my results on the scale!)
- Opening up about my binge sessions with a trusted, supportive and empathetic friend. The key is finding someone that won’t pass on judgment and preferably someone that won’t become overly preachy with advice. Whenever I’ve opened up and shared about my binge eating behavior, I’ve been able to dig myself out of that shame spiral that results (binge –> feel ashamed –> binge because I feel so bad about myself for binge eating –> wash/rinse/repeat cycle). The only way I’ve ended this cycle is by actually talking about it and pulling myself out of the shameful feelings that come from the behavior.
- Going to meetings and weighing in each week. Seeing the scale on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis has given me an awareness about my actions that helps keep me in check. I know that there’s an unhealthy obsession with the scale as well, but when I think back on how I got to be 300lbs in the first place, it comes with an unwillingness to step on the scale at all and then, when I finally did, being shocked by where I was at. By stepping on the scale each week, I am holding myself accountable to my own health and then able to decide whether I want to continue down the path I’m on or change directions.
- Seeking the help of a therapist (to help me address the real issues at hand and find a healthier outlet for managing the outside factors that may be causing the binge eating behavior).
A DIFFERENT WAY TO LOOK AT BINGE EATING
At one of my WW meetings, one of the members shared about how she was reading a book or watching some documentary that talked about binge eating. It gave me a different way of looking at binge eating that has helped shift my mindset behind it a bit. It talked about looking at binge eating as a form of self-care. Somehow, in our lifetime, we learned this behavior to care for ourselves through food. Whether it’s the comfort we get from food. Numbing pain and discomfort with food. The protection we get from added weight. Whatever the issues underneath the surface that we don’t always see or want to address, that we’ve learned that binge eating is a means of survival in that moment. It really gave me a lot to think about. Weight loss and my health are important to me, but when life is tough and I’m struggling to manage all the stress, deadlines, expectations, pressure… I will turn to food. It will take the edge off in that moment and for the rest of that day. I don’t think anyone goes into a binge session wanting to hurt themselves, wanting to gain weight, wanting any health-related issues that may come from it all. At that very moment, we want some immediate relief and help to cope with what we cannot handle. That’s it.
That was a game-changing way of looking at binge eating for me. It helped take some (not all) of the shame that comes with binge eating behavior. Is it the healthiest way take care of yourself? Probably not. Are there worse or more harmful things you could turn to instead? Absolutely.
It’s a learned behavior for self-care and until we unlearn that and pick up other, more healthy ways of caring for ourselves and dealing with things that drive us to that behavior, that will be our self-care choice.
TIPS FOR SUPPORTING SOMEONE THAT STRUGGLES WITH BINGE EATING
Last, but certainly not least, you may not struggle with binge eating, but know of someone that does and you may be wondering how to support them. It can be difficult to empathize and try to help someone that is struggling with something you have not struggled with before or simply don’t understand.
As someone that has struggled with binge eating, here are some tips for how you can support someone that struggles with it:
- Try not to offer help or advice. It’s really common to want to offer people help or advice to help them, especially with something that they’re struggling with and coming to you about. However, for most people that struggle with binge eating, they aren’t looking for help or advice. They know that binge eating is not a helpful or healthy behavior, but offering advice (even with the best of intentions) can often leave someone that’s struggling with binge eating feeling even worse about their behavior, especially if the advice comes off as “common sense” or “obvious”. It’s usually the shame from the binge eating behavior that feels worse than the binge eating itself, so when you can simply listen and not try to fix the situation, you’re able to provide a healthy, safe environment for someone that’s struggling with binge eating.
- Ask how you can best support them. The best thing you can do to help someone that struggles with binge eating is simply ask them, “How best can I support you?” More often than not, someone that struggles with binge eating just needs to feel like they have a supportive, non-judgmental outlet to share about what they ate or the binge eating behavior and the reassurance that regardless of the behavior, you still care about them.
I recognize that binge eating is a serious issue and that it may require additional help, such as with the assistance of a doctor (whether that’s a therapist, dietitian, nutritionist or all of the above). It’s not something that should be looked at lightly, because it has some serious long-term harmful effects on your physical, mental and emotional well-being. However, I only wanted to share this post because I also want to show that it, like many other things in life, can be managed in healthy and productive ways and doesn’t have to mean you’re at a complete loss for a healthy weight or lifestyle.