Binge Eating Disorder affects more people in the US than Anorexia or Bulimia combined. Yet, it can be difficult to treat. There are many factors that contribute to binge eating. While eating disorders in general typically begin in teenage or young adult years, using food to cope with emotions can begin in early childhood, particularly if the child has experienced trauma.
What Is Binge Eating?
It might be binge eating if you:
- Eat significant amounts of food in a short period of time
- Eat to soothe emotions
- Want to stop yourself from eating, but can’t seem to make yourself stop
- Eat until you are uncomfortable
- Eat quickly
- Hide your eating habits from other people
- Beat yourself up and experience guilt, shame or disgust about your eating
How To Heal Binge Eating
I struggled with Binge Eating Disorder for many years before I was able to fully understand how and why I used food to manage my emotional state. I found that a combination of therapy and certain behavioral changes helped me kick binges for good.
Get Some Sleep
Lack of sleep is a huge culprit of overeating for many people. When we aren’t able to get rejuvenated through sleep, our body will seek more immediate energy through food. Typically refined carbs are ideal because they provide a quick boost in energy. Unfortunately, the energy doesn’t last and then the energy crashes leading us to seek out food again. We also need sleep to regulate hormones that tell us we have had enough food.
Lack of boundaries can be a huge trigger for a binge. As I often tell my clients, if the words don’t come out, food goes in. When we say yes and really want to say no, food becomes a balm for the resentment that follows. If someone crosses your boundaries, you may not even realize it until you feel upset and find yourself eating.
Declutter Your Mind
Meditation is all the rage. I tried meditation over the years and I just couldn’t calm my mind enough to get into it until the last couple of years. Even now, I simply cannot concentrate on my breath without using imagery or some other task to stay with it. If this is you, try a walking meditation where you pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, and what your body feels like as you walk. Or, try EFT Tapping where you tap on acupressure points as you speak about your thoughts, emotions and body sensations. Any of these methods help you to feel more calm and grounded which helps prevent emotional eating.
Stimulate The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve runs from the brain into your torso. Stimulating this nerve activates the autonomic nervous system which calms your stress response. There are many ways to activate the vagus. Laughter, humming, massage, and even immersing your face in cold water help improve vagal tone.
However, my two favorite skills are a vagal reset and cradling your face while humming. In the vagal reset, you look all the way to one side while keeping your face forward. Hold your eyes in this position for 30-60 seconds. You may cry, sigh, yawn or just feel your body start to relax. Next, bring your eyes straight forward for 2-3 seconds and then hold them on the other side for 30-60 seconds.
For the face cradling skill, place the tips of each middle finger in the tender spot under your ear and behind your jaw. Place the ring fingers and pinky fingers on your cheeks. Your pointer fingers and thumbs are on your neck. Your hands will gently hold your face. Then, hum, sing or breathe with exhales vibrating your chest. This will help release trapped emotion.
Dieting is just about the worst thing you can do if you struggle with binge eating. The sense of deprivation you are likely to feel will just prime you for another binge. Food isn’t the problem. It is just a symptom of something deeper, so please stop using diets as punishment for binge eating. Once you heal the underlying emotional experiences that contribute to binge eating, making changes to eating habits is much easier and doesn’t come with the shame cycle often attached to failed dieting.
Unpack Your Baggage
I saved the best for last because it is so important. Get therapy!! If you are experiencing any degree of binge eating behavior, therapy can be life changing! EMDR Therapy in particular is my go to treatment for healing the pain that caused the need to use food to cope with life. EMDR Therapy and a couple of other related therapeutic techniques saved my life. Through these treatments, I have been able to change the way I engage in life on every level and it has completely changed my relationship with food.
If you want help getting to the root of your binge eating, contact me today!