If you follow me on IG (@elizabeth_healthy_life), you know I am open about my struggle with binge eating disorder and how I started recovery in August. Since then, I have only had one binge in almost 70 days – which is huge for me! I have developed strategies that I use when feeling an urge, and have found these to be the most helpful.
Notice how the topic of this post is how to avoid actual binges, not the urge to binge. As I recover from BED, my therapist taught me that the goal isn’t to stop the urges – I will have those for a long, long time because that is how I coped with feelings for 15+ years. The goal is to develop strategies to use when I do have an urge so they don’t result in a binge.
Before sharing my tips, I want to emphasize this: No one can recover from this eating disorder besides you. It is an extremely internal journey and you must create, find, and build motivation within yourself. Remember your “why” for recovery: your physical, mental, and emotional health. It is very difficult and there will be so many urges to binge and so many times you want to give up – that is the time you need to muster up all the internal strength you have and fight.
1.) Talk about what you’re feeling to someone you trust. For me, this is either my therapist or my husband. There have been so many times I’ve walked up to Kyle and said, “I have a really strong urge to binge right now. Can I talk to you about how I’m feeling?”. It’s scary and hard because you are being an open book. You are letting this person into your heart and head, and speaking completely unfiltered. Many times, I’m speaking through sobs and while talking, they ask me questions and help me brainstorm what action I can take to make myself feel better.
2.) Journal what you are feeling and why. If you do not have someone to talk to during an urge, start writing. Do a complete feelings dump (like a brain dump but with your feelings) and write down everything you’re feeling. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just write. My therapist taught me this technique and as you’re writing you will begin to uncover and connect with what you’re feeling. The goal is that when you’re writing, you connect with your feelings enough to work through them and feel a sense of strength when you’re done. Strength to either take action or strength from working through the urge. Here’s an excerpt from a log I wrote not too long ago: “I’m watching TV and want to snack on cereal but I know it won’t help me get to my goals and I will feel really awful mentally. Also, my gut never feels good the next morning”.
3.) Take actionable steps to work through your feelings. This builds off of tips 1 & 2. Once you identify what you’re feeling and why, take action to help work through that feeling instead of suppressing it with food. Did you leave a work meeting feeling confused and are not sure which direction to take? Speak to someone ASAP who can clarify things. Feeling stressed because you have a lot to do in the upcoming work week? Write a brain dump list of everything you want to get done, then highlight the MUST do’s and focus on those. Feeling overwhelmed about how your apartment hasn’t been cleaned in weeks? Set a 15 minute timer while dinner is cooking and get to work! (It’s amazing how much cleaning can get done when you’re laser focused.)
4.) Incorporate the foods you binge on into your regular eating. Do not, I repeat, do not avoid buying foods that you may typically binge on. Tell yourself that you CAN eat them – in healthy moderation. For me, I loved binging on processed carbs. Your first thought may be, “Well, if you don’t buy them, then you won’t binge on them…” Well, maybe, but that’s also the same thing as completely restricting yourself, which is like putting a not very sticky bandaid over the whole thing. It won’t last!
5.) Physically distance yourself from the kitchen and get moving. I noticed that many of my urges to binge would start when I was sitting on the couch either watching TV or just lying around. Our living room is right next to our kitchen and if I had urges while lying on the couch, it felt like the kitchen was taunting me. Like, “Hi Elizabeth, you know you want to binge, come on in…” So, I get up off the couch and move. Like getting dressed and out the door for a run sometimes feels like the hardest thing in the world, getting up off the couch and walking away from the kitchen always felt incredibly difficult and also like a huge victory. Maybe I would distract myself by folding laundry, doing some work at my desk, closing the bedroom door and staying in there until the urge passed, or even going for a walk or run.
6.) Count your days. We have a white board on our fridge and I have a “Days without binge” day counter. Every morning, I erase the number and rewrite the new number of days it’s been since I last binged. It is so motivating to see the number slowly increase and I look forward to changing it when I wake up. Also, it can serve as a huge reminder of your progress if you’re feeling an urge to binge. Seeing that number on the fridge really makes you stop and think about all the hard work you’ve put in.
If you struggle with binge eating disorder, what is one strategy you’ve developed that helps you during an urge? Is there something mentioned above that you might try in the future?