Finding the easiest ways to talk yourself out of binge eating is one of the hardest things to learn to do, but trust me, it is possible. I come from a history of cycling between periods of starving and binging, where one action would remain dormant for months, even years, before the other would rear its ugly head again. When I finally decided to recover from both actions, I learned how to eliminate even the simple urge to binge, or starve for that matter. During a binge, your mind is a one way street. All you can think about is consuming the food and using it to soothe you, yet there are powerful strategies you can take to talk yourself out of a binge and I know, because I used every one of them.
1. Stop and Say No
One of the most powerful ways to talk yourself out of binge eating is to literally stop dead in your tracks on your way into that kitchen, or halfway into digging into that box of cookies or jar of peanut butter. Pull your hand back and literally tell yourself “No.” I’m serious here, girls. Tell yourself you do not need that food and it is not going to make you feel better past the point of tasting good. Telling yourself “No” out loud really makes things real that you do not need that food. If you're really hungry, eat a healthy meal. Are you hungry for a healthy meal? If not and you just want the junk food, just say "No." Parent yourself and tell yourself “No.” You have to actually mean it as well. You need to truly believe that when you say “No,” you mean “No." Remind yourself why you want to stop binging. Think about waking up the next morning guilt-free and actually not feeling sick from binging. Then, again, tell yourself "No." By saying no to the binge food, you're saying yes to recovery.
2. Just Go to Bed
Most of my binging occurred at night when everyone else was asleep or I was home alone. Something about that time was my reward time. To stop this nonsense, which only made me feel terrible, sick and suffer self-hatred in the morning, I simply started making myself eat something healthy and go to bed. I was never one of those that could go to bed hungry. Otherwise, I’d lie there and just dream about what to binge on, preventing me from going to sleep. So, I started adding a healthy meal, and literally being too full to want to binge. Foods rich in calcium, like almond milk, yogurt and leafy greens also help enhance sleep, along with magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, unsweetened cocoa, fish, nuts and seeds. I personally find plain yogurt topped with stevia and cocoa powder really effective for helping me drift to sleep and the protein helps keep me from craving sugar.
3. Remind Yourself the Food Will Be There
One of the most effective things I ever tried was telling myself that the food I was fixing to binge on would always be available to me. The cookies, peanut butter, cereal, ice cream, granola bars, or whatever else I deemed my binge foods at the time, would always be there. They weren’t going to disappear from the planet, so why did I think I needed to eat them all? And at one time?! The truth was, I knew I didn’t. I was consuming these huge supplies of fat, sugar, and carbs because my brain needed soothing, yet the food only did it for so long. Reminding myself that I could have that food the next day for a snack instead of as a binge food helped me see that I was eating for the wrong reasons. The food wasn’t going anywhere, and usually, the next day when my brain was out of binge mode during daylight hours, I knew I didn’t need these foods or even want them anyway. Later on, I ended up throwing them away and refusing to buy them if they were only going to be there in the cabinet to taunt me. To this day, you won't find peanut butter, sugary cereal or Chips Ahoy cookies in my cabinet. For some people they are fine, but for a binge eater, they're like crack. Get rid of them if you need to and be okay with knowing it is the best for you.
4. Remind Yourself to Eat More during the Day
One thing that led me to my first binge was my first period of starving. During my first year of college, depression hit harder than I could have ever imagined and it was the first time I chose not to eat all day. I was too sad to eat. Then, binging found its way into my life because by nighttime, my body was literally crying out for everything in sight. Binging became a quick addiction, exactly like a drug, yet if I had only eaten more during the day, it might have never happened to begin with. No matter how hard it is, start eating a well-portioned breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. You will not be nearly as likely to binge if you’re body is given the right nutrients and you’re well fed. Simultaneously, when you remind yourself that you’ve eaten well all day and that you’re not physically hungry enough for a binge, but rather emotionally in need for soothing, the binge eating becomes less of a physical need, and more of a habit. Habits can be broken, no matter how hard, but a physical need to eat is primal; it will always be with you. Eat to prevent your body from taking control over your mind.
5. Eat Less Sugar
Another useful tool I found to help prevent binge eating was to take refined sugars and refined grains out of my life. These sources of refined carbohydrates were setting me up for food addictions that no amount of talking myself out of a binge could help. Sugar was my drug, along with refined carbs like cookies, pancakes, waffles, bread and cereal. I literally ate bowls of Cracklin' Oat Bran during one of my binges, along with Pop Tarts and Chips Ahoy cookies sandwiched with Jif peanut butter. I was addicted to sugar and once I got rid of the drug, the desire to binge dissipated much on its own. Eat more veggies, lean protein, plain yogurt, and low sugar fruits like berries. Keep your grains 100% whole and implement protein-rich grains like quinoa instead of lower protein sources like wheat. These foods nourish you and keep you full. They also help stabilize your mood and blood sugar.
6. Remind Yourself Food is Fleeting
One of the most useful tips I ever had for my recovery days was putting into perspective the timing and anatomy of eating. I told myself that the food would be in my mouth at most 30 seconds for each bite and after that, it was gone. The high was gone and in order to keep up the high, I had to keep eating. I reminded myself that the food was fleeting. Once I ate and ate and ate, it still had to end at some point. Then, I was left with nothing but guilt, sickness and self-hatred, not to mention thirty extra pounds from binging, which fueled my anorexic thoughts, leading me to starve all day once again the next day. It was a terrible, incredibly painful cycle. I decided before I took a bite of any binge food, I would make myself stop, say “No,” and tell myself that the food wouldn't last or satisfy me. Eventually, after a few times, it worked.
7. Start Exercising
Most people who are binge eaters don’t want to hear this initially. I sure didn’t! The last thing I wanted to do was exercise when I felt nothing but worthless, overweight from binging and unattractive. Yet a funny thing happened when I did. I started implementing 45 minutes of walking each night, along with the tips above, and after a week, my binge foods just seemed pointless. It got easier to talk myself out of binging, because exercising was helping fuel serotonin in my body, which increased my good mood and stopped the need to soothe myself through junk food. Serotonin is the hormone in the body associated with a happy mood. Binge eaters are usually low in serotonin levels, which leads them to seek foods like sugar, fat and carbs that increase short-lived serotonin. Instead, eat foods that provide constant serotonin levels like veggies, protein, yogurt, whole grains and low sugar fruits, along with healthy fats. Then, start exercising. Your serotonin will begin to increase, and your mood will stabilize and start to improve. Then, you’ll be able to talk yourself out of binging and you won’t want to harm your positive efforts by indulging in a pointless binge.
I realize different things work differently for every binge eater. Telling myself the kitchen was closed or brushing my teeth didn’t work for me, like so many other people say it does. I needed something much more powerful than that. I had to make myself accountable and start acting like a whole person with an active role in the matter and not just living under the control of my binge eating disorder. Taking responsibility and owning up to myself and my actions through the above tips truly changed my life and I have been sober from binging and starving for two solid years now, without one relapse. I can tell you, after 10 years, it is possible. Just keep trying until you find what works for you. Do you have any tips on talking yourself out of a binge?