By BodyMatters therapist Sarah McMahon
Preventing a binge begins long before the binge trigger & experience. Preventing a binge is just not about seizing the moment when the urge to binge is at its stongest. Rather, laying a firm foundation will prove far more effective than any distraction techniques ever will. Six fundamental techniques are outlined below; I thoroughly recommend establishing all of these consistently
- Set up mechanical eating that comprises of regular, frequent and varied eating experiences. This might sound boring- but don’t let it become boring! Keeping the meals varied and exciting removes some of the physiological urge for a binge.
- Eat mindfully. This means enjoying the texture & the flavour of food and savouring each mouthful. Notice the interaction between the meal and yourself- how does the food smell? What does it taste like? Is it making any funny sounds like a sizzle? How does it feel in your mouth- is there a party in there? How does it feel in your tummy? Engage as many of the sense as possible in your eating experience. Also, ask yourself: are there external distractions like the TV or computer preventing you from focusing on your meal? Or internal distractions like a racing brain that is taking you away from the eating experience? Are you eating too quickly to enjoy the rich sensory journey the meal can provide? If you can say yes to any of these things: Stop. Breath. Regroup. And relish everything eating that meal has to offer.
- Make an occasion out of a meal: Establish & immerse yourself in a delightful eating experience. Sit at a table (rather than eating standing up or even in the pantry). Serve yourself an adequate portion size (rather than eating out the packet/ bag/ box). Serving an adequate portion also helps prevent you returning for seconds & starting a cognitive and behavioural chain reaction that may result in a binge. Use lovely crockery & cutlery that honours the occasion of the meal. Put on relaxing music (rather than music with a fast beat that makes you munch quickly!). Eat the meal slowly, savouring each and every mouthful.
- Say “no” to your inner critic, listen to your body instead! Your inner critic may try to feed you with horrible thoughts instead. It may plague you with feelings like guilt & shame. Try to tune out of these experiences and focus instead on what your body is telling you.
- If you are experiencing an urge to binge, speak kindly to yourself. Gently ask yourself about what is actually going on for you that is making you want to eat?
- See a therapist if you are worried about your binge eating. If it occurs on a regular basis it is likely that you do have an eating disorder of sorts, and recovery from an eating disorder usually takes more than just making behavioural changes. Find a therapist who will not judge you and help you to see the binge eating behaviour- and yourself- differently. If you haven’t found a therapist you feel comfortable with yet, try try & try again. Recovery usually occurs via the marriage of the right timing for you, the right therapist & the right treatment approach.
And if you do binge…
- Practice self compassion: forgive and forget! This means NOT compensating by way of restriction or purging. Contrary to what your inner critic might tell you, hanging on to guilt and shame sets up another binge. As does compensatory behaviour.
- Of course you wish the binge didn’t occur. But remember: it is still an excellent learning opportunity! What can you learn from the experience? What were the triggers? What helped & what didn’t help? What could you do differently next time?
- Use the binge as a helpful “warning bell” that something just wasn’t quite right. Are you feeling stressed, angry, guilty, bored, lonely? Once you have put your finger on what was REALLY going on for you, work out how you can deal with that in a more productive way.