Answers from A Binge Eating Expert
What makes someone a specialist?
I could tell you how long I’ve worked with people who have eating disorders, or my degrees, research or the books I’ve contributed to, but the heart of the matter is… as someone who experienced Binge Eating Disorder before there was a name for it, “I’ve been there, done that”.
So when someone asked me to give a ‘Top Three List’ of the most powerful things someone can do to overcome Binge Eating Disorder, I had to pull from a very personal place, because I don’t have empirical data to pick just three.
Sometimes hindsight is 20/20, so I feel I am better able to answer this now, in my 50’s, than I could fresh out of treatment 25 years ago. Besides, I have had 25 years to practice, and fall, and get back up again… a few times.
1. Feed yourself in a moderate and predictable manner
Jump off of the “in control/out of control” roller coaster. Be willing to let go of two beliefs, “there is a diet plan out there that will finally work for me” and “when I lose the weight, then I can start fully living”.
Look inward and mindfully develop a new relational paradigm with food and your body; one of trust and respect, not of fear and neglect.
You see, I grew up adopting the “thin ideal”. Looking a certain way validated my worth and the key to looking great was controlling what and how much I ate. I would go on and off the latest and greatest “meal plan” (when “diets” became a dirty word, I just called it something else).
I did more damage to my body, heart and soul when I was off the plan than any good I ever did when I was on the plan. “When I” never comes, you just keep recalculating your timeline. I had to just surrender and live my life, now.
2. Create a validating inner dialogue of self-compassion
This helps you respond to your ineffective thoughts and make health supportive decisions throughout the day.
OK, so I sound like a therapist with all that jargon. Basically, be a good parent to yourself. Let’s face it, your head is going to talk to you every day, all day long, you need to decide what you listen to.
I never grew out of the need to be parented, or coached, so I trained my thoughts to sound like someone who saw the best in me and continually validated my existence.
OK, so I’m needy…you asked me what works. You might ask me, how do you train your thoughts? Love letters, lots of love letters. I spent years writing letters to myself, as if they were from God, a perfect parent or my biggest fan. One day, they just stuck. I began to talk to myself with compassion.
3. Lastly, intentionally front load self-care in an effort to keep yourself self-regulated.
Getting “too” anything leads to your urge to escape through a binge. Taking intentional breaks of mindfulness is an excellent way to check in.
Take 5 breaths, figure out what you need to feel better right now. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, in fact the simplest pleasures can do wonders in the middle of the day. Focus on the senses.
Example: Wash your face in warm or cool water (depending if you want to energize or calm down) and put on extravagant moisturizer.
I tend to be vulnerable to mindless eating when I am too tired, too anxious (overwhelmed), too hungry, to name a few. So I really pay attention to these vulnerable states of being.
Take anxiety for instance. When I find myself not breathing deeply, I’m usually stressed. So I take 5 deep breaths. If I can, I create a calming environment with a candle, soft lighting, wave sound machine and begin a loving mantra to help disengage fear such as, breath in “you are safe”…breath out “all is well”.
I’m learning, although not great at it yet, to “front load” this stuff before I even feel stressed. Mindfulness for me involves embracing the sense of wonder again; stopping to notice a beautiful view, the taste of a home-grown tomato, and the sound of crickets at dusk. Actually, moving to Vermont was an act of self-care.
There you have it, my top three things to change in your life to help overcome binge eating disorder, and even other disordered eating such as emotional eating, night eating (NES), and others.
Please share any questions below – you’re not alone.