How we can recognize when under-eating has overridden our innate relationship with food? What are the effects of yo-yo dieting on our nervous systems? How do we change our fear narrative concerning food? We will be discussing how to stop binge eating and when to recognize a binge may be coming on.
What is Considered a Binge Eat
When we hear the term “binge eat” we often think of the abundance amount of food one consumes. However, some may classify a binge by the calories that one consumes. When talking about a binge eating episode it’s important to note that it’s not always about the amount of food or calories but also other factors that can tie into a binge eating episode.
Sometimes we eat out of our emotions. (Learn more on overcoming emotional eating in my course Biblical Framework to Overcome Emotional Eating.) Other times when we are tired, stressed, thirsty, and a common but not talked about enough factor is undereating. This is why we can not ignore the other life stressors regarding weight loss. This is also why it’s more than calories in and calories out.
Symptoms of Binge Eating
- Disappearance of large quantities of food in short periods of time
- Empty wrappers and containers indicating consumption of large amounts of food
- Periodic fasting
- Extreme dissatisfaction with one’s body
- Frequent weight fluctuation
- Weight gain
- Feelings of loss of control and discipline around food
How to Stop Binge Eating
I am excited to talk about how to stop binge eating and how dieting is impacting our health. This is a topic near and dear to my heart because I have restricted food many times. How has the dieting world impacted and changed our view of the way that we eat and even our thought process around eating? Learning how to stop binge eating will start with knowing where it began.
I was dieting, keeping a log of what I was eating, working out, and tracking calorie intake. It just totally overrides our innate relationship with food and the way that I think the Lord created us to be in communion with food. It takes the enjoyment of food off the table, the trust in your body, and how the Lord made you.
We even attach it to our morality or our worth or how good we are. Dieting messes with everything around food and makes it so stressful, unenjoyable, confusing, and overwhelming. We get obsessed and wrapped up in it. And soon, we’re questioning when did it get so confusing? Why is my relationship with food so stressful? When we get to the root, we can begin to heal and learn how to stop binge eating.
Damaging Effects of Restricting Foods
What does restricting food look like and how does it lead us to binge eat?
There are two types of restriction. There’s physically restricting yourself from food – not eating as much as you used to, or saying, “I can only eat X amount of calories a day.” Then there’s also the mental restriction around eating. The idea that some foods are bad. Both of those restrictions work against our ease around food, and they make it impossible to feel at ease and comfortable around food because we’re always focused on restricting.
That has aconsiderable weight of stress on the body mentally, physically, and emotionally. Your nervous system is always on edge because you’re always focused on what you shouldn’t be doing. Your body can’t calm down. You’re hyper, and your body identifies that as stress.
Then pair that with not giving your body enough nutrients, so it has the energy that it needs to function. It all adds up. It’s all stress which will lead us to ask ourselves how to stop binge eating? How did I get here? Stress can sneak up on us and restricting at first may not seem like a big deal.
How to Stop Binge Eating at Night
Some simple ways you can begin to stop binge eating at night:
- Don’t keep all of your favorite snacks out on the table or easily accessible in the pantry. Keep it out of the eyeline row.
- When you have salads, add protein, fats, and carbs to balance your energy levels until your next snack or meal.
- Eat with no distractions like screens or electronics.
- Carry water with your wherever you go. Make it easy for you to drink more water.
- Learn ways to manage stress instead of ignoring it.
- Prioritize sleep or even keep a sleep schedule so you can see when you are going to bed if you are waking up at night, and how many hours you are getting.
- Stop trying to find the next diet plan or way of eating that will be “the one.”
- Eat more calories during your meals throughout the day to keep you full to each meal.
Also, ask yourself these questions. The first question I ask is, “Who told you that?” It helps to get people to say it out loud and to process through it. I think we often don’t take the time to ask where we heard it and question if it’s valid. The second question would be, “Why are you wanting to focus on this?” Or “why is this weighing so heavy on you? Why is it so important to you?” And keep asking why.
To me, a lot of times, it comes down to motives. I think there are some things that we do when it comes to how we eat or what we eat or why we eat that isn’t inherently bad. But our approach- our motivation behind why we’re doing that- is the problem. And that can make these “neutral” health actions turn negative and hurtful us.
That’s not to say everything is neutral. Undereating or telling yourself you can’t eat past seven o’clock – those aren’t always neutral. They could be negative and lead us to binge eat. (Learn more on undereating and stress eating in my course Biblical Framework to Overcome Emotional Eating.)
We have to get honest about why eating after 7 stresses us out. What’s gonna happen? Why are you scared? Scared that you’re gonna gain weight? Why is that? Why is that weighing so heavily on you? It’s hard to sit with yourself and process that because it is flat-out uncomfortable.
Dieting and restrictions are just the fruit of what’s going on underneath, right? We try to control our feelings and manage our feelings through food. It’s just an outlet for us. We have to address the root because once you uproot the root, then the fruit changes.
I think this goes right into binge eating because restriction says that you can’t have something, and if you do, you’re bad.
What happens with binge eating is we want to rebel against the diet and eat the things that were considered bad.
Binge eating can happen in many different ways – I’ve seen a lot of restrictions that lead to binge eating.
I was never diagnosed with binge eating disorder, but in hindsight, I can see it so clearly now. This is something that I had to learn. It wasn’t something that I innately knew. When it comes to restriction and binge eating you nailed it so perfectly when you talked about under-eating leading to binge eating. But with restriction, I think it comes with both mental and physical problems. Learning how to stop binge eating was something I personally had to walk through.
So mentally, if you’re restricting yourself from certain foods, they’re all you think about, and that can lead you to binge eat. And then there’s also the mental – if you tell yourself that you can’t have it. Eventually, the body is going to cave. The easiest way I can relate to it is telling a kid not to touch a hot stove. You’re restricting them because you’re telling them not to do something, so they’re gonna rebel because that’s how they respond to the world.
As adults, telling ourselves to not do something or that we can’t have something or that we’re restricting is almost always going to lead us to binge eat and prevent us from stopping binge eating, especially when it’s related to food which our body literally needs to survive. So it leads to this binge where we feel out of control around this food. It’s almost an out-of-body experience where you can’t stop eating because your body has been restricted and you haven’t been giving it the nourishment it needs. Maybe it’s not a lack of willpower.
It is not a lack of discipline. It’s literally a lack of you being well-fed and allowing yourself full-fledged access to that food.
Learning how to stop binge eating will be a process of unlearning what you have learned about dieting.
I’ve noticed that binge eating times are just bigger meals, but they look like binges because they’re bigger, higher-calorie than the 300-calorie meal they are restricted to. That’s where so many different binges come in.
So many women believe they’re just not strong enough, or they don’t have enough self-control or willpower and discipline, but it’s actually your body telling you it needs something – it’s communicating with you.
That was probably one of my biggest pieces – dealing with my emotions in ways other than using food to numb out. This helped to stop binge eating.
How Do I Stop the Urge to Binge
What are some practical ways how to stop binge eating? If we’re getting away from dieting, we think, “Well, what am I what am I supposed if nobody’s telling me how to eat?” What do you recommend when it comes to women that might be struggling right now with the idea of binging?
One of them is something that you can do after the fact. So you say you have this episode and binge eat, and you’re down on yourself, you’re frustrated, and you’re thinking, “Why did that happen again?” Well, this is an opportunity to take an audit. What happened? Think, what did you feel at the moment? What were you eating? What was the environment around you at that time?
A couple of minutes up to the time you binge, where were you? What were you doing? Think about the environment. What were you feeling? What led to those feelings? A couple of hours before the binge, same questions. Where were you? What was going on? What were your feelings, emotions, and thoughts?
Then continue that throughout the rest of the day – maybe even the day prior just to get a better timeline because it feels like binges come out of nowhere. But a seed had been planted. So that can help give you a more broad look at what led to the binge. Breaking the chain can be helpful. Another thing that I find helpful with some clients is what I call the HALT approach.
It’s an acronym that stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Also, to throw in bored in there as we or sad. If you find yourself maybe a little more aware and feel the binge coming – stopping, halting, and thinking, “Am I hungry? Am I angry or lonely? Am I tired, bored or am I sad? Is it a habit?” Think through your emotions and how you’re feeling, and then ask, if food will help with that? And it might not; it could be a coping mechanism.
Using food to cope isn’t bad, but if that’s the only way that you cope with your emotions or use it to numb out, that’s a red flag.
So using that HALT approach can be helpful to build in that awareness. You may still binge, but you’re building in that space to slow down, which I think is big.
It’s possible to overcome it, and learning to stop binge eating will take time. It’s not going to be done in your own strength or discipline, or willpower. I think the Holy Spirit is what empowers us and equips us to be able to do this. We can’t just sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s challenging but is possible.
If there was something that I could hear 10 years ago when I was going through, it’s that your identity is not in how you look. Because I think for a lot of people, we’re restricting because we want to change how we look and because we want the approval of other people. For me, that was the underlying root. Understanding that’s not where your worth and your identity comes from and removing labels from food is one of the most freeing things ever because they no longer have control over you.
It’s that freedom that we find in Christ when we get to partner with him.
Resourses for Binge Eating
Want to stop binge eating and learn how to turn to God instead of food?
It’s time to overcome emotional eating and binge eating so you can learn to enjoy food again without feeling deprived, stress eating, or eating your feelings.
Discover the root cause and overcome emotional eating and binge eating. It’s time to change your relationship with food and grow closer to God while healing. Through my three-step process, learn how to conquer control around food and find freedom from constantly thinking or worrying about food.
I’m here to show you how you can eat freely without feeling deprived, shame, guilt, or dieting.
Get my Biblical Framework to Overcome Emotional Eating course!
“This is the third day without a “binge time.” I can hardly believe “it” could be this simple.
I have permission to eat and even do something different such as make a meal but still eat. NOT do something totally unrelated to what I feel I want to do. Other diets involved trying so hard NOT to eat, telling me to distract myself. Somehow the counsel to eat if I want has taken away the obsession to eat and to eat a lot. Actually, I don’t even feel like eating because I am sincerely not hungry. I eat or drink what sounds good without feeling deprived.” – Renee T.