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Published on March 13, 2020

How to Stop Binge Eating for Better Health

How to Stop Binge Eating for Better Health

We all eat too much from time to time. But if you regularly overeat while feeling out of control and powerless to stop, you may be suffering from binge eating disorder or a harmful habit of binge eating.

I personally developed a severe case of binge eating disorder during my childhood that led me to become obese by the age of seven. It took me more than fifteen years to get over it, and it highly affected both my personal and social life.

This article will present some tips and tricks to stop binge eating and improve your health.

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder[1] is a common eating disorder where you frequently eat large amounts of food while feeling powerless to stop and feeling extremely distressed during or after eating.

You may eat to the point of discomfort and be plagued by feelings of guilt, shame, or depression afterwards, beat yourself up for your lack of self-control, or worry about what compulsive eating will do to your body.

If you too are struggling with binge eating, keep reading because this article is just what you need.

If you have binge eating disorder, you may feel embarrassed and ashamed about your eating habits and try to hide your symptoms by eating in secret. You may find that binge eating is comforting for a brief moment, helping to ease unpleasant emotions or feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. However, reality sets back in and you’re flooded with feelings of regret and self-loathing.

If you binge eat regularly, you gain weight, which only reinforces compulsive eating. The worse you feel about yourself and your appearance, the more you use food to cope. It becomes a vicious cycle: eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food for relief.

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As powerless as you may feel about your eating disorder, it’s important to know that binge eating disorder is treatable. You can learn to break the binge eating cycle, better manage your emotions, develop a healthier relationship with food, and regain control over your eating and your health, just as I did.

As any mental problem, both the causes and the solutions are not that straightforward. To get over any binge eating disorder, self-awareness is paramount.

Causes and Effects of Binge Eating

Generally, it takes a combination of things to develop binge eating disorder, including your genes, emotions, and experience. In my personal case, I grew up being extremely fussy with food. Because I almost never liked what was served to me at my school’s cafeteria, I would simply refuse to eat and, once back home, clear the kitchen from all the bread and crisps without letting my parents see me.

Some of my clients developed binge eating disorder because of social pressure from their parents in their early teenage years. Social pressure to be thin can add to the feeling and fuel your emotional eating. Some parents unwittingly set the stage for binge eating by using food to comfort, dismiss, or reward their children.

Children who are exposed to frequent critical comments about their bodies and weight are also vulnerable, as are those who have been sexually abused in childhood.

Many people also develop binge eating disorders because they find in food an easy way to supress feelings of anger, depression, loneliness or lack of attention from their parents. Depression and binge eating are strongly linked. Many binge eaters are either depressed or have been before; others may have trouble with impulse control and managing and expressing their feelings. Low self-esteem, loneliness, and body dissatisfaction may also contribute to binge eating.

But why do you still binge eat, even though you no longer feel social pressure, fussiness towards food, or strong negative feelings to suppress?

The truth is that old and reinforced habits are hard to break and are wired in our subconscious mind.

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The disorder is treatable. Your doctor can help you stop and, later on, get to and maintain a healthy weight. The first step is to understand why you’re engaging in this activity and then how to stop binge eating.

Overeating vs. Binge Eating

If you sometimes experience a mild version of the symptoms I’ve listed above and have only sporadic episodes of overeating, there’s a much simpler way of treating the issue.

It could just be an old habit of clearing the plate or mindlessly going through the whole bag of chips you’ve just opened. These episodes happen to everyone, but they’re not necessarily a way to suppress feelings.

If that’s the case, and you spotted yourself doing so sporadically, you might be simply overeating.

The path to breaking an old habit starts with getting to know yourself deeply and becoming mindful of your emotions and their triggers.

Be Mindful When Eating

You could stop overeating for some time by creating an environment where food is scarce, but, for most westerners like us, that’s not an option. Food is plentiful, and the choices at our disposal are endless.

This means that to stop overeating, the only solution is to learn how to spot and manage the triggers that are causing it.

Be aware that being able to notice your emotions on the spot and stop yourself before acting out of an impulse is not easy. Most people tend to get overwhelmed by their feelings and act impulsively. For this reason, before suggesting any “tricks” to stop your overeating habits, I recommend you develop a daily mindfulness meditation practice.[2]

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Meditating daily has the power to help you better understand your feelings and step back from the behaviors that are jeopardizing your health and happiness.

If you want to get started with a mindfulness meditation, this article may be able to help.

Practicing mindfulness in my early twenties didn’t just help me to get over binge eating disorder, but it also helped me to quit smoking and using recreational drugs.

How Mindfulness Helps You Stop Binge Eating

The way mindfulness works is very simple. The more you train yourself to notice your feelings when they arise, the better you become at pausing and letting them go away.

Let’s imagine a scenario where you’re home alone and you start to experience a feeling of boredom. You quickly remind yourself that you are single and lonely. This thought evokes a strong and uncomfortable feeling of either frustration, sadness, or even deep depression. The pull to try to suppress those negative feelings is very strong, and, in your subconscious mind, the solution that is deeply weird is to look for comforting food.

At this point, if you have easy access to food, your impulse is to reach for it. You may at this point try to exert willpower, but, as long as the negative emotions persist, the impulse of binge eating won’t disappear.

Eventually, you’d fall into temptation and start eating. You say to yourself that you’ll have “one more bite,” but there’s a voice inside your head saying “I’m such a failure at resisting temptations, I might just stop trying and eat the whole thing,” and that’s exactly what happens.

In this example, if you were able to notice the arousal of the feeling of boredom, you would have stopped there and, after questioning the feeling, maybe think about something to keep your mind occupied, like calling a friend, getting ahead with work, etc.

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Noticing the arousal of your first feeling (the least negative one) would help you to avoid the escalation of feelings that inevitably lead to binge eating.

A Simple Trick to Stop Binge Eating

A simple trick to help you notice your feelings and pause before letting them escalate is to wear a rubber band on your wrist.

Whenever you notice the arousal of one of the feelings that are usually leading you to binge eating, stop there, pull the rubber band, and let it hit your wrist hard enough to be painful.

At this point, your brain will register that “it is painful to experience that feeling,” and your mental focus will shift from the negative feeling to a physical sensation: pain.

Be aware that pain might be enough to help distract you from a weak emotion, but it won’t do much when it comes to dealing with strong and overwhelming emotions. Therefore, whenever you find yourself overeating because you didn’t manage to stop the escalation of emotions, just forgive yourself and acknowledge you’ve tried and that you are making progress.

Final Thoughts

With time, if you make mindfulness a regular part of your life, you’ll notice that your negative emotions become weaker and weaker, and you’ll start to develop a healthier relationship towards food.

There is no magic to it, just hard work and consistency. With these practices, you can learn how to stop binge eating and change your life for the better.

More Tips on How to Stop Binge Eating

Featured photo credit: Andi Whiskey via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Davide Alfonsi

Celebrity Coach, Author and Mindfulness expert

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words—many times your parents
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

1. For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

2. For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

4. For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
  • Shut down your thinking
  • Calm your feelings
  • Simply focus on the present moment

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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