Binge eating can be extremely hard to overcome but there are multiple ways to help control cravings and episodes of overeating.
Someone with binge eating disorder will compulsively eat excessive amounts of food past the point at which they feel full. This usually occurs in a short amount of time and the person typically feels guilty afterward.
There are many reasons as to why a person binge eats, such as coping with a negative body image, underlying emotional stress, out of boredom or simply because the food is there. People with binge eating disorder struggle to control their eating and feel powerless in terms of how to stop. They may think about food all the time and feel guilty or depressed after eating.
There are a variety of methods that can be used to stop cravings and unhealthy eating habits. Here is a list of tips for preventing binge eating.
Plan out your meals
One of the best ways to address binge eating disorder is to create a meal plan. Planning out your meals ahead of time can be a great way to control what you are eating. Not only can it help to control portions, but you can make sure to keep meals nutritionally balanced.
Meal planning isn’t just about what you are going to eat; it’s also about determining when you are going to eat. Having a plan for what you are going to eat and when can help with cravings. Instead of wondering what you will eat when a craving comes up, you will know exactly what to eat and how long you have to wait to have it.
Planning your meals also gives you something to look forward to. You can make sure to plan meals with the foods you like. It also prevents you from skipping a meal, which can be detrimental to your food cravings later on.
Keep a food journal
A food journal can be useful for keeping track of what and how much you’ve eaten. It can also be a good place to reflect and record how you were feeling before, during and after you ate. This can help you identify emotional patterns that might be linked to binge eating. Once you are aware of these patterns, you can identify things that might be triggering your eating and be better prepared to deal with them in the future.
There is evidence that people who self-monitor their food intake by keeping a record are more likely to lose weight than those who don’t.
Increase your protein intake
Binge eating can result from feeling hungry and eating impulsively in response to hunger. One way to combat this is to change your diet so that you feel satisfied for longer. A diet that is high in protein can help you achieve this.
Studies have shown that people who eat high amounts of protein feel more satisfied after a meal compared to people with low protein in their diets. In other words, protein makes you feel full. If you feel full and satisfied, you are more likely to be able to wait until your next planned mealtime to eat.
Get plenty of sleep
People with binge eating disorder may benefit from getting more sleep. When you don’t sleep enough and wake up tired, your body might crave foods that are high in sugar to help give you a boost of energy. Getting plenty of sleep can not only help with these cravings but can also improve your mood and help with appetite control.
A study on sleep and appetite regulation found that sleep affects the level of leptin, the hormone which regulates appetite. Leptin levels were 19% lower in people who get less sleep versus those who got a full 8-12 hours of sleep each night. Since leptin signals to the brain that there is an energy balance in the body and that food is not needed, having higher levels of leptin can help control appetite.
Regular exercise can improve your mood and energy levels. It can also help to relieve stress. If you feel more relaxed and have higher energy levels, you may be able to avoid emotional eating and have the energy to do other things to distract yourself from binge eating.
Exercise is an important activity that has also been shown to help with food cravings that may lead to binge eating. Exercise can also alter hunger-triggering hormones, increasing hormones associated with suppressing hunger and decreasing hormones that stimulate eating.
These combined effects of exercise can help stop binge eating. It can also help promote a healthy lifestyle, which may empower a person to improve their eating habits.
Like a protein-rich diet, water can curb appetite. Staying hydrated can help to avoid cravings and keep you feeling satisfied until your next planned meal time.
Drinking water before meals can help you feel more full and satisfied, decrease hunger cravings and help you eat less. With the extra volume in your stomach, it can help you feel full faster.
Water can also help overcome cravings as they are happening. Many times, when people think they are hungry, they are actually thirsty. If you are feeling hungry and it’s making you want to binge eat, try drinking water instead. This may satisfy your craving and keep you from binge eating.
Don’t skip meals
People with binge eating disorder may take extreme measures to keep themselves from eating, in an attempt to prevent binging. Some people may skip meals in order to eat less. Skipping a meal may seem like a good idea, as you are eating less, but it can also lead to hunger that can trigger binge eating later in the day.
There are many consequences of skipping meals, including lowering metabolism, impairing mental focus, dizziness, weight gain and increased risk of diabetes. These consequences affect people regardless of whether or not they have a binge eating disorder, demonstrating that skipping a meal is not healthy behavior.
Avoid restrictive diets
In order to control eating habits, people with binge eating disorder may also try restrictive diets. Restrictive diets can be stressful and deprivation of food can actually trigger cravings and binge eating in of itself. A study of people on restrictive diets, versus those who had flexible dieting strategies, found that flexible dieting correlated with less overeating and lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Don’t count calories
Another form of dieting involves participating in programs that require you to count calories to keep track of how much you’ve eaten in a day. Theoretically, by staying within a certain calorie count, you restrict yourself from eating too much. However, in many cases, this does not work. In fact, the opposite can happen. By restricting your food choices, you may trigger binge eating.
The same study that found a positive correlation between flexible dieting and not overeating also showed a strong correlation between calorie counting and overeating. People who counted calories as part of their restrictive diet were more likely to overeat, especially while eating alone.
Many people with binge eating disorder find themselves eating out of boredom. Instead of reaching for a snack when you are bored, try distracting yourself. You can distract yourself from binge eating by taking a walk, calling a friend, listening to music, taking a bath or reading. You could also find a hobby like gardening, painting, learning to play a musical instrument or learning to sew.
Keeping yourself busy will give you less time to think about food and you will be less likely to binge eat.
Focus on what you’re eating
Many times, binge eating episodes can occur in a state of mindlessness, without focusing on what you are eating. Paying attention to what you are eating can help you control how much you are eating. It also helps you to slow down and enjoy what you are eating, and recognize when you are full.
Even if you have started binge eating, you don’t have to continue. If you stop to focus on what you are eating and make each bite a decision, instead of a compulsive choice to binge eat, you may be able to stop after a few bites.
Eat smaller meals more often
It may be counterintuitive to eat more often during the day, but eating smaller meals more often may help you curb food cravings between meals. By keeping the amount you eat small, you can distribute the same amount of food you would normally eat in three meals into six meals.
When you eat, your body digests the food and sends signals to the brain that it is full. After eating, these signals will gradually decrease until they hit low levels, which tells the body it’s time to eat again. Eating every 2-4 hours can help keep your “full” signals at a steady level instead of fluctuating between meals. This will prevent you from having overwhelming feelings of hunger that can lead to binge eating.
Binge eating can be triggered by certain foods. A trigger food is one that will cause you to go into an episode of binge eating and then regret it later. To avoid this situation, don’t buy your trigger foods and do not keep them in the house. If you do not have direct access to them, you are less likely to be triggered into a binge eating episode.
You can replace your binge eating trigger foods with healthier options. Find healthier foods that you enjoy the taste of, and keep them around for when cravings might occur. By having healthy options available, you may be able to satisfy your hunger cravings without engaging in binge eating.
Talk to someone
When you feel the urge to binge eat, it may be helpful to talk to someone you trust about the cravings you are having. By sharing with them what you are going through, it may help you overcome the urge. In addition to friends or family, you may find it beneficial to reach out to a binge eating hotline or support group, such as:
- National Eating Disorders Association 1-800-931-2237
- Overeaters Anonymous 505-891-2664
- Eating Disorders Anonymous
- Compulsive Eaters Anonymous 323-660-4333
The best way to get over a binge eating disorder is to address the underlying reasons as to why a person is binge eating. This can be done by speaking to an eating disorder therapist and getting treatment for binge eating disorder.
Binge eating can go hand in hand with substance abuse disorders. If you or a loved one is struggling with binge eating and are turning to substance use to cope, The Recovery Village can help. To learn more about our comprehensive treatment plans, call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative.
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