Although not everyone I work with has significant weight to lose, many of my clients struggle with binge-eating. This is usually what people describe as feeling “out of control” with food.. episodes of feeling like you can’t stop eating, feel like you’re eating really poorly over a period of time, or eating large amounts of food to the point of feeling ill at one sitting. It can also include forms of purging in conjunction with the binge- in the forms of vomiting, use of laxatives, or over-exercising to “get rid of” food and calories. By the way.. purging doesn’t actually get rid of calories.
Regardless, binges leave us feeling unwell physically, emotionally, and kick our spirits to the curb. The guilt and shame, the lack of mercy that we show for ourselves, the ways in which we define ourselves are truly demoralizing.
I know this territory well. I was a binge-eater for much of my life. This post is not going to be about me, but my own binge-eating history began when my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer when I was 14. There is often a precipitant to any disordered eating, not always as obvious as this one, but with some guidance there is usually a loss, a disruption, a trauma, or some pressure to lose weight that leads to patterns of binges.
What I know from my own experience and from working with the beautiful truth-telling women in my practice is something I so much want for you to know.
To go from binges to what is referred to as “clean” eating, or eating that involves weight loss, or into a cleanse or a detox.. is usually ill-fated. You need to build a bridge. As in most things in life, transitions, especially ones that are emotionally loaded (any shame or body-hatred around the inability to stop eating… just for example) need to be made gently.
You’ll also have more success. Success feels better.
Many women never get out of the binges/overeating into diet and deprivation back to binges/overeating cycle.. it’s a painful lousy demoralizing cycle. It’s hard to get out of it because there’s no bridge.. no transition. Sometimes you feel so badly in the overeating phase that desperation can often continue to drive choices.
Fear rarely chooses well.
Here’s how to build a gentle bridge and transitional phase to help take you out of the binge cycle and into a calmer, safer place with food.. before you try to jump into bigger changes, or any kind of weight-loss mode.
1.First- it helps to simplify. Simplify what you’re eating. You’ve probably heard of the concept of “automating” one or more of your meals. When you feel out of control simplicity is soothing and will help ground you, take you out of the spin. Automate at least one meal each day for now, which means eat the same breakfast and lunch every day. Take out the choice, keep it simple, reduce the stimulation and calm it all down. Pick things you like, that are NOT diet-y, but that ARE nourishing. Eat them every day for at least a week. It doesn’t matter if you’re bored. Right now that’s not your focus. Bored can be helpful. Find something else to be interesting for right now. If you’re a foodie, check out this post and try switching styles for a bit. Right away, creating simplicity can bring you a sense of relief and calm..taking you out of a feeling of chaos.
2. Next- one of my favorite personal strategies that I share with clients, if I’ve had a few days or so of eating out of balance and I want to transition back is to create even more simplicity. Clearly I like simplicity.. this goes with my belief that we are sensitive/empaths and often need to stay grounded with rituals and routines that can keep us from feeling overwhelmed. During these times, I will make a pot of something. Maybe chicken soup with tons of vegetables. Maybe chili. Sometimes brown rice with lots of vegetables. If you’re looking to transition from a period of out-of-control eating without going into deprivation/diet mode.. make yourself a pot of something delicious and hearty, and just eat from that for a few days. We’re not looking to limit portions here. You can eat every couple of hours to keep your blood sugar nice and steady so that your body rebalances and the cravings for sugar or processed carbohydrates (probably what you’ve been overeating) subside.
Again, it’s about simplicity, turning off the triggers, getting your blood sugar balanced so the cravings dissipate, and getting you out of the over-stimulation without cycling between binges and diets.
This happens to work.. you’re well fed, you’re not scaring yourself with the threats of “oh I screwed up now I can’t eat anything tomorrow” which pretty much always will lead you back into overeating.. And everything settles. Your body, your brain, you get a chance to regroup and take a break from the emotional whiplash of going between the overeating and the attempts to stop, and the misery of not being able to when you get stuck in one of those cycles.
If you have any history of binge-eating, I respectfully, lovingly, gently suggest that you be very very careful about signing on for any programs of detoxing, major juice cleanses, or anything that departs too far from what you would eat on a “normal” day of eating.
One of the times women seek me out is mid-cleanse, or post cleanse/detox. when they are feeling like failures because they can’t sustain it or the program is so strict that one deviation leads them into a full blown binge.. which can really feel terrible, especially if you’ve paid money for the program.
These are some ways that you can break the spell of overeating, spare yourself the drastic swings between extremes and then begin to move toward your goal of finding new relationships with food and your body.
I want that for you.
With love from my heart to yours..