Notes From The PT Spotlight: How To Keep Binge Eating In Check
The new Spotlight is off to a flying start. There has been a lot of discussion in particular about binge eating, and we asked if someone would write about their experience. This is the first note that we got from "steampunk."
"Binge eating is a physical manifestation of an underlying emotional or psychological disorder. People who binge often describe the experience as an uncontrollable desire to eat in the absence of hunger, and will frequently consume food to a level well in excess of a usual meal. Binge behaviour is frequently secretive, and carried out in times of emotional distress. Many people binge -- it is hardly a rare phenomenon.
Sometimes it can be as simple as insatiably eating while watching television, but at the extreme end of the scale, a binge may involve literally thousands of calories, after which the binger may attempt to purge. At this extreme end, or when binges are frequent, binging can be seen as an eating disorder. Binging may manifest in all of the classic eating disorders (including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa), and is frequently classified as an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ENDOS).
Personally, binging has been a problem I've dealt with for most of my adolescent and adult life, through both thick and thin. In the past year, I've taken steps to correct this behaviour, and have found numerous ways to "weather the storm". The first, and most important, thing has been blogging on PEERtrainer. I use my "Notes" section to blog a bit about my life, every day, and this has helped me to identify trends in my emotional response to food.
In looking back through my logs, I'm able to see what sorts of events and stressors in my life contribute to poor nutritional choices, and to binge behaviour. This has allowed me to be more cognizant of the situations that ultimately lead to binging, and, in being aware of the possibility, I'm better able to control my emotional response. If I'm having a rough day in the lab, I know to go out and socialise for a couple hours, instead of immediately going to the privacy of my own home to raid the refridgerator.
Sometimes, the best-laid plans fail, and I teeter on the precipice of a binge. These days, I'm usually able to stop myself, and some of the techniques I use to halt a binge include:
a) come online to PT and log about what's on my mind, or just check out the comments in my groups, and read my group members' logs.
b) go out for a long walk, and listen to something cheerful on my iPod. I tend to favour classical music for this, since it's both uplifting, and frees up your mind to cogitate on stuff, instead of just listening to lyrics.
c) force myself to read a novel for half an hour. I tell myself "half an hour, and then you can eat!" Usually, that's long enough for the need to binge to pass.
d) go out to a public place. Binging is generally a secretive behaviour, so I leave the privacy of my home.
For the past 5-6 months, I've generally been able to halt my binges using these methods. Every once in a while, though (and especially when I was first confronting this behaviour!), I slip up, and I do binge. One of the most freeing things I've done for myself has been to give myself permission to binge once in awhile. HOWEVER, I only permit myself to binge on my "safe" foods -- these are low-cal options that I actually enjoy. When it comes down to it, I'd really prefer some light fruit-flavoured yogourt over, say, potatoes swimming in butter. So, therefore, it becomes a little easier to choose a healthy option, if I really can't control the need to binge. My "safe" foods include things like snap peas, yogourt, watermelon, lettuce, light jello, sweet peppers, and Splenda hot cocoa.
There are some things that I binge-eat, just because I am a bit "addicted" to them. Some people call these trigger foods, and for me, they include things like toast, potato chips, and milk chocolate (I don't even LIKE milk chocolate!). I have found that it's best for me to just keep "trigger foods" completely out of the house. I have not stopped eating them altogether -- I will have garlic toast in a restaurant, for instance, but I don't keep a ready supply handy.
Since deciding to conquer my binge behaviour, or, at the very least, find ways to mitigate the effects of it, I've felt more in control of my life, and have been able to focus on some of the other emotional issues I have with food. There are days that are not so good -- my soapbox isn't high enough for me to really preach at people -- but I can definitely say that the steps I've taken have positively contributed to my well-being, and I have a much better relationship with food than I did a year ago. A year ago, today, actually -- and 71 lbs lighter!
We have also published a related article written by Joshua Wayne that focuses on a couple techniques to deal with the general issue of "those times when you’re eating out of control; when you don’t have discipline with your own habits and behaviors." We observe this is a very common issue that people face, again, in varying degrees: