How Do I Stop Binge Eating?

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I came home with the intention of making a omelet for diner.

When I walked into the kitchen, took a spoon full of peanut butter and ate it.

Then I spotted my favorite whole wheat cookies and ate four of them (… or was it six?)

While eating the cookies I poured myself a glass of soy milk.

Then I turned on the skillet to make my omelet.

While reaching for the eggs in the fridge, I noticed my left over Thai food from the night before.

I ate the leftovers while making my omelet.

Then I ate my omelet.

I don’t know why I realized I was binging on that particular day, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. Almost as if I was having an outer-body experience. Watching myself eat multiple meals at one time.

How long have I been doing this? I wondered… knowing that I was uncovering a pattern that was cemented in my routine to the point that I didn’t even know it was happening.

It was terrifying and liberating all at once.

I think I’m… a binge eater.

I remembered a girlfriend commenting to me that I “didn’t eat that much” once. Technically, she was right. I began to monitor my food intake and realized the bulk of it happened when I would binge. Although my binging didn’t happen every day; (it would happen on like, a random Saturday afternoon, a Thursday night after cocktails or after a stressful day at work) it happened enough to make me wonder if this was the key to unlocking some of my weight loss struggles.

My binge eating epiphany happened three months ago.

Since then, my main focus has been awareness. Knowing that one binge can easily undo a weeks worth of good eating/exercise is scary, but the knowledge is powerful. It helps me feel a binge coming, see it happening and stop it as best I can. But I know I may need to take more steps towards breaking this habit.

Remember when I threw away that Jar of Red Velvet cake? and everyone in the comments section was telling me that it was a “great chance to practice willpower!” or that I should have “saved it overnight and brought it into work”. Well… I wasn’t ready to talk about it then, but my extreme decision was based on my binge tendencies.

As I’m making discoveries about my binging, willpower isn’t something I like to gamble with. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I don’t and that day… I just didn’t have it.

The definition of binge is “A period of unrestrained, immoderate self-indulgence”. I know for some, those periods of unrestrained, immoderate self-indulgence with food happen daily. At this time for me, my periods of unrestrained, immoderate self-indulgence can range from once a week to once a month, but they still happen.

Do any of you deal with Binge Eating? What has helped you to stop?

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  • MD

    I have been a binger since 2005. I gained at least 80 pounds in 4 months because I was binging every day. I remember reading your red velvet cake post and I knew it had to do with the fact that you would eat all of it (I’m not saying it in a mean way or being accusatory or anything, I’m just trying to say that I read inbetween the lines and knew exactly why you did that). I do the exact same thing. When I want to binge, new packages of anything are bad news. I open it up and tear into it like it was the last package of cookies, granola bars, whatever, on Earth. The only way I can really stop myself mid-binge is to take it and throw it in the garbage. I can’t just leave it in the package and throw it away, I have to take it all out of the package and throw it into the garbage before I shovel it in my mouth. On really bad days, I have to throw something really gross on top to “contaminate” it even more (I’d like to say that for the record, I’ve never eaten anything from the garbage but there were times I thought about it which utterly disgusts me). Sometimes this leads to me going totally OCD and deep cleaning my apartment or I get in an epic battle of wills at my computer and try to talk myself out of ordering food when I just threw away however many dollars in perfectly good food.

    I went to an eating disorder clinic starting early 2006 and I learned that I should stop and take a couple of seconds/minutes/whatever I needed before a binge. That did help me for a long time because once I realized what the real problem was, I was able to tell myself that food will not make anything better in the long run. What’s funny is that a lot of the times I didn’t even feel all that much better while I was binging. I hated myself for doing it and I felt disgusting and guilty, but somehow binging satisfied some need even if it was for a short period of time. After a binge is always the worst though. I would think that such a fat pig didn’t deserve to be here and certainly didn’t deserve to be happy so I would throw up and try to undo what I did. That never really worked so I would take diet pills during the day and try to be anorexic again during the day but at night, it would all come crashing down. It was like I was two totally different people by day and by night. So, the clinic taught me to stop and think before a binge. I am a very introspective person and I understand myself very well but, it’s like I’m emotionally handicapped when I want to binge and I don’t understand or even know what I’m thinking or feeling; I only know that I want to binge. Taking that time out to force myself to think about what’s driving me helped a lot. I never did lose those 80+ pounds but it did help me lose about 40 of them.

    I’m sad to say that I’m back to binging. Not nearly as often as I used to but grad school in NYC was tough and the man I thought I was going to marry ended up being one of the biggest scumbags I’ve ever dated, and that heartbreak and added stress kicked up a lot of bad habits and dysfunctional thinking. A couple of months ago I got my dream job in Chicago and I thought my weekly binges would go away, but they haven’t. I’m trying to re-teach myself to stop and think about why I want to binge but it seems so much harder this time around. I find myself wishing I could go back to being anorexic only because I seemed to have so much will power. I don’t know how I was able to say no to so many things. Maybe it’s because I hated myself so much back then? I’m much happier with myself now but it seems like I can’t say no to myself about anything. I downloaded a calorie counter and told myself that I will log EVERYTHING, good or bad, because I need to see exactly what these binges do to me (btw, I’m the one that talked about the FatSecret app a couple of months ago and that’s the app that helped with my binge eating). Since I don’t want to gain anymore weight, I’ve started looking for therapists that specialize in addiction, eating disorders, and self esteem issues.

    So, to answer your question, it’s an uphill battle. When I was most successful combatting binge eating, I was using a calorie counter, going to the gym, and seeing a therapist. I recommend seeing a therapist because sometimes they can provide a lot of insight into the situation that, for some reason, your mind may be blocking you from seeing. Also, when I use the calorie counter, I found it was helpful if I inputted the food ahead of time (like I know I would eat an entire bag of Oreos, Ramen, sausages, etc). Sometimes, the total cloric intake number is just enough to shorten, if not stop, a binge.

    • Anonymous

      Wow… thank you so much for being open! Its funny that you knew what I was going through, even without me saying it (p.s. I looked at fatsecret, its awesome!)

      I’ve never had the bulimic or anorexic tendencies and I’m not sure how extreme my binges are in comparison to yours, but everything you’re saying makes a LOT of sense to me. I’m finding things that work, but I do worry about lifestyle changes that don’t stick when “life happens”. I’m glad you know how/where to get help, not everyone is strong enough to seek that out.
      xoxo

      • Elle

        I guess this kinda counts. I don’t binge so much, but when i drink i lose all sense of will power when making food choices. Instead of ordering a nice salad with salmon, I’ll order some kind of fattening pate or steak or fried this or that. I don’t overheat but I just don’t care WHAT I eat.

        The only way I learned to control it at the moment was to stop drinking.

        • Anonymous

          A lot of my binging happened after drinking too! I knew I was making progress when I’d skip the post-drinking pizza run which in NYC can be quite tempting…

          • MD

            NYC was dangerous for me because everyone delivers everything. I could get my wine delivered, Indian, and cheesecake! It made binging waaaaaay too easy.

          • Elle

            I’m not even gonna lie, wine delivery sounds amazing. I need this in my city, like right now.

          • MD

            Yea, Chicago needs to jump on the wine delivery bandwagon. It was amazing.

      • Brittany

        I had a feeling that this post was coming when I read the red velvet cake post. Anywho, in reference to the “lifestyle changes” concern, I’ve practically had my life turned upside down by having to adjust to living at home with my family, again, among other things. However, certain changes that I to my eating habits, have remained constant (such as eliminating certain food groups), even through I may still binge on other foods. So it possible to have some stability.

        The only thing I worry about is what will happen when I eventually decide start a family and become pregnant. Will I crave the foods I’ve given up?

        • MD

          I have to eat gluten free and dairy free. When I moved to Chicago, I moved in with one of my best friends who has superior digestion skills. As a result, my binges are worse now because I’m binging on things I definitely shouldn’t be eating. When I was living alone, at least I was binging on GF and DF and low sugar things I had made. It’s best I not have gluteny and dairy delicious things at home but, I can’t impose that on my roommates. It’s not fair to them. I think it’ll get harder for you once those major life even occur but, hopefully your partner will be supportive and be cool with not having these things in the house.

    • Elle Bee

      Wow! I really admire your honest, candor and openness. I can relate to a lot of what you are saying because I’ve struggled with it too but, when you say anorexic, I hope you don’t actually want to be anorexic. You’d be trading in one form of disorder for another and endangering your health a lot more. Be careful because anorexics and bulimics are more susceptible to major heart problems and cardiac arrests because of the strain they put on their bodies, especially those who lose a lot of weight really quickly. I’m glad you’ll be seeing a therapist. I’d also like to suggest maybe checking out OA (Overeaters Annonymous). Having a place to be candid about my binge eating struggles and hear from others had helped me. There’s no commitment to go on a regular basis or anything… but it’s worth checking out. Just google them, and you’ll be directed to the website where you can find a meeting close to you.

      • MD

        Thanks! Never thought of going to an OA meeting but it would be helpful, I think. I don’t want to do individual and group therapy (because of the cost). So doing individual therapy in combination with OA sounds like a really good idea.

        I don’t actually want to be anorexic again because I was miserable but, I want that will power back. Even when I was anorexic I wasn’t skinny. I was 6ft tall and 160 pounds. My ribs did stick out but I still had a little tummy and hips and fat arms and it drove me NUTS. I don’t want to go through that again. When it comes to the willpower I had, I just want some of it back. I don’t want to say no to everything but I want to say no and mean it and stick to it. It seems like each time I have a flare up, it’s harder and harder to say no and I come up with new ways to rationalize my bullsh*t, you know? I’m tired of the cycle but I can’t seem to stop it on my own.

        The day I read this post and commented on it, I had been feeling like binging all day. I was hoping that by reading this and commenting on it, I would be able to stop myself but I couldn’t. I sat here, all day, thinking about what I have at home and/or what I could order. And to top it off, I had some beers which means I had even less self control. I should probably stop drinking because I do stupid things, but most of me doesn’t want to stop. Alcoholism runs in my family so I know I have to becareful and I know I have an addictive personality which is why I think I need to see someone that specializes in addictions. For me, I think binging is the same as drinking too much or liking sex too much. I think I just swap one “addiction” for another depending on convenience.

    • Recoverytastesgood

      I can relate. I’m in recovery from binge eating disorder as well. I attended a treatment program about 2 years ago and fortunately, I’m on the up and up with recovery. But, I will say that when ignorant people say “Just diet to lose weight” or “If you exercise, you’ll lose weight” I have to remind that that binge eating usually has nothing to do with food. I’ve noticed, through the help of therapy, that I have similar patterns in how I use my credit cards/handle finances and how I organized/not organized my home.

      Please please don’t give up on yourself. You can do it. Find an Eating Disorder therapist; that will help. They understand that it is more about control and less about food. Keep us posted!

  • Elle Bee

    Hi Cece! I can totally relate to what you are saying here. Just some things that have worked for me to curb binging tendencies:

    1) Drink 2 glasses of water before you reach for an unplanned meal. Lots of times, I mistake thirst for hunger and will end up inhaling food that looks inviting. Drinking the water not only satiates thirst (if it is that) but it forces me to stop and think about whether I’m really hungry or not and, if I am, make a good choice about what to eat.
    2) Chew gum while you cook. Or even before going into the fridge. I know you’ve probably heard it before but it works for me. You’re less likely to take a bit of this and that if your mouth is already full of something. For me, I can’t do just a stick of chewing gum; I either double up the chewing gum or chew a piece/block of bubble gum. That way, there is actual flavor I’m working with and it’ll be enough to make bubbles. If I’m distract myself with a little game to make bigger bubbles or this-and-that-shaped bubbles, then I’ll be less likely to reach for a snack and can concentrate on the food I am preparing. Sometimes, that’s enough to distract me from eating all together – which isn’t always great if I’m actually due for a healthy meal. LOL!

    Anyway, I hope either of those tips are helpful to you.

    • Anonymous

      GUM… BRILLIANT!!!! I’ve never heard of/thought of that, thank so much :-D

  • Haskettedu

    Ugh, I have to brush my teeth or suck on a hard candy. If I brush my teeth it tastes like mint and I don’t want to eat.

  • Mari

    I think brushing my teeth is the best way to stop it. But sometimes it doesn’t help at all.

    BTw, I just got home from a bar, after lots of drinks and ate all the left over from the last 2 days. I feel bad.

  • Mona

    Binge eating is my biggest problem, but happen especially when im around pre-packaged foods for some strange reason. I didn’t even realize it was a problem until the day my box of nutri system food came. It all started off so innocently – one snack bar and then 5 mins went by and I had to have another and within half an hour I had eaten an entire months supply of bars, chips, and desserts.

    From time to time, I also go on these frozen food benders. The grocery store will have these 6 for 12 dollar sales on frozen meals and I can never just have one. I always feel like im missing out on what the other choices taste like and then pretty soon there are 8 containers of healthy choice steamers in the garbage can. My 6 and then 2 that I ate beloning to my roommate.

    The way I kinda dealt with it, was giving myself no easy way to binge. Binges happened when the food was easily accessible. So i tried to deal with it by making only enough for that meal for that day with no leftovers – or bought only one of something I needed even if it was a good sale. It hasn’t worked to help me lose a lot of weight, but I found success in that I didn’t gain any extra weight.

    BTW, I just discovered TBGB and have really enjoyed reading ever blog post!!

  • Vanessa

    I tend to do binge eating at night, when I haven’t eaten enough in the evening because I was at work and was very busy. I notice that if I let myself get REALLY hungry, as soon as I’m in presence of food, I eaat way more than what I intended to do. So I try to eat regularly, bring myself a satisfying healthy lunch at work, not skip meals or not eat later than supposed to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000610237684 Karen Mirabilis

    I think that I told you that I lost a lot of weight and although that was years ago I still struggle with binge eating constantly. I’ve thought so much about why because in general I can muster up all of the willpower that I need but something in me still wants that overly full feeling even if it makes me sick. I’ve (mostly) stopped because once I started charting calories it was so easy to see that one binge meant starving myself for a week to make up for it but the urge to do it hasn’t lessened at all. I’m sure that it’s different for everyone but even after 100+ pounds nothing inside my head has changed in terms of my relationship to food and it’s still a daily struggle. My stomach can’t hold as much but my brain is convinced that it can.

  • http://www.eccentricleopard.com/ Tera

    I have found that the only way to combat this kind of behavior is to not keep any junk food in the house. It is NOT easy to do, but if it isn’t there, I can’t eat it. The other thing I do is to make sure that I have time when I go to the grocery store to come home and prep food. I cut up fruit into small portions that are easy to grab, wash fruit, prep salads (I put everything for the salad that won’t get mushy in together so that I can literally just grab a handful of salad, add some pretzels for crunch, and dressing and I’m good to go), etc. to make it so that it is easier for me to eat healthy stuff than to go out and buy something that isn’t healthy. Basically, I do everything I can to make it so the healthier options are easy, and the not healthy options are not, and those healthier foods are more filling, so I don’t binge. I hope that helps!

  • Mpls Mixedchick

    I never realized that I was binge eating until I just read this. I always wondered how come I can’t seem to lose weight because I don’t eat a lot. After reading this I’m starting to get it. Now I just have to make steps to change it.

    • sarah

      This is a ahhhaa moment for me as well. I never realized it either tell right now. I don’t know what im going to do but I need to do something

  • Shannon

    I’ve just stumbled upon your blog because I was looking for a solution for chub-rub (I went right out and bought the cream you mentioned). It’s ironic I saw this because I have a MAJOR issue with binge eating. It’s been an issue my whole life but lately it’s been out of control. One way I am working on stopping it is by starting my own blog actually! Being honest and writing about it it makes me more aware of it. Also, I try and keep myself busy as much as possible. Lately, I’ve been trying to tackle projects around the house I’ve been putting off. I also have certain rules for myself. I am only allowed to eat in the kitchen (not in front of the TV) and if I feel the whole binge need coming on I drink some water or a cup of tea then find something else to do. Sometimes I actually leave the house. Today I went to Target just to get out for a bit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=918849 Amanda Villegas

    Hi Cece, I completely know where you’re coming from. I have the same tendencies and it is very difficult to stop. The day I really recognized it I was in the MIDDLE of making a sandwich after I’d already had dinner and I was telling myself not to keep making the sandwich but I felt completely powerless to stop. I think it comes down to emotions for me if I’m dealing with something that I dont want to face or I am bored I will fill the void with whatever is around. I try to liken it to Alcoholism or drug abuse but the problem with food is that you cant just cut it out of your life like you could with other vices. You can quit drinking and go to AA but you arent going to come home and be required to have a glass of wine.

    Recognition of the problem, therapy, patience and lots of water. Best thing is to try to figure out what triggers a binge whether it means a bad day at the office, or there just happened to be leftovers lying around.

    Good luck and support is here!

    -Curvalicious Diva
    http://www.curvaliciousdva.blogspot.com

  • Jessi Love

    I have been a binge eater for a long time, It took me until this past year to realize it… I haven’t had much sucess controlling it and it pretty much dictates my life. It’s almost like an addiction… It’s the craziest thing ever.

    I’ve always been a big girl, and I’m pretty sure this is why. I can eat up to 3000 calories in one sitting, it’s really bad.

    I want to loose weight so desperately but I haven’t figured out how to stop this from happening. :/

    I will even mentally scream and yell “DON’T EAT THAT!!” “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” and still i’ll continue to eat.

    It’s crazy to see someone else say they’ve experienced something like this, and I hope you can find your way out of these habits, because I haven’t been able to yet :/

  • http://tastydiet.wordpress.com/ Danielle

    Hi CeCe,

    I found your blog through your Instagram account. I think both are great! I’ve lost 40 lbs and kept it off for more than 2 years. I never thought of what I did in the past as binging, but I guess it was. These days, I don’t binge the same quantities of food as I did in the past, but excessive emotional eating is still a challenge.

    I want to lose another 15, 20 lbs. (which will put me in the 170s), but I’ve been taking time out over the past year to really examine the connection between my emotions and my eating. For me, trying to understand the “why” behind the eating that’s hard to control is important, as well as reframing for myself why I want to refrain from overeating. Sometimes it works better than others, but anytime I can stop myself from a situation where eating feels my eating is on autopilot, I feel like it’s an instance when I’ve learned something about myself. (Journaling and reading books about cultivating awareness and staying in the present, as well as books about self-compassion, have helped tremendously.)

    The other thing I’ve been thinking about lately is pleasure. I realize that eating has been about pleasure for me–the dining experience, but more significantly, I’ve convinced myself that eating certain foods or a lot of a food brings an immediate sense of contentment when I need it most. I’ve been asking myself why eating has been my go-to source of pleasure, what other things in life give me that same kind of pleasure, and how I can get myself to seek out other, less-damaging forms of pleasure as the default.

    A lot of my eating issues stem from wanting to soften the criticism I throw at myself for a lot of reasons, so a transformation of my thought life is necessary.

  • Caro

    Guilty. And I did it quickly – probably because I didn’t want my mind to ‘catch up’ with what the rest of me was doing! Of course my mind was also propelling that sugar into my mouth via my hand :P So, after years of research and reading, and now making a serious stab at Paleo, and when I feel the need, I’m binging on stuff that tastes awesome but won’t sabotage my efforts. My go-to binge food: bacon. Yes, you read that correctly. No, saturated fat from animal sources is not bad for you (best option is grass-fed animals). It’s actually good for you (see Gary Taubes books: Why We Get Fat, or the longer version: Good Calories Bad Calories, or one of his videos summing everything up http://journal.crossfit.com/2011/12/garytaubescondensed.tpl though I recommend the books as they are extremely enlightening and hopefully available at the library!).

    I’ve also noticed that by not eating wheat (hugely addictive and messes with too many processes in your body to name here..read Wheat Belly, also a major eye-opener), and recently, really cutting down on all grains in general, I don’t have these episodes much anymore. Like, I open the Waitrose mint chocolate crisps (ingredients all ok except the small amount of soy, but whatever), and I eat a few, but not the whole box. I used to not be able to save food like that til the next day, let alone the day after that. I could never stop myself from eating the whole damn bag / box / whatever. And I’m having my period! I’m avoiding a ridiculous amount of chocolate while having my period! And I love mint and chocolate!! Unheard of. In fact, it’s not even like I feel like I need to binge on bacon all the time in order to keep this up. I just bust out the bacon when I’ve eaten and I’m still itching for something.

    Today I watched my friend enjoy a bacon-banana PILE of French toast. I had salad, a spinach-mint-apple-mango smoothie (probably too much fructose for my liver all at once but of course I’m gonna have that freaking delicious smoothie when I’m at that restaurant!) and 2 pork sausages. I also ate some of his bacon. I didn’t even care about the French toast. It’s glorious. It’s like I can make actual decisions about food for the first time in my life instead of feeling an uncontrollable craving.

    I apologize if you were already aware of these things. I’m a new reader and really enjoying the site!

  • Caro

    Aww man, when I read the comments I really want to strangle the people who told us overeating was an emotional disorder! The fact is your body is telling your brain it’s starving because it can’t use the energy stored in the fat cells. Please check out the work of Gary Taubes! He has dissected the history of nutrition studies and politics behind our government nutrition guidelines. We’re not being told the truth. Being fat is NOT your fault. Nor is the urge to “overeat”. It’s not even true that you’re fat because you don’t exercise enough (in fact, if you read 4 Hour Body you will never want to exercise for a long chunk of time again). Being fat is your body’s reaction to the kinds of foods it’s being given, and everyone’s body is different, which is why some of us get fat while others remain slim, even when they eat the same things we do. And we’re being told to eat the a lot of the wrong things and to avoid a lot of the right things! Not to mention, wheat, specifically, has chemicals in it that bind to receptors in your brain that can make you want to eat uncontrollably (there’s a book all about the wheat monster, but the author also has a blog http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/). It ain’t science fiction.

  • Compulsive Eating

    To prevent overeating and weight gain, we first have to understand what drives us to eat. One should have small meals at regular intervals plus short exercise

  • binge eating

    Good
    going,keep it up.

  • Binge Eating

    Nice site, nice
    and easy on the eyes and great content too.

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