How To Stop Binge Eating

Written by Paul Dermody
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Food rules might work for a short time, if “work” is narrowly defined.
For any dietary approach to enhance our lives, it must cater for several aspects.

A minimum requirement must be that it does not make you worse physically, emotionally and psychologically, and yet that is what so many “dieters” report.

Rigid diets don’t just change our food choices. They change our lives (usually for the worse).

I’m going to give you two practices to aid you in breaking the diet-binge cycle and cultivate the joy in every kind of food.

Please, approach these carefully and with an open mind and heart.

 

1. Get a standard serving of food you typically avoid when on a diet. This might be a standard chocolate bar, a pizza slice, 1-2 cookies or a slice of cake.
2. Place the first bite in your mouth. Do it slowly. Pay attention to the taste and texture. What is it you like about the food? Is it the saltiness? The sweetness? The grease? The smell? Is it a childhood memory locked away somewhere? Eat your first bite. Rate the experience out of ten in your mind
3. Place the second and third bites in your mouth. Follow the same process as the previous step. Rate it out of ten.
4. With the fourth bite, pause and ask yourself if you want it. What is the appeal? Has the experience of pleasure dipped? Is the fourth bite the same out of ten as the first? What would push you to eat this piece, or to stop and put it away for later? There’s no right or wrong answer here. There is just your experience. If you choose to eat, do so with the same mindset as the previous steps.
5. Afterward, reflect on the experience. Did you learn anything? Did the process of slowing down change the experience?

Did Practice 1 offer new insights? Perhaps you learned how easy it is to eat high-calorie foods mindlessly. Perhaps you took your first step to see that abstaining is not the answer but mindful inclusion is.

My old client Lucy, whom I worked with for six months swore that lemon cheesecake was impossible to control.
I asked her to eat a slice every day for a week and report back with her experience.
She was shocked.
She had been expecting me to ask her to go cold turkey, just as many of the diets she had tried previously.
I suggested that food avoidance doesn’t protect us from the fear of food. It protects the fear itself.

She reported back as follows.
The first bite I was salivating at the mouth. It was a 10/10. On the second bite, I noticed it had gone a little stale and was actually a 7/10 and by the third bite, I didn’t want it anymore. It wasn’t worth the calories. I can’t believe it. Usually, I just eat the whole thing once I start.

She told me she threw it in the bin. She had convinced herself she hated to throw food out.
Yet she frequently threw out fruit and veg that were going off.
It provided an insight that no new diet was going to offer—an internal locus of control.

Practice 2:

1. Take a standard serving of your favourite high-calorie food, just like practice 1.
2. Break it into small servings or if you can’t, eat it in such a way whereby there are 6-8 bites.
3. Like practice 1, pay attention to the experience of the food.
4. This time, strive to stop when you have had “enough”.
5. You cannot get this one wrong, so whether you stop after bite 1, 3 or after the whole food, that is fine. The goal here is to begin establishing a sense of “enough”.

My client Niamh was permanently anxious about Christmas, birthdays and even weekends. As a social person, she always had something. I asked her to engage in Practice 2 for a month leading up to Easter. She was apprehensive, but she prevailed.
With Easter approaching, she was nervous. She had always consumed so much chocolate it sent her into a spiral for days during previous years. However, this time she messaged with her happiness. She couldn’t believe that after opening a chocolate Easter egg, she enjoyed a quarter before putting the rest back for later. She had never done this. She had established enough, through conscious practice.

When you don’t demonize foods on any given day, you won’t do so on special occasions either.

Incorporate these foods into your diet so that you can establish trust, eradicate fear and build a sense of enough.
When a familiar food-abundant situation comes around again, you feel calm, because the intense emotions around that food has shrunk with earned self-trust.
There is nothing to fear when there is no perception of a transgression.
Bringing these foods back into your nutrition is an important part of a well-balanced diet.

It might seem like banning foods is a good idea, but they don’t go away.
Having the option to have them unconditionally will restore calmness and centeredness.
There are no foods you should never eat, medical circumstances aside.
Since food will always be there, we can strive to work with it, not against it.

Much mainstream diet advice doesn’t engage with our true motivations for eating as humans.
You hear arguments about which named diet is best.
This is redundant.
Once you meet a certain baseline of micronutrients and protein, you can enjoy a flexible and varied diet without overthinking.
Stressing over perfection is probably worse for your health than the so-called ingredient you should avoid.

It’s common for clients to feel they are out of the woods after a few productive days or weeks only to be tempted to hit the eff-it button again. If this happens do not write this off as bad. See it as a challenge you were always going to face. Use this as an opportunity to choose your next reaction. Decide to return to the normal structure. Gift yourself the luxury of seeing an ‘error’ is not the catastrophe you automatically assume it is. This is progress.

My client Sinead, by her own admission, was a frequent user of the eff-it button. She had fixed beliefs about what eating had to be. Like many, she had lost her sense of intuition.
During our time working together, she lost 42 lbs (in part due to these techniques).
Her approach changed when she told me the following:
I used to have strict, inflexible diet strategies, which I obviously couldn’t sustain. I wasn’t even aware the eff-it button was a thing until I started listening to your podcast. The biggest thing I’ve taken from this process is breaking the cycle of one slip turning into a day, then a week, then a month and the pain that it brings. Now once a decision is made, I simply move on.”

 

Be patient with these practices. It might conflict with what you have heard from typical named diets, but I promise you there is nothing to be afraid of.
It might feel like you are taking a step back, but arguably you are preparing yourself for some very crucial steps forward.

Thanks for reading and much love and luck.

Get in touch with Paul today