Being an emotional overeater my entire life (got busted bingeing on cheese in the middle of the night when I was 2 years old…seriously), the title of this article triggers an immediate response in my brain that says “whatever…that is impossible…the author has no idea what it is like to be trapped in the world of disordered and out of control eating”.
So this article may piss a few people off, but I truly believe in what I am saying, and if it can help ONE person it’s worth it, so I’m going to continue…
I tend to complicate and over-think pretty much everything. And if I do, then I am sure there are others out there who do. For decades I complicated my disordered eating issues. I have been in and out of therapy for 20 years. If someone tried to simplify it for me, I blew them off…they OBVIOUSLY didn’t understand MY issues and the complexity of ME!
But as I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I have simplified many of the things in my life. Overeating is an addiction, an addiction to the way certain foods make us feel, just like alcohol to an alcoholic or drugs to a drug addict. Of course we can’t abstain from food…we NEED it to survive, but I guarantee, most of us are not triggered to overeat every single food. When I am anxious, I don’t dive head first into a bag of spinach, I don’t sneak a pound of broccoli into my car and park down the street to stuff it down my throat, I don’t pull a half-eaten watermelon out of the garbage to finish it after I was the one who put it there.
What I am trying to say is that we all have certain foods that “trigger” our binges, just like an alcoholic “can’t have one drink”. So to simplify the process of stopping the emotional overeating cycle, I have a 3 step process for you. NOTE: This is easier said than done, but it’s a step in the right direction…I PROMISE!
1. Identify AND WRITE DOWN the foods that trigger a binge. This may take some time, patience, and mess-ups to get a complete list. And this is going to be different for EVERYONE. Oh, and don’t talk yourself into believing it’s not a trigger food just because you don’t want to give it up. Be honest and frank with yourself. If you “can’t eat one serving” of something or if a certain food makes you want other foods that you overeat, it’s a trigger. I don’t typically binge on diet soda alone, but when I drink a diet soda, I want chips, and I can easily binge on chips. So diet soda is a trigger food for me.
2. Avoid ALL the foods on your list. Don’t buy them, don’t keep them in your house! I hear the excuse “but I have to keep it in my house for my husband/kids/guests/dog/etc. That is CRAP! If they HAVE to have that food, they can go out and get it when they need it. And again, most foods we binge on aren’t typically healthy choices anyway, so removing them from your home will help everyone involved. Don’t take someone to Dairy Queen if ice cream is a trigger for you. I guarantee your thought process of “I’m not going to get anything, I’m only going for my kids” will not hold up! Even when I am STUFFED from already eating and my husband asks me to drive thru Del Taco to grab him some tacos, I am coming out of there with 2 Jacked Up Burritos no cheese.
3. You WILL screw up. Knowing this in advance you can PLAN on how you will react when you do. No one is perfect. If it was TRULY this easy, we would have kicked this “silly” habit decades ago right?? Make a list of ways to treat yourself with love and compassion. Naps, baths, walks, hugs, journaling, whatever makes you feel loved and calm. Immediately after a binge, write down your trigger food (if it’s not already on the list…which I bet it is…no worries…you’ll remember next time), make a plan for what to do NEXT time you are in the same situation (maybe tell a friend you are out with to remind you at the end of the night you DON’T want Ding-Dongs from 7-11), and then do something nourishing and loving toward yourself. I know it’s super tempting to tell yourself what a loser you are, how weak/disgusting/fat/hopeless/etc you are, but trust me (and you know this) it does NO good and doesn’t ever help long term.
Last night I ate 7 donuts for dinner. Gross right? In the past I would have NEVER told anyone that. So embarrassing, so undisciplined, so unhealthy (I’m a health coach if you didn’t know). My husband and I were at the store getting food for dinner. Nothing sounded good, I had just had an emotional day and I was exhausted. He got sushi, I got donuts. I said “you’ll eat 6 right?” He said yes, we both knew he was lying. I wanted to hide them in a bag as I walked out of the store, but I forced myself to carry them out in the open for all the world to see my choice. We got home, I put 3 donuts on a plate and sat down and ate them like they were a meal. Then I did the same with 3 more. I put my plate up, walked to bed (grabbed one more on the way to bed…that one I was a little mad at myself for because it wasn’t in my “plan”), and laid down to watch a movie (my favorite nourishing, relaxing, comforting thing to do other than eat). I woke up this morning and ate breakfast right away (in the past I would have skipped to make up for the donuts) and got on with my day.
Even 5 years ago I would have never thought I could be this calm after what I did. PROGRESS FOR SURE!!! Although…I am super grateful my husband either took or hid the last 5 donuts! I can’t find them anywhere…PHEW!