If you have a tendency to binge eat, it’s likely you “binge” in other areas of your life.
We live in a binge culture. We constantly work and become workaholics. We are bombarded with advertisements that create voids to be filled, which creates shopaholics. We’re stressed to the max and need to release, and so some of us are alcoholics. We binge drink, we go on shopping binges, we binge watch Netflix — and of course, we binge eat.
The thing is, all of these other binge behaviors, to one degree or another, are celebrated. Spending an entire Saturday watching Stranger Things makes bonds you with other people who are “addicted” to that show. Working an 80-hour week means you probably make a ton of money and get to drive a Porsche. And maxing out your credit card at Neiman Marcus means you are super stylish or a trendsetter. And even though no one would say that binge drinking is a good thing, it too is sometimes celebrated . . . or at least joked about (how many cocktail napkins do you have that make fun of getting hammered?).
What isn’t celebrated, however, is binge eating. It’s shameful not be able to control your eating. Unfortunately, our two-for-one, all-you-can eat, supersize-it society makes it really easy to lose control.
Not only that, because overeating is universally frowned upon, evidence of it is unacceptable. This is why you feel desperate to lose weight and why you keep crash dieting to get rid of it.
But the excess weight isn’t the problem. The way you eat is — and this is what you want to change.
I’ve written about how changing what you eat isn’t nearly as important as changing the way that you eat it. And something that will help you do this is to modify your other bingeing behaviors, because these changes will spill over into your binge eating behaviors. But you probably haven’t considered this as a tactic, because those behaviors aren’t reviled the way binge eating is.
However, if you modify your all-or-nothing behaviors in other areas, it will help tame the binge beast that tries to take over. The more you practice slowing down overall, the easier it will be to practice moderation when you’re eating.
Here are three ways to help you do this:
Do one small thing. It’s easy to do one small thing rather than to make huge, sweeping changes. And doing this consistently gives you momentum and helps you see things differently. Watch one fewer Netflix episode. Turn off your cell phone for 30 minutes a day. Limit yourself to five Amazon purchases a week.
You’ll find that these small changes are easy to make — and the bonus is that you gain so much more by making them. For example, unplugging for a little while not only reduces your screen time, it means you spend that time bonding with your children. And not going crazy on Amazon means you not only have more money in your bank account, you end up with less clutter in your house.
In the same way, you’ll find that making a small change to your eating habits is a lot easier than overhauling your whole diet — plus it results in unexpected and more powerful benefits than just calories cut or fat grams avoided. Passing on the dessert makes you crave sugar less, and substituting a side salad for French fries helps you keep incorporating more greens into your diet.
Change what you say. Words are extremely powerful and have much more of an effect than you think. They influence your subconscious mind to act in ways consistent with what you say and the force with which you say it. They also create an identity you don’t want — one of a person not in control of herself or of her actions.
Saying “I’ve got to have _____,” “I just can’t stop eating _____,” or “I’m obsessed with _____” (fill in the foods) is the opposite of empowering and keeps you stuck. So instead of “I’m obsessed with,” try “I really enjoy.” Or turn “I’ve got to have that” into “I could have that.”
We think we’re being funny when we say these things, but it’s no joke. When your language supports bingeing, that is what you will do.
Make it a choice. What we usually do is set foods up as forbidden, try not to eat them, and then give in to the urge we’ve created with all that resistance. Then we rake ourselves over the coals for having no willpower.
But what if you give yourself the option? If you create a situation where you get to make a choice, even if you make the wrong one, at least you did it consciously. And you do this by not making foods off limits, by not constantly restricting yourself.
When you stop trying not to eat certain things, food is no longer scary and has no power over you. Ironically, giving yourself the freedom to eat whatever you want helps you naturally eat less. That’s because there’s no resistance, which you have trained yourself to neutralize with food if you’re an emotional eater.
When you give yourself the option to choose, you stay in control and get to make conscious decisions about what to eat. And when you do choose to eat something less than healthy, you won’t be so hard on yourself when you do.
Extreme behaviors create imbalance, which has to be righted — usually in the form of an opposing binge. But modifying all of your all-or-nothing behaviors makes you feel in control. And the more control you have over your life, the more peaceful you’ll feel, which takes away the urge to binge — on anything.
Then, instead of wasting your life trying to constantly eliminate what you don’t want, you’ll have more time and energy to create all the things you do.