Hi, I am Amy Helms, a registered dietitian, therapist, certified intuitive eating counselor, and an eating disorder specialist. I know many people are struggling with binge eating while in quarantine because most of my clients have disclosed to me how this pandemic has added extra struggle to their already disordered eating habits. Since it has been an issue that has come up so many times within the past month, I wanted to write a blog post to give some free advice for those struggling. Disclaimer: this in no way takes the place of proper treatment. Disordered eating and eating disorders are very serious and if you resonate with either of the symptoms of disordered eating or binge-eating disorder, please seek the help you deserve and owe to yourself. However, this post can be an excellent starting point in the meantime.
Isolation Can Be Triggering
Isolation is triggering because you might not have the same accountability as you typically would if you were eating in front of people. Or you might be feeling extra scared and anxious being alone and you are finding comfort in food. Whatever your reason for binging is, the root cause goes way further than just the food, it is that this change in society is affecting your mental health and isolation is triggering negative self-harmful behaviors.
Keep Yourself Busy
If your problem is boredom snacking, try your best to keep yourself distracted and make a list of things you want to do the next day. Make the list filled with plenty of activities you are excited about. Going to bed with the plan helps you dictate the day from the moment you wake up, instead of letting the day dictate you. Consider a habit tracker app or use paper and pick some activities you want to implement into your life such as journaling, painting, or yoga and keep yourself more focused on those. You are more likely to binge if you are bored or just sitting around all day.
Make a list of five things that make you feel good. It can be anything from watching your favorite comedian, to journaling, to walking, to cleaning, or taking a nice warm shower. Before you feel the urge to binge, go through these five things. I assure that by the time you get through them all the urge to binge will disappear. This teaches your brain to cope with negative emotions with something other than food, and this is the ultimate goal.
The Importance of Eating Regularly
Try to eat regular meals that include food from all food groups. You will be much less likely to binge. I recommend three meals and three nutritious snacks a day. A balanced meal of adequate carbohydrates, fat, and protein. will not leave you wanting to binge later in the day. Many times, binging occurs when the body hasn’t obtained enough calories or nutrition throughout the day. If you haven’t had nutritionally dense meals, your body will crave more and more food until it gets what it needs.
Intuitive Eating – A Better Approach
Try to approach hunger cues neutrally throughout the day. Do not try to suppress them, just get back to basics: “Oh I am hungry, I should eat.” If you want seconds or desert, don’t deprive yourself. This is the exact mindset that leads to binging. If you tell your brain that it can’t have something, it puts your brain into a primal “I’m starving” mode. When your brain is in a position to think it is starving or not safe – it will outsmart you to get what it needs to survive. Honoring your hunger cues and eating regularly signifies to the brain that you are safe, and you can eat whenever you need to so there is no need to overeat. Intuitive eating also stresses never letting yourself get too hungry or too overly full. This will naturally discourage the need to binge because you are consistently feeling stable throughout the day
Join an online support group. We are living in difficult times, if you are struggling with binge eating disorder, or any disordered thoughts I am taking virtual clients right now because I want to help you use this time to navigate. I understand that any eating issues you previously had are significantly worse at the moment and I am here to help. I am a certified intuitive eating counselor who primarily works with eating disorders, so I know how to effectively and permanently get people out of the binge eating cycle. I am even offering more affordable care options at this time because I recognize how deeply some are struggling- here is the link to sign up!
Most importantly- be kind to yourself and give yourself grace during this time. Also, remember it is not permanent and we will all get through this time together.
Stay Safe & Healthy!