The cycle of eating and feeling guilty can be incredibly debilitating and really lonely. Most women don’t talk to anyone about their experiences because it comes with such shame, women feel like they should be able to control it and it is their fault. Thoughts about food and body image can be a constant battle; for many women it is their first waking thought and the last thing they think about before they go to bed.
The truth is we live in a challenging world with many pressures that cause stress responses in our bodies. We are constantly judging ourselves and comparing ourselves to others. There is huge pressure from social media about what women should look like and with the demands of everyday life on top of that it just gets too much. On top of that we are surrounded by foods which are calorie rich and nutrient poor.
Most of us have some kind of conditioning related to our food, normally a relationship created in childhood that stays with us and brings us comfort. When we feel pressure in life, we will lean on our conditioned comforts to help bring us pleasure.
The important thing to know is you are not alone. Millions of women struggle with binge eating and it is absolutely possible to overcome. As a Female Empowerment Coach I have helped 100s of women break free from these patterns. Here are 10 things to help you recognise and overcome binge eating for good:
1. Understand Your Habit Loops
Our brain is designed with neural pathways that try to help us feel better. The model is first we have a thought, that thought is linked to a feeling, we then have an emotion connected to the feeling, and perform an action or behaviour based upon that feeling. This is called a Habit Loop.
If we become aware of this habit loop and bring it into your consciousness then we can start to change it. This plays out in our subconscious all of the time. For example, you may have had a really hard day at work and you come home feeling bad about the day. Your behaviour then is to have something to eat the moment you walk in the door.
We have these habits and if the action of eating has made us feel better in the past then our brain creates a hard-wired loop that says “I don’t want to feel sad” and the behaviour is to eat and try to make yourself feel better.
This loop plays out very often. Women stay stuck in this unconscious habit loop and become miserable that they are gaining weight and can’t seem to shake the habit of eating when they are upset.
The key is finding the trigger. Try giving yourself a new behaviour to make yourself feel better. For instance, try calling a friend on the phone, take a bath or a walk to try and relieve some of that stress. Slowly, you can start to replace the behaviour of binge eating with new behaviours that will trigger a happy response in your brain.
It’s also important that you celebrate your wins, the times you did not reach for food to lift your mood. This will help you to re-establish those neural pathways.
2. Stop Dieting
When we feel restricted and depriving ourselves of certain foods, we start to crave them. The idea of good and bad food is very damaging. Our brains will seek the foods that we are not allowed. Once we are told we are not allowed to have certain food items through dieting our brain focuses on that and creates cravings. Our brains will just keep thinking about these things that we are not allowed to have and will lead us to binge out of control.
Blood sugar balance is essential when it comes to managing cravings. We are much more prone to cravings when our blood sugar is low we release a hormone called leptin which tells us to eat. That is why you can’t stop thinking about food – it has nothing to do with your will power.
Instead of dieting, try to think about how you will nourish your body. Allow your brain to think about it in terms of a balance. Let yourself have foods that you can enjoy healthily and keep yourself full.
3. Eat Carbs!
The most important thing to understand is the different types of carbohydrates. The carbohydrate to stay away from is Sugar and Processed Foods. Eating complex carbohydrates provides your body with fiber. Fiber is something you need to keep yourself full throughout the day.
The biggest part of your diet should be things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. These types of foods will keep you full and stop your brain from releasing hormones that will cause you to think about food. This will decrease the likelihood that you go on a binge and stop you from looking for those foods that your brain might be telling you you want, but can’t have.
4. Eat Breakfast
When you wake up in the morning your blood sugar is extremely low because you haven’t eaten for 8 to 12 hours. Starting your day off correctly and eating a good, fibrous meal, like porridge oats; this will balance your blood sugar and your brain can properly produce the hormones it needs to function; giving you energy and keeping you full. This also prevents you from thinking about the wrong foods to eat. Your first meal of the day needs to be something that is going to give you a good amount of energy to start your day.
5. Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry
Eat throughout the day. Make sure you have healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables. Take things with you to work. Have it be easy to reach for that will fill you up significantly. This will also help you in the afternoon when you start to get tired. Reaching for a healthy snack will give you the energy you need to get through the rest of your day without eating something unhealthy.
6. Meal Planning
Sitting down on a Sunday to think about what meals you can eat for the week ahead. This includes what recipes you would like to cook, adding in what food you would enjoy eating and then creating a shopping list of everything you need for those recipes.
If you know that you have food at home that you are going to cook or is already made, you’re less likely to make a bad decision and eat out or grab for an unhealthy snack. Planning ahead and having lunches that you’ve prepared for work that week, and are easy to grab, will help you to continue on your journey of eating healthy and stop binge eating.
7. Stay Hydrated
When we are thirsty we release the same hormones we would when we are feeling hungry. Drinking around 2 litres of water a day is going to keep those signals from being sent by our brain to our stomach telling us we are hungry, when the problem may really only be that you’re thirsty.
8. Get Enough Sleep
If we’re tired we release a hormone in our brain called Ghrelin. This causes us to look for food to give our bodies energy. Our body is incredibly complex and is constantly looking to make you feel good and give it what it needs. If we are tired, our body will be looking for something to provide it with the energy it needs. Most of the time we reach for something that isn’t necessarily a healthy choice. So making sure you’re getting a full 8 hours worth of sleep is another trick to keeping your binge eating at bay.
9. Talk About It
So many women are going through the same thing you are. It’s important that we share our struggles. It’s very reassuring to talk through your troubles with friends and family. It’s at this point in time we realize we are not alone. Get the support you need from the people around to ensure you are making positive changes in your eating habits.
10. Talking Therapy
If talking to your family and friends helps, but maybe it isn’t quite enough, there may be some underlying emotions there that you need to heal from. This can also help you set goals and create some accountability so you are actively trying to move forward and overcoming those predisposed habits you have formed.
If you are looking for a great way to stop binge eating and lose weight without ever dieting, schedule a call with me here. We will work through different ways to nourish your body and change your mindset around eating.