Binge eating is a reasonably common problem, at the milder end of the continuum it leads to weight gain, low mood and anxiety, at the more severe end it is a symptom of an eating disorder (e.g. Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder or Anorexia Nervosa binge-purge subtype).
If you are binge eating between 2-3 times per month then the strategies below should help you to eliminate episodes.
If your binge eating presents a more severe problem (i.e. occurring 2 or more times per week), the strategies will help you to reduce the frequency of episodes but you may need to seek professional help from a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist as you are likely to be suffering from a diagnosable eating disorder.
1. Follow a regular and balanced eating plan
One of the main triggers for a binge is hunger, therefore ensuring that your blood sugar remains stable throughout the day is key in protecting you against episodes.
The most effective way of doing this is to eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks evenly spread throughout the day. These meals and snacks should consist of a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. The Department of Health’s ‘Eat Well Plate’ shows the different good groups that we should incorporate into each meals and the proportions we should eat them in.
2. Limit alcohol
Alcohol diminishes our impulse control and our blood sugar both of which increase our vulnerability to binge eating. Therefore if you are trying to stop binge eating do not drink more than 1-2 units of alcohol at any one time and make sure that you eat something appropriate before or with your alcoholic beverage.
3. Manage Your Mood
Another key trigger for binge eating is mood; research has shown that feeling angry, depressed, lonely or anxious can place you at an increased risk of binge eating.
If you find yourself struggling with these emotions try to under cover the source of your distress by focusing on the thoughts that precede it. You may need to seek help from a therapist to do this.
4. Build Self Esteem and Confidence
Research has shown that people who binge eat have lower self esteem and confidence than those who don’t, suggesting that a belief that you are in some way not good enough may contribute to a problem with binge eating.
Building self esteem can be a long and complex process for which you may need support from a Clinical or Counselling Psychologist however, a good start is to start keeping a daily log of your successes and achievements and review this at the end of each week to counteract self criticism and encourage self acceptance.