What do I know about how you can stop binge eating? Well, I once at an entire 1/2 gallon of cookies and cream ice cream in one sitting. For real. It only happened once, but there was a time in my life when episodes like this (though maybe not quite so bad) were not uncommon. In fact, it happened once or twice every week. Yep. Every week.
It’s not something I ever talked about much. After all, what girl in her right mind would brag about downing almost 2,000 calories of ice cream all by herself… all at once?
Nope, this is the kind of behavior that gets swept neatly under the rug where no one else can see it. For all the general public knew, I was a salad-loving, tofu-eating health nut. I wouldn’t dare let on that every day I dreamed about all the food I shouldn’t be eating. And at the end of the week, I would helplessly succumb to four slices of bacon pizza with extra cheese, followed by a generous slice (…or two) of cheesecake with raspberry sauce.
For a long time I thought something was seriously wrong with me. After all, normal people didn’t do this. So I’ve never really talked about all those binge eating episodes until now. Maybe it’s easier to talk it about now that I figured out how to stop binge eating… and the funny part is, finding that answer was sort of a happy accident.
How I Learned to Stop Binge Eating
As far as I was concerned, I had no power to prevent binge eating. In those moments when my stomach felt like a bottomless pit (even when I technically felt full), willpower wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. And I didn’t learn to stop binge eating by getting more willpower, believe me.
I also didn’t do it by distracting myself (Hungry? Go paint your fingernails! Then you can’t eat the cookies because your nails will be wet. Yeah, well, tell that to the cookie crumbs lacquered into my Pink Flamengo nail polish…).
Nor did I learn to stop binge eating by instead eating a piece of fruit or cheese or a raw carrot or whatever. If I wanted to binge on brownies, a carrot wasn’t going to stop me. Best case scenario? I end up eating the carrot and then the brownies. There was never once an occurrence when I ate the carrot instead of the brownies.
To be truthful, binge eating was the least of my problems a few years ago. I had acne worse than I did as a teenager. I had crazy (i.e. scary) mood swings, I couldn’t handle stress worth a hoot, and I had insomnia that left me crippled with zombie-like fatigue during the day. There came a point when I decided enough was enough. I needed some serious health intervention and I needed it yesterday.
That’s when I changed my approach to getting healthy. I bucked against mainstream advice (because all that salad and tofu didn’t seem to be helping much). And in exploring alternative ideas to what constitutes “healthy” I also flushed out the source of my binges.
My Secret to Stop Binge Eating
Okay, so you want to know my weird secret to stop binge eating? Eat!
You know, like, mostly real food and enough to sustain your body and your activities. And don’t exercise more than you can support with good food and good sleep. That’s just way too simple, right?
Since back in my binge eating days, I’ve learned that the biggest key to health is… balance. I know, it’s not as exciting as an ancient berry from South America, but it’s the real thing. I also learned that when I jumped to extremes, my health (mental and physical) suffered for it. And I learned to listen to my body, because not everything they say is “healthy” was the right choice for me.
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So I quit dieting and overexercising. I quit restricting food groups and going on restrictive diets. I quit labeling food (and by extension myself) as good or bad. And I quit working out to “work off” last night’s fettuccine alfredo.
All this did not happen overnight. It was a slow (sometimes painful) dance of two steps forward and one step back. But eventually I was able to strike a pretty comfortable balance of eating well, enjoying a wide variety of foods in moderation, and being active in a way I really enjoy (and not overdoing it). I knew I was on the right track, because I experienced a lot of health benefits in the process.
And something else happened during this time. Without even trying–without even thinking about it–I stopped binge eating. It didn’t happen all at once, either. At first, my binge eating episodes just occurred less frequently (like maybe 3-4 times per month instead of twice a week). Then a few weeks would go by without a real binge. Then a couple of months. Pretty soon my all-out binges were few and far between. Now? I can’t even remember the last time I really binged on something. It’s been that long.
Why? Because I was finally listening to my body and giving it what it needed: plenty of quality food, good rest, and the right amount of exercise. I found my balance.
I really like the motto of Amber Rogers from Go Kaleo: “Eat the food.” I find it funny that the more I tried to control and restrict my eating, the more often I would end up binge eating and feeling out of control. And the more I paid attention and ate what my body needed to thrive (when it comes to both nutrients and energy), the more binge eating became a thing of the past for me.
Binge vs. Splurge
I want to make an important note here: eating a bowl of ice cream (even a big one) is not a binge. Nor is eating a couple pieces of pizza. These are splurges, not binges. Splurges are totally normal and can be part of eating healthy. I still splurge on a hefty slice of cake or a couple slices of bacon pizza sometimes. (I just don’t eat the whole pizza or cake anymore.)
So remember not to sweat the small stuff and just enjoy your food!
Like this article? Have something to add? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
You can also read more about how I learned to eat and exercise in a way that nourished my metabolism (without stressing about it!) in my book The Nourished Metabolism. No gimmicks or magic pills, just a balanced perspective on how you can improve your metabolic health with simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Click here to check it out.