Thank you to our guest blogger, Director and Founder of Metro Behavioral Health Associates (MBHA) Jennie Kramer, MSW, LCSW. Jennie has worked with individuals with eating disorders for over a decade and opened MBHA to offer comprehensive outpatient treatment for all forms of eating disorders along the spectrum. Most recently, Jennie Kramer and MBHA team member Marjorie Nolan Cohn penned “Overcoming Binge Eating for Dummies.” For more information, to connect with Jennie Kramer, and to purchase this book please refer to the end of the post.
The summer months can be rough if you have Binge Eating Disorder or a problem with chronic overeating. There are many reasons: Schedules are different in the summertime, especially for parents, students and teachers. You may have a busier social life, with lots of barbecues, parties and nights out – fun, yes, but also tempting and sometimes stressful. In addition, drinking alcohol can trigger binges. You may be taking a routine-disrupting vacation or seeing family, which for some people is an emotional minefield. And then there are the stressors associated with how you feel about the way your body looks in revealing summer styles, shorts, or bathing suits.
First and foremost, it is a good idea to make a point of preparing yourself for these potential traps. Spend some time planning on what you can do to reduce the likelihood that you will binge. Don’t put yourself on a strict diet, since restriction itself is associated with binge eating; plan to allow yourself reasonable-sized portions of the foods you love.
Other good ideas: Keep healthy foods in the house so you have good choices on hand when you are hungry. Ask loved ones to be a support by just listening or perhaps accompanying you while you take an afternoon to figure out what outfits look flattering. Consider splurging on a new bathing suit and wrap or cover up that make you feel good.
Even so, given the unique pressures of the season and the fact that relapses do happen, it is smart to have a plan for what you will do, if, despite your best intentions, you end up binge eating. It happens. Don’t beat yourself up … remember this is an addictive behavior and, as such, usually seems automatic, compulsory and involuntary. Be gentle here. It takes time to break free of these behaviors. Consider this an opportunity to learn from what happened so you can take steps to reduce the likelihood it will happen again.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Was your binge related to your eating patterns? There are nutritional and emotional factors that can trigger a binge. The three most common ones are hunger (you aren’t eating enough throughout the day); deprivation (you are not eating foods you enjoy) and/or hormonal or blood sugar imbalances.
- How long has it been since you last binged? Instead of berating yourself for your relapse, focus on the progress you have made, however large or small.
- What triggered your binge? Think about everything in the days and hours prior to your binge. Did something happen with a friend, family member, or colleague? Was there a shift in weather? Is there something about that day of the week or year that has significance to you? Were you feeling stressed about relationships, finances, or your health? Were you feeling deprived? Were you feeling pressured to look great or perform well at an upcoming social or work-related event?
- How was this binge different from previous ones? Look at how much you ate – usually (though not always) relapses can involve less food.
- Time-wise, was this binge similar or different to your usual pattern? You may find that you made improvements (for instance, stopping sooner than you used to) or you may notice something different about what set you off.
- How did you feel before you binged? If you had been pushing certain types of feelings away (frustration, sadness, etc.), the build-up of emotions may have been a key contributing factor.
Now that you understand yourself a little better, here are some easy tips that may help you prevent another binge or over-eating episode.
- If you feel tempted, ask yourself: Am I tired, hungry, or thirsty? It is common to confuse these three sensations and use food to try to solve fatigue or thirst. (It doesn’t work.) Take a moment to see what the physical need really is and attend to that first.
- Eat whatever you want. Don’t deprive yourself – eat the food that you are thinking about. Yes, you read that correctly! Eat slowly and be aware of every bite. Enjoy it fully. Focus on and savor the tastes, texture, and aroma of the experience. Diversity, not restriction, is the key – with eating, there is no being “good” or “bad”. Also, try eating all foods using a spoon or fork, even those you normally would not eat this way. Why? Doing so naturally makes you more mindful of the fact that you are eating and you will be less likely to eat handful after handful.
- To stave off a binge, simply take 15 minutes to journal or write about the question: What am I really hungry for? This is “emotional hunger” and it is about feelings, not food. Just write and write – whatever you are thinking, download it on to paper. Don’t edit, don’t worry about spelling. Then, once you are finished with this exercise, see if you still need to partake in the eating.
But even if you try all of that, there may still be times you end up doing the very thing you want not to do. When this happens, remind yourself to “be curious, not furious.”
Our book, “Overcoming Binge Eating for DUMMIES ©” offers more information on putting your binge eating days behind you. Good luck and have a great summer!
For more information about Oliver-Pyatt Centers and Embrace, the Binge Eating Recovery program at Oliver-Pyatt Centers, please contact admissions, subscribe to our blog, visit our website, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.