There was a time in my life when I binged on sugar compulsively and was extremely unhappy. It wasn’t even that I was overweight, my unhappiness stemmed from my negative thinking and the expectations I had of myself to be skinny and ‘fit’. My inner critic was loud and proud as it hissed scathing words at me in the mirror saying to me “You’re too fat,” or “You look gross” – there was never a positive word to be said.
I would binge obsessively and mindlessly eat more and more, only to experience an onslaught of self-loathing and despair at having done it in the first place.
I knew something had to change.
I wanted freedom from food and to feel at peace within myself.
Here are five habits that have helped me transform my relationship with food where today I am free from obsessive eating and instead have made peace with my plate.
5 habits to help free you from binge eating
1. Aim to eat three healthy meals a day
Before I made a conscious decision to stick to three meals a day I used to graze a lot. I would snack on food throughout the day. It felt like I was eating non-stop and I stopped being able to tell when I was hungry. Even though a lot of what I was eating was healthy, it was the action alone that used to disturb my thinking:
“How each of us thinks about eating is so profoundly relative that if a group of us were looking at the same plate of food, no two people would see the same thing, or metabolize it the same way.”
Marc David, Mind Over Food
When someone suggested to me to stick to three main meals a day and simplify my food intake it made a lot of sense. If I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner then I didn’t have to think about food in between.
2. Create a routine
David states that “What you think and feel about a food can be as important a determinant of its nutritional value and its effect on body weight as the actual nutrients themselves.” Have a routine around eating so that it becomes something you do mindfully.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness allows you to be more aware of our thoughts and your body. Dr. Susan Albers in her book Mindful Eating states:
“Mindful eating uses the ancient art of mindfulness, or being present, to help cope with modern eating problems.”
She explains that first and foremost mindful eating allows you to plug into your bodies cues so that you become aware of when to start and stop eating. Not only this, mindfulness allows you to better manage your emotions and this in turn can lead to a healthier eating habits as you are less likely to eat when experiencing difficult emotions. Lastly, rather than react to food-related thoughts that lead to overeating or compulsive eating you can respond to them by pausing, creating space and practicing self-compassion.
4. Cut out the food that triggers binging
“Food addiction is when a particular food or substance hijacks our normal brain chemistry response and literally takes over and compels us toward over-consumption of that food, consequently creating health problems and weight gain.”
As David outlines, foods such as sugar, fat and salt stimulate taste receptors and act as a trigger, increasing dopamine response chemicals and the reward centre leaving you wanting more.
“Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain’s reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.”
The answer is to cut out foods that trigger binging.
While initially this may seem like losing a friend, eventually you will discover so many other delicious and healthy recipes that don’t use sugar and you are being kind to yourself due to the healthy food choices you are making.
5. Focus on the healthy food you can eat rather than the foods you can’t
The internet is awash today with fad diets and weight loss programs. Make a conscious effort to focus on the healthy food you can eat. If you continue to focus on all the things that you can’t eat you are coming from a scarcity mindset.
What this means for people who are taking certain foods out of their diet is that if you continue to focus on what you don’t have your mind will continue to be preoccupied by thinking that is focused on the problem, rather than the solution. Instead, choose to focus on the nutritious food that doesn’t contain sugar (or whatever it is that triggers you).
If you have experienced something similar, or these words resonate with you, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Author’s note: This is my own personal experience and my intention is to share my experience and what helped free me from the binge eating cycle. When I was in serious emotional pain I also consulted a psychotherapist who helped me to overcome these challenges. This should not be construed as medical advice. If you suffer from chronic binge eating, an eating disorder, or disordered eating habits, please seek professional help.