It can be hard to stop the voices in your head that are compelling you to eat. It's like an out-of-body experience as you feel your arm reaching for another snack, but you feel powerless in stopping it.
Throughout most of my life, I used food to cope with stress, anger and fear. I turned to food when I was most vulnerable and ate until I felt numb. Cereals, chips and other foods that I could grab by the handful were my weakness.
I've tried the philosophy of "just eat a bite and the craving will be satisfied," but when I want to binge, I'll eat the whole damn thing and probably another. My thoughts typically change to, "Well, you've eaten a piece, you might as well finish it." I eat the whole thing and my thoughts changed yet again, "Now, you should probably eat another."
When I tried to heal my bad days with food, I always felt worse. I knew a binge wasn't going to help me, and yet they kept happening.
As I cleaned up my diet, I knew I had to change this habit. I also knew these foods had to go. I replaced cereals with dried oats and chips with carrot sticks. I was less likely to binge on carrot sticks and other healthful foods. I had to limit what healthy treats I kept the house, and often times, I hid things in the freezer--out of sight and out of mind.
I also changed my way of thinking. I analyzed my feelings and as I would open with the refrigerator, I would ask myself, "Why do you want to eat?"
And because I only had good-for-me foods in the fridge and pantry, I didn't want to waste those tasty things on a binge. Slowly, it became easier to manage my feelings and my binges became less frequent.
There are still times that I struggle (mid-afternoon work stress is still a weakness), but I'm stronger now and more equipped with mental tools and better-for-me foods.
But there are strategies to put in place that can absolutely help break the cycle.
- Listen to your mind and analyze your thoughts and feelings. What is causing you to feel this way? Why are you stressed? Why will eating make it better?
- Drink a glass of water. Our bodies send the same signal when its hungry or thirsty. Before you reach for that comforting cookie, drink a glass of water and see if it helps.
- Get away from the fridge. When you want to emotionally eat, the kitchen is a dangerous place. Get out of the kitchen and maybe get as far away as you can.
- Find a hobby to occupy your mind. Whether it be crossword puzzles, needle point, running/walking, reading or cleaning the house, find a hobby to distract your thoughts away from the desire to eat.
- Get out of the house. If nothing seems like it's working, get out of the house. Hop in the car and go for a drive, or simply walk around the block. Clear your head for a few minutes and see how you feel.
- Write it out. Find a scrap of paper or a journal and write down exactly how you're feeling. Write about what caused the frustration.
- Start creating a plan. To better prepare yourself for the next binge, create a plan of action. Be ready and be mindful. Know how to analyze your thoughts and what you can do to make it better.
- Acknowledge you're having a bad day. It's ok to admit you're having a bad day, and it's ok to admit these feelings want to be soothed by food. Acknowledging that these moments happen is a huge step in ending them.