Of all the eating disorders out there, binge eating disorder (or BED, for short) is the most common. It’s also among the most difficult to overcome, so if you’re currently struggling with it yourself, you’re likely already aware. BED is characterized by repeated episodes during which the sufferer consumes large amounts of food. The person often also feels out of control during the episode and ashamed or guilty afterward.
Over time, binge eating disorder can do serious damage to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It can lead to obesity, drastically increasing your chances of developing conditions like type-2 diabetes and heart disease. It can chip away at your self-esteem and exacerbate depression or anxiety, as well. But it’s important to understand that you can overcome BED with the right lifestyle strategies. Here’s a look at where to start.
Consume plenty of fiber.
Not all foods are created equally when it comes to feeling full. The unprocessed foods that are best for your body also happen to be the ones that help you feel more satisfied, as they’re higher in dietary fiber. Fiber moves through your digestive system relatively slowly, which can cut down on cravings by helping you feel better satiated for longer.
The vast majority of fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, as are many whole grains. Think bananas, apples, blueberries, Brussel sprouts, leafy greens, and chickpeas or other legumes. Include foods like these in every meal, and reach for them more often when it’s time for a snack.
Reject diet culture and avoid restriction.
If you’ve been struggling with your weight or with a tendency to binge eat in the first place, crash dieting and extreme discipline probably seem like the answers you’re looking for. However, they’re actually highly counterproductive to what you’re trying to accomplish. Staying away from entire food groups that your body needs to function properly or swearing off your favorite foods isn’t sustainable over the long haul. Your cravings will get stronger and more frequent, likely leading to larger binges.
Avoid toxic diet culture that encourages extreme restriction, supports thinking of certain foods as “bad”, or encourages you to avoid foods you like entirely. Generally speaking, it’s much better to allow yourself reasonable portions of your favorite things than it is to force yourself to give them up for good or suffer through meals you don’t like. You’ll be less likely to overdo it if you unlearn the idea that some foods should be forbidden at all costs.
Cut back on stress as much as possible.
As with many types of compulsive behavior, binge eating is frequently triggered by high stress levels. That said, the lower you can keep yours, the less likely you are to find yourself caught up in future binge eating episodes. Of course, some forms of stress – like challenging family situations or ongoing financial problems – may be difficult to impossible to eliminate altogether.
That’s when it can be helpful to develop better, more effective methods of coping with stress. If you haven’t already done so, make exercise a more significant part of your life. Studies show that aerobic activity of all types can drastically reduce stress and its effects. So can activities that promote mindfulness, like meditation and journaling.
Adopt a mindful approach to eating.
The key to beating binge eating for good isn’t forcing yourself to adhere to extreme diet and exercise programs through sheer force of will. All that does is keep you captive on the yo-yo dieting roller coaster, potentially for the rest of your life. Instead, it’s to get off the roller coaster entirely by embracing mindful eating.
Mindful eating means rejecting extreme ideas about “good” versus “bad” foods in favor of building healthy, sustainable habits instead. It’s about building a better relationship with your body, learning to identify triggers, and making good use of helpful resources that help take the guesswork out of the equation. (Platforms like GoEatRightNow.com are great examples.)
Although BED can make you feel out of control, it’s important to remember that you’re ultimately the one in the driver’s seat. With the right approach and support in your corner, you can conquer binge eating for good and get your life back. Get started today!