How to Beat the Urge to Binge
In the strictest sense, the urge to binge is defined as an overwhelming desire to eat a large amount of food in a relatively short amount of time. Usually, to gain a “professional diagnoses” you typically must eat (multiple) thousands of calories in a single sitting. However, even if you are not struggling with an diagnosed eating disorder, you may be familiar with some of the disordered eating patterns around binge eating. Generally, a “binge” is characterized by a sense of loss of control, excessive food consumption, and is often followed by guilt, disappointment, and shame.
And just to be clear, you DO NOT have to have an eating disorder to experience such urges – nor does experiencing such urges indicate that you have an eating disorder.
Research (and life experience) has shown that restrictive dieting causes both animals and humans to experience strong urges to binge eat. These compulsions are powerful and difficult to resist. That’s why many of us fall face first into ice cream, cake, cookies, chips, bread and the like – in larger amounts than we intended.
This is how we end up in the yo-yo diet cycle.
Since food is an fundamental part of our lives, it’s not reasonable to expect us to just stay away from it, as it might be in the case of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or other addictive substances and behaviors.
Because food can’t be eliminated from our lives, our thinking, behavior, and habits around food are what must be changed.
So, how can we override our biology when it drives us to indulge in food that doesn’t serve our health and wellness goals? What will support us long-term in our intentions for our futures? And how can we make food choices that we won’t regret later?
Enter Your Brain
Actually, you already have the key to the problem within you. More specifically, inside your brain is a newly developed region called the neocortex. It is responsible for:
- Planning and moderating complex behavior (including social behavior)
- Goal setting
- Your expressions and personality
- Decision making
This is the part of you that doesn’t quickly lose control when exposed to the “binge” desires such as an urge to binge.
How to Use Your Brain to Resist a Binge
How can we use our brain when we want to make conscious food choices?
Follow these tips:
- Realize your urge is irrational. There is a significant difference between an urge to eat healthy food and an urge to eat sugary foods. If you are intermittent fasting and struggling with binge urges, make sure that you are breaking your fast first with nutrient dense foods, and supplementing and required.
- If you’re eating enough and still have desires to indulge in sugary foods, think of that urge or craving as “junk” or even “poison.” Educate yourself on the harmful affects that sugar has on your body. Realize that no food ever held a gun to your head – you do not have to give in.
- Distract yourself. What you focus on tends to grow. If you find yourself trying to fight those obsessive thoughts, they will increase in strength and number until they dominate your mindspace. What works better is to shift your focus to something more productive, self-care for example.
- Once you allow yourself to engage in a pleasant or meaningful activity, your brain will also be engaged, and that hold your urge has on you will lessen until it goes away entirely.
- Reach out to others. Food is often used for comfort and many of us choose to deal with our negative emotions by eating. To prevent this from happening, reach out to family, friends, or even strangers.
- In connecting with others, you’re activating the part of your brain that regulates social behavior. Once you do, your cravings will crumble, letting you get on with the rest of your day..
These tips are designed for those who have a relatively healthy relationship with food and experience occasional urges to binge. If you suffer from an eating disorder, you’ll find your best results in consulting professional support and recovery assistance.