Binge Eating? Take Control
We all have certain foods and situations where we can’t keep ourselves from eating a lot of whatever it might be and with great enjoyment. It might be a bowl of nuts, a bag of chips, or home baked cookies. How frequently we enjoy eating with abandon can be a set up for frustrating weight gain and a struggle to manage habits and health.
After spending a year mostly at home, people report binge eating has increased in response to stress and boredom. Now the scale is our reality check challenging us to make a shift in eating habits. As we come out from under the lockdown, we are waking up to realizing those extra pounds need to come off.
While bingeing on a favorite food can be a once-in-a while pleasure, it can be a serious issue when it happens as something we can’t control or stop. Overtime the consequence can be a struggle with significant weight gain followed by not being able to lose weight. Bingeing and weight gain struggles bring on feelings of guilt, distress, and frustration that can make bingeing even worse. Getting trapped in this cycle can develop into an eating disorder called binge eating disorder (BED). It is important to know that being overweight or even obese is not necessarily BED.
BED is serious. Negative feelings turn into messages we use to punish ourselves for being “bad” with food. Those feelings can lead us back to food for short-term comfort and coping. If this happens and you are trying to break the cycle, seek counseling from an eating disorder specialist. Be kind to yourself in the process of change. You are trying to do your best. You are a work in progress. Give yourself permission to not be perfect. It’s okay.
Contact the National Eating Disorders Association https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline for help.
Tool Kit: Take Control
If you feel ready to make changes, take time to do this mindful, honest self-assessment of your eating habits. This is the first step toward changing habits and planning a new approach to food. Writing or typing your answers is more powerful than just thinking about it.
- Are you eating to nourish your body, for joy and pleasure, or for emotional rewards?
- Do you eat to satisfy physical feelings of hunger or satisfy cravings?
- Are you “rewarding” yourself with food? List ways you can reward yourself that don’t involve food.
- List what you typically eat, but not as “good” or “bad” foods, but rather as “healthy” or “not so healthy.” Most of us eat the same things we like over and over so making a list isn’t too difficult. Include usual restaurant/fast food choices.
- What healthy foods would you like to add? By adding healthy food it’s easier to crowd out the not so healthy choices.
- What foods do you want to eliminate or eat less of? Foods we tend to binge on have three devilish ingredients: sugar, salt, and fat. These ingredients steal our health.
- When do you eat? Morning, afternoon, evening, late evening.
- What meals do you typically eat?
- Do you skip meals and “graze” through the day?
- Do you eat late at night?
- Do you eat when stressed or depressed?
- How much are you eating?
- Do you think your portion sizes are reasonable?
- Do you keep eating even when feeling full?
- Do you eat in secret or hide food?
- Where do you eat? For example: At the table, in front of the TV, in the car, standing in the kitchen, in a secret place by yourself. “Where” is surprisingly important because it can affect how much and what we eat. Respect your food by eating with mindful attention and purpose.
- Do you eat alone or with others? Eating with others can be a wonderful social moment. If you eat alone at home, practice setting a place to eat at the table.
Use your assessment to make an action plan for change. Be specific, make sure your steps are achievable and realistic.
Breakfast Tip: Steel Cut Oats
Steel Cut Oats: Oatmeal for breakfast is a great starter for a day on the go. True it takes about 30 minutes to cook steel cut oats, but it can be started the night before and finished off in 12 to 15 minutes in the morning. Follow package directions.
One serving: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of dry steel cut oats; stir. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover, but keep the lip a little loose so steam can escape. Otherwise, it could boil over and make a hair pulling mess! The oatmeal is ready when the water is absorbed. 1 serving: 140 calories. Garnish with nuts, sliced bananas, berries, fruit of your choice, milk, yogurt.
Enjoy a satisfying breakfast that’s a great source of fiber and helpful in reducing cholesterol, managing blood sugar, and improving bowel regularity.
Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator
Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.
On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.