The struggle to control your impulsive overeating, or binge eating, may be particularly challenging, but if you understand the problem you can find your solution.
Okay, honestly, how many times have you found yourself covered in the salty dust of your chips, looking down into an empty packet and wondering: “What just happened?” Did you ever find yourself in a McDonald’s drive-thru ordering a meal but suddenly recalling that you are on your way home to have dinner? Have you entered a meeting room and made a beeline for a plate of muffins because you needed one immediately, followed by another one straight after, before you could concentrate – though the funny thing is you had just eaten lunch. Do you often eat without even being hungry, just because you ‘had’ to have something?
Have you tried to eat wisely, only to find that somehow chocolate found its way into your mouth? Do you eat then feel bloated and disgusted, promise to be good, yet find yourself opening the door of the fridge repeatedly? Why do you experience this anguish again and again?
It is especially frustrating if you have achieved good results in other aspects of your life – established a great career, raised kind and clever kids, started your PhD, sustained loving relationships, volunteered to change the world for better and maybe even saved lives, but still you struggle with self-control around food.
This is Why You Struggle:
- I will eat my difficult emotions!
Some of us engage in emotional eating, thus using food to manage difficult emotions, such as anxiety, worry or nervousness. Thus – according to the Theory of Emotional Eating – we learn that when we eat it changes how we feel, so this motivates us to continue eating as a way of coping with difficult emotions. I know that anxiety feels uncomfortable, but just relying on food to combat anxiety will bring on other issues. So try a different strategy.
Next time you face something difficult, try something different. For a few weeks opt for relaxation, body scans, breathing techniques, mindfulness techniques and exercise to help you to deal with your difficult emotions. Seek professional help but also learn how to self-soothe and to cope with your emotions in an adaptive way.
- I expect it to make me feel happy!
Another theory that helps us to understand how we might end up bingeing is the theory of Expectancy. For example, one day you might have eaten a bag of chips and discovered that you became more cheerful and felt better than before you ate them. So, now you expect that chips will make you feel good. If this sounds like you, think really hard about what else can make you feel good – but will actually be good for you. Of course, stay away from binge drinking, or overspending and other impulsive behaviour that leads to more troubles. Learn a new sport, or do yoga, call your best friend, have a nap, sing, dance, learn a language, solve the world’s problems and be proud of yourself. But, more than that, understand what the real issue is. Is it your self-esteem, your confidence, or the pressure of a toxic relationship? Once you know what it is, address the real issue.
- Your impulsivity makes you binge!
Impulsivity has been found to be an important trait in the development and maintenance of eating problems associated with binge eating. People who have difficulties controlling their impulsivity not only put on weight and struggle with losing it – they struggle with their weight management across their lifespan. So if you don’t learn how to manage your impulsivity and impulsive behaviour well then you might continue struggling to resist those muffins or you might suddenly wake up to find you’ve demolished a packet of Tim Tams.
- Your need for immediate gratification makes you eat!
It’s like this: when presented with a choice, such as choose either a cookie now or being fit and healthy in the long run, we choose whatever is in front of us and yummy at the same time. We choose an ice cream now over fitting into that dress later. Indulging in impulsive binge eating simply means choosing to binge over staying fit and healthy. So what you need to do is to focus more on the negative consequences in the moment to help you say no to bingeing. Every time you look at that cookie, or packet of chips, think about the pain of being unfit and how hard it is for you to take a flight of stairs, or how you dread going for a walk with your friends because you get out of breath within minutes. Think about how you are embarrassed by your bingeing and you no longer want to live a lie, you want to be in control.
- You need to eat – you can’t quit food.
Many people simply choose to completely give up any substance or addiction that they are battling. Some choose to never ever drink again, or stay away from drugs for good, or even stop gambling. Unfortunately you can’t do the same with food, because you need food to survive. You can’t quit food, even for a short while. You have to look at the types of food you binge on. Usually bingeing involves tasty, sweet, creamy, fatty, and salty heavenly delights – chocolate or chips rather than kale and celery. But as complete abstinence does not work the lifelong management of all different tempting food types presents challenges. The shift that needs to happen for you is a mental one. Instead of overly focusing on the taste of your food, start thinking about how good it is for you. Of course don’t force yourself, maybe kale will never be your best friend, and that’s okay, but there are plenty of other types of food you can discover and like. Yes, you do need food to survive, but it does not have to be deep fried or covered in chocolate.
I know that it is not easy and that many of us struggle with impulsive binge eating, but it can be done. If you are finally ready to face this issue and to try to deal with the issues of managing your difficult emotions by ways other than impulsive overeating – ask for help. Visit www.impulsivity.com.au where we have developed a program just for you that will help you to deal with the real issue and get your life under control.