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Intermittent Fasting and Binge Eating

Intermittent Fasting - A cure for binge eating disorder or just new fangled dumbness?

Intermittent Fasting: 

The newest  old thing with a fancy name. 

I have been getting lots of emails recently asking me if Intermittent Fasting is helpful for people with Binge Eating Issues. I have lots of thoughts, but I want to start by telling you about my early experiences with IF. 

The very first time I learned about intermittent fasting was in 1985. I was in 5th grade and my best friend’s upstairs neighbor, who was in 6th grade had lost 13 pounds through intermittent fasting. I mean, we were children and it was 1985 so it wasn’t really intermittent fasting, it was that Shoshana drank a cup of tea for breakfast,  a diet coke for lunch and then whatever her parents gave her for dinner.  I thought that sounded CRAZY! But then in 7th grade, when my hips and breasts started coming in and my period started, I thought that I would try it. Of course it wasn’t called intermittent fasting back then. It was called  “the diet that we all went on so that our parents wouldn’t know that we were dieting.”

Puberty, incidentally is a high risk time for girls to begin eating disorders. That’s because in order to start menstruating, girls’ bodies begin to put on body fat and the changes that take place can seem sudden and out of control. I remember for sure that when I began maturing, my mother made many comments about how my body was changing and that I’d better watch out because once I got my period, weight would be impossible to lose. Wow! Crazy messaging!  But I believed it and wanted to do whatever I could to stop that cycle. So I went on Shoshana’s special diet of tea for breakfast, diet coke for lunch and dinner was whatever my mother gave me. 

Nowadays, you can’t open your computer or look at your phone without seeing something about intermittent fasting. An eating disorder for adolescent girls turned into a way of life for tech bros. People have written books about it, people sell programs, apps, meal plans… it’s just the next diet plan that people are looking to cash in on. I mean, Shoshana Kaufman could have written a book back in 1985, it would be called “How To Diet Without Your Parents Finding Out.”

Intermittent Fasting: Or How to Diet Without Your Parents Finding Out By Shoshana Kaufman – Grade 6. P.S.24, Bronx, NY 1985

Chapter One – Don’t Eat Breakfast

Chapter Two– Don’t Eat Lunch

Chapter Three- Eat Whatever Your Parents make you for dinner

Often I will write about certain diets and I’ll be attacked by people for having a differing opinion about them. I wrote a post about low carb diets some years ago and got attacked by the low carb mafia. Really nasty, nasty emails and comments. Here’s the thing… this is a blog for people who are trying to recover from an eating disorder. And for people who have eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors, these kinds of rulesy eating plans are always contraindicated.  However, there are so many promises that intermittent fasting makes that people are being led to believe that it’s a panacea for all that ails them. 

Intermittent fasting has lots of promises behind it:

Promise #1. You will become “clear-headed” and able to concentrate better if you’re not worried about eating.

My thoughts: Are you able to concentrate when you’re hungry? I’m not. In fact all I can think about is food. I remember being in school as a kid during my restriction days and just zoning out while I fantasized about food. I did this in college too and early on in my adult life when I was still in my eating disorder. In fact, the more I restricted, the less engaged in life I was because I was just focused on not eating and fantasizing about food and what I would eat when I finally let myself eat! 

Are there people who are clear-headed? I’m not sure, but what I do know for sure is that my anorexic patients do come to a place of feeling almost ethereal when they’re not eating. Why? It’s likely because their brain and their organs are beginning to shut down. Their body is using less energy and trying to conserve what it has to use. 

Promise #2. It gives you lots of energy. 

My thoughts: Well, as someone who was an athlete in high school and continues to be athletic now, I can tell you for sure that not eating NEVER gave me more energy. On the days that I would do Shoshana’s diet, I was super sluggish in swim practice. On the days that I did eat breakfast, I would fly through the water. As I got older and started running, I had the same experience. A banana goes a long way before a morning run. A run on an empty stomach in the morning is nothing but a way to run out of gas immediately. Again, I have no idea why people would suggest that their energy is increased. My suspicion is that if you are someone who wakes up and eats a very large and difficult to digest breakfast that creates more sluggishness in your day-to-day, then this would be an improvement. Yet that can also be solved with mindful eating, figuring out what gives your body energy and vitality through your own self-experimentation and trial and error. For instance, I’ve figured out that breakfast cereal will leave me feeling sluggish and hungry, but eggs and cheese and fruit carries me straight through my morning and holds me until lunch. That’s something I had to figure out on my own, not something that someone else could tell me. Your body, your needs. It’s okay to experiment until YOU find what works for YOUR body. No one else can tell you that. 

Promise #3. You will lose weight effortlessly

My thoughts: Now here’s when we come to the Binge Eating Disorder issue. When I did Shoshana’s diet, I was very, very, very likely to binge at night. And honestly, I did that crazy diet for many years. I did it from the age of 12 until I was in my early 20’s. Not every day of course, but I did it often and I binged pretty much every day. It was awful.  And did I lose weight? Actually, no I gained a good amount of weight because of the bingeing. 

If you have an eating disorder, intermittent fasting is likely not the right path for you. Here are the reasons: 

People with eating disorders tend to have black and white thinking. Thus, if you are planning to restrict your food for a set amount of time and then you “mess up,” it’s likely that it will trigger some extreme behaviors, like either a binge or compensatory exercise or a purge or a long period of restriction. 

People with eating disorders teeter between extremes so a full day of not eating could often lead to an evening of binge eating. 

People with eating disorders will often go to extremes to “get it right” even if their body tells them that they need to eat, so they might either completely ignore the cues of their bodies or they might engage in dangerous behaviors (like drugs or excessive coffee drinking) to ensure that they stick to their goals. 

Read How Intermittent Fasting Triggered my Binge Eating Disorder

Do I think that there is anything valuable about Intermittent Fasting? 

If you have a propensity toward eating disorders, I’m going to say that no, intermittent fasting is nothing more than the same diet you went on in elementary school that started this whole disordered eating thing to begin with. You could have written the book and sold the items. Intermittent fasting teaches you how to ignore your body’s cues for hunger. And those of us with disordered eating have known how to do that for years. And we know what happens when we ignore our bodies’ cues for hunger – when we are tired, our body fights back and we binge.  Perhaps for people who eat mindlessly all the time, a day or two of intermittent fasting might help them to hear their bodies’ cues for hunger and learn what that feels like, but beyond that, I don’t believe that this is the best new thing. I think that people have found a way to package an eating disorder into a new fangled diet with a fancy name.

What intermittent fasting does is the same thing that all diets do, it takes away choice – and in that taking away of choice, people feel safer around food. It creates a structure where they can control their food intake. As Soren Kierkegaard said,  “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom…” and it’s true. People become so overwhelmed with choice around food and diets, that this feels like an easy way to take away the choice and limit their food intake. 

As always, my opinion remains – listen to your body, give it what it needs when it needs it.  You CAN trust your body to guide you toward what it needs to be healthy. Your body knows. I can promise you that. You might not always get it right, but the closer you listen, the better you will get to know your body. Your body has so much wisdom. Unlike 1000 or even 100 years ago, food is readily available to you and so you have the opportunity to give it yummy, nourishing food when it needs it. 

Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting and binge eating
Intermittent Fasting and binge eating
Intermittent Fasting and binge eating

Intermittent Fasting and binge eating

intermittent fasting and binge eating

 

Eating Disorders and Black and White thinking

black and white thinking binge eatingLast month, my husband, kids and I went to the beach to get our last days of summer in. When we got there, I realized that I packed my sons’ suits and my husband’s suits but failed to pack my own. I was super disappointed-to say the least,  there’s nothing better than swimming in Tomales Bay on a hot day. But I made the best of it and rolled up my cutoffs and waded in the water with my two year old. At one point, I squatted down to show him a tide pool and the back of my shorts got a little wet- I thought to myself, “Oh well, I’m already wet, I might as well jump into the water.” I took a deep breath and paused. I didn’t jump into the water, but I noticed, “wow, there is my black and white thinking just popping up again.” I have recovered from multiple disordered eating issues- but my thinking instincts still  remain. My brain is still organized in that way. I didn’t react to the compulsion- I didn’t jump into the bay just because my shorts were a little wet because rationally I knew that they’d be dry in a half hour or so, but that if I jumped into the water- despite the fact that it would be super fun and satisfying for a few moments- I’d be uncomfortable in wet denim, I’d have sand stuck to me, and I’d have a long car ride  home in dirty wet clothes.  But I was extremely interested in the fact that so many years deep into my recovery- my thinking patterns remain the same. I was still vulnerable to polarized thinking. This is what black and white thinking (polarized thinking) is. It’s all or nothing.

 

Overeating is a super common binge triggerit’s part of the cognitive distortion known as polarized thinking.

For instance- I ate two cookies with my coffee for breakfast, I might as well spend the rest of the day eating cake and cookies- I can’t eat something like a salad for lunch because I already “ruined” the dayOr I ate all my ww points for the day but then I went over a few points- I might as well binge or I don’t eat white flour or sugar, but I had a small bite of my boyfriend’s croissant. The day is ruined- Now I have to spend the day, the week, the month bingeing… or I ate two mini halloween candies, I have to spend the rest of the night testing every single candy and goodie that’s hereOr however your polarized thinking manifests for you. Bingeing because you overate is like seeing that you have one flat tire, getting out of your car and slashing  the other three. It is not rational or logical.

Polarized thinking it is a process where you feel like you don’t have any choices.  Had I not been able to recognize my thought patterns in that moment, I would have felt like I had to jump in the water. That I had no other choice since my shorts were already wet. This is a thinking process organized around perfection. “I have to be perfect or I’m nothing-I’m ruined.” There is no middle ground or allowance to be a normal human being who gets their shorts wet, spills coffee on themselves, or eats a bagel for breakfast. You believe that your choices are not your own. You might even feel paralyzed a lot of the time because you believe that if you cannot do it perfectly- you are afraid of doing it at all.  

Now here is the thing about polarized thinking- you don’t have to let it affect your behaviors. Just because your mind becomes organized in that way doesn’t mean you have to follow your impulses down the rabbit hole. Part of mindfulness practice is slowing yourself down enough to notice your thoughts and then have the ability to change your action or reaction to your thought. Remember that thoughts are just electronic impulses, and we have 50,000- 70,000 thoughts each day. You can notice those thoughts before you react to them. You can choose the thoughts that you’re going to react to. For instance the thought, “I went out with friends tonight and I overate tortilla chips at this restaurant, I am full,” can often precede the behavior of going home by yourself and bingeing on lots of other foods. You are angry at yourself because you feel that you ate too much- but rather than sit with the fullness until it passes (like letting my shorts dry for a half hour rather than jumping into the bay with all my clothes on) you might believe that you have no other choice than to binge. But you actually do have a choice. Let yourself slow down and notice your thinking without reacting to it. If you eat a roll at dinner even though you didn’t intend to, remind yourself that eating the rest of the basket of rolls or going home and bingeing would be a lot like jumping into the bay with all your clothes on. No human being is perfect- and when you hold yourself up to that standard, you can often feel very limited by your choices and your ability to enjoy being in the world.  

To deal with polarized thinking: 

1. Slow down and notice your thoughts

2. Notice how your instincts want to react to those thoughts

3. Think about whether or not there is a different choice- a choice that’s more like allowing your shorts to dry and feeling comfortable again. 

4. Try to implement that choice. 

5. Notice how you feel the next day. 

When you have black and white thinking, you believe that you have no choice and you have to take the extreme path. Recovery doesn’t mean that you will never have black and white thinking again- but it means that you will notice it more for what it is- a thought and a suggestion rather than a hardline on what you have to do. 

What do you think? How are some ways that you’ve dealt with your polarized thinking? 

Q & A Friday- Why Can’t I Eat Just One…

Chasing the TasteThis most recent comes from Jodi a new reader: 

Leora, I am having a hard time with a binge that comes from “just one candy, cookie, etc.” I will be craving something sweet and then say I’ll have one piece of chocolate and then keep going back for more. I don’t know how to avoid that cycle and do something else instead of binging. Sometimes after the one sweet thing I want something salty, too, and then I’ll end up binging by going back and forth between the two foods.  Can you help me?- Jodi

Hi Jodi, I know this problem well!  This is what I call chasing the taste. You end a meal only to need the opposite taste in your mouth. Salty becomes sweet, sweet becomes crunchy and salty, crunchy and salty becomes fatty and warm… there is something that you want but… you can’t  quite find it, and you spend the better part of an hour chasing after a sensation in your mouth to satisfy that desire. Before you know it, you’ve ended up bingeing. I have some tips for this. Try them and let me know how it goes. 

Before you begin eating the desired food that can potentially start a binge, create an intention around it. Tell yourself, “I’m going to eat this piece of chocolate and I’m going to enjoy it and it’s okay for me to do that,”  and then put it on a plate. I would also choose to eat more than one piece, because one small piece of chocolate is not necessarily satisfying. Put a couple of pieces on your plate and put the bag away, close it tight and put it up on a high shelf, one that you have to climb to get to or in the freezer under something else.  

Remind yourself that there have been times when eating one piece of chocolate has led you to chasing the taste and looking for something else, but that you are choosing a different behavior now. 

Sit down with your chocolate slowly. Taste it in your mouth. Feel the sensation of the chocolate melting on your tongue. Notice what it feels like and notice what you feel like when you are eating it. When you are finished, note any sensations that you are having to run back to the kitchen and get more or something else. Ask yourself if you are chasing the taste. If you are, either drink a glass of water, or walk into the bathroom and brush your teeth, or rinse with some mouth wash… anything to change the taste in your mouth and help you to interrupt the compulsion of chasing the taste and using food to elicit different taste sensations or sensory experiences for yourself.  After you’ve changed the sensations in your mouth and tongue, sit for a moment and do some breathing- breathe into your nose to the count of ten, hold it and exhale to the count of ten. Do this 6 times to give yourself 2 minutes of breathing. This will calm your amygdala, bring more oxygen to your brain, help you to regain your senses rather than letting the food cravings hijack your brain and suck you into a binge. You now have more authority and a choice about what you want to do. The fact that you’ve put the food in a hard to reach place will also help to interrupt the compulsion to keep eating. 

I hope that helps you J! 

Take good care of you and I’ll talk to you soon. 
Warmly, 

Leora

 

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location. Are you interested in online therapy or coaching to deal with your eating disorder? Please contact me to discuss getting started. 

10 Ways to Train your Brain to Stop Overeating

10 Ways to Train your Brain to Stop Overeating

top ten ways to train your brain

train your brain to stop overeating

 

You know how sometimes it’s not even noon but you know that you are going to have a binge when you get home from work that night? You begin planning it, thinking about what stores you’re going to go to, what foods you’re going to get, where you are going to eat it, what you’re going to do when you eat it, what it will feel like in your mouth, what you will be doing while you’re bingeing (will you be watching television? will you be searching the web? will you be on the phone? or will you just be sitting alone with the food?) You begin to get excited and your amygdala (the part of your brain responsible for emotional reaction) lights up with excitement. Just the anticipation and desire of a binge creates activity in your brain that basically brings you to the binge. So your actual binge starts about hours, sometimes even days before the binge starts. It’s those first thoughts about it, the anticipation which just carries itself and basically makes you feel as though you don’t have a choice. The thoughts of bingeing carry you straight to your binge. But that’s not the only thing that the anticipation does. Just think about food and you flood dopamine into your nucleus accumbens (the pleasure center of the brain) which then excites you, calms you and motivates you to go for the food that you are thinking about.  Just like the drug addict who starts to think about cocaine which then motivates them to score their drug of choice despite whatever dangers lurk. So, not only are you addicted to the binge, and those pleasurable feelings that come with it, but you are actually addicted to the process of bingeing, the thoughts about food, the plans that you make to get food, the thoughts about food. Each thought that you have has a biochemical reaction.

Which makes quitting binge eating as difficult (or more difficult) than quitting heroin or cocaine. When food is your drug of choice, you can’t just stop eating, you have to learn to stop overeating and stop abusing food.

SO HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE ADDICTION PIECE OF ALL THIS IN ORDER TO STOP OVEREATING?

When you first have those thoughts and the pleasure center in your brain begins to light up with anticipation (it’s not unlike the process of flirting, or hooking up with someone pre-sex or orgasm), it feels as though it’s over. You’re going to binge. However, when you check in with yourself and say, “oh yeah, there are those thoughts again, I’m planning my binge…” you can slow yourself down. You can tell yourself that just because you are planning your binge, doesn’t mean that you have to go through with it. Just because the process part of the addiction has begun does not mean that you have to go through with it. Remember, this is the SAME EXACT function that cocaine addicts go through before they score their drug, it’s the same process that sex addicts go through when they are looking for a prostitute, it’s the same process that gambling addicts go through when they are selling their wedding ring for money to put in a slot machine.

So what we want to do here is slow your brain waaaayyyy down. Even though it’s just noon and you are at work in front of your computer, your mind is at home in the refrigerator or in front of the television with a pizza.

So what can you do?

1. First, recognize “oh, I’m having THOSE thoughts again…” And say it out loud, “there is that urge to binge…”

2. Remind yourself, “I’m not in the middle of the binge yet, I’m right here at my desk.”

3. Ground yourself, look at your feet on the floor, look at your hands, put your hand over your heart and breath into your belly. Be where you are, not where your mind is taking you.

4. Remind yourself why you don’t want to be on the other side of the binge. Think to yourself, “I don’t want to be in bed tonight with my belly hurting, feeling bloated and uncomfortable, I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning feeling bad.” Then let yourself feel those bad feelings of how you feel after a binge. Reliving them will be a deterrent for you.

5. Think about alternatives, think about what it would be like to wake up the next morning without a binge, let that process excite your mind. Imagine yourself eating a healthy dinner in a healthy way and see yourself in bed that night feeling comfortable and waking up the next morning with a spring in your step.

6. Plan something equally relaxing for that evening ie: date with friend, bubble bath, taking a long walk outside while listening to music or podcast

7. Call someone and tell them that you have a binge planned and you don’t want to go through with it.

8. Get on the forum and ask for support.

9. Remind yourself that you have a choice. It doesn’t feel like you do, but you do, the thoughts and the desire can’t make you binge, they are just thoughts and desire. You have thoughts and desires a million times a day that you don’t act on.

10. Calm your brain down and slow down your thinking with deep breathing and meditation.

Eating disorders are notoriously rough because they hit you on lots of different levels, process addiction, food/sugar addiction, trauma relief, bad habit… there are a million different reasons that people binge, but if you can bring some mindfulness into the equation, you have an amazing chance of not only being able to stop overeating over and over, but also from recovering and not having to deal with the urges and the pain of bingeing anymore.

Q&A Friday- I want to get pregnant but I can’t stop binge eating

 

i want to get pregnant but i can't stop binge eatingJust a note, I’m working through my backlog of questions. If you’ve emailed me a question and haven’t heard back, please don’t think I’m ignoring you… I’ll get to it! 

Hi,

I have been binge eating for a good 10 years and my weight has fluctuated up and down about 10kgs. I know that might not seem like a lot, but the continuous yo-yo affect is not good physically and emotionally. I cannot pin point what made me start binge eating, but it is definitely an emotional aspect. I do no purge and strangely enough I have an intense fear of vomiting. So I will binge and feel very full to the point I cannot move and it is uncomfortable to lie down and the next day I will be extremely healthy and exercise. The days that I don’t binge are not extreme starvation-I will consume about 1200-1500 calories and on a binge day I can consume over 4000calories, if not more (it’s hard to be honest about that)
I am happily married and I want to start trying to get pregnant so my binging needs to stop. I know it will take a while, but I cannot afford to feel depressed and binge eat when I am pregnant as my baby comes first.

Your help and advise would be so appreciated. I have never seemed advise before because I have been so embarrassed about my disorder, but after doing research I see I am not alone.

Many thanks,
Stephanie

 

Hi Steph,

 

Thank you so much for reaching out, and no you are most certainly not alone or even close to it.

I want to encourage you to reframe your thoughts from trying to lose weight to trying to get healthy. I know that you want your body to be healthy so that you can start your pregnancy from a place of strength.

First of all, it seems like you’re not eating enough calories. You say that the days that you are not bingeing, you are eating 1200-1500 calories a day. That’s not enough. Your body is trying to stabilize by eating more calories those next days. Because you are not giving yourself enough calories on those days, your body goes into fear mode. It fears that it has to “stock up” on calories and then you wind up losing control. What you need to do is stop counting calories and start helping your eating to stabilize.  In order to do that, think about giving your body what it needs every day. Make sure that you are eating three meals each day and giving yourself a protein, a fat and a carbohydrate at every single meal.

That could look something like this:

Breakfast: 2-3 eggs scrambled with cheese and a fruit salad.

Snack: handful of nuts, hummus, carrots, grapes

Lunch: A chunky bowl of beef stew filled with veggies and meat.

Snack: A Lara bar, or some cheese and fruit.

Dinner: A heaping bowl of spinach salad, a yam with butter, a piece of salmon or chicken.

Desert: A bowl of frozen yogurt or ice cream or a fruit salad or something that you enjoy but only one regular sized portion if you can do so without bingeing. A portion of ice cream is 1/2 cup or one scoop. A bowl of fruit is just one soup or salad bowl half filled.

This is just a loose guide of a way to eat that will help you to be eating healthy by getting all of your proper nutrients.  Making sure to eat three healthy meals each day will be stabilizing both emotionally and nutritionally. You will feel more solid.  If that seems overwhelming to you, vow to try this just for a week. Three meals a day plus a snack for just seven days. If you mess up one day, you can just start again the very next day.   I think you might find that one week of steady eating will help you feel more stable.

That being said, you don’t have to be perfect to get pregnant. As long as you are working on it you’ll be fine.

You’re right that it’s important to address the emotional aspects of binge eating as well. You might try to take a 15-60 minute walk each day, just outside by yourself. While you’re walking just allow yourself to slow down and process. Think about your day, think about your thoughts, think about your feelings. Talk to your higher power if you have one (or to yourself, your wise mind, or someone you know who has passed away, or someone alive whom you admire). I also think that setting up some time to talk to a therapist is always helpful to sort through whatever is going on for you emotionally.

I hope that I’ve answered your question and that you’ve found some pieces of help in this post. Happy Holidays to you Steph.

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location. Are you interested in online therapy to deal with your eating disorder? Please see my website or email me to discuss getting started. 

Friday Q & A- How can I be happy without binge eating?

you don't need willpower to recoverIt’s been almost a month since my last post, and for that i’m sorry. I’ve been busy working on getting my book into my publisher. Yes! I’ve written a book on how to stop binge eating. I’m very excited and will tell you all more as it gets closer to release date some time this fall.

 

This question was left in the comments section by Leila. 

 

Question:

Hi! What advice do you have for when you successfully don’t binge for like a week, and try to pat yourself on the back every time you are craving something but choose not to eat it. But then after the week, you’re pretty happy with yourself and let your guard down for a second. Do you have any advice that enables you to let yourself be happy while also not stuffing your face with heart disease?
Thanks

 

Answer:

 

Hi Leila,

 

Thanks for the question. I think that you’re dealing with a problem of willpower. I want you to try and forget willpower. You are doing great. You don’t need willpower.  Willpower is a concept of dieting and restriction. Recovery is different. In recovery from binge eating, we don’t restrict, we actually try to DIVE into the craving rather than avoid it. We accept that we are having a craving and we try to understand it.

So next time you are about to binge, stop yourself, just for a moment and tell yourself that you are absolutely allowed to binge if you want to, but first, you have to answer the following questions:

1. What is it that I want to binge on?

2. Am I actually hungry?

If yes:

3. What am I hungry for? What does my body need?

If no:

4. What am I looking to achieve by bingeing?

5. What feeling am I hoping to get or to change?

6. What will bingeing accomplish?

7. Is there another way to accomplish what I want to accomplish without using food?

8. Do I need to slow down? Take a breath? Take a nap? Get a hug? Talk to someone I love? Talk to a support person?

 

Then, if you still want to eat your binge food, go ahead, however, try to stay conscious while doing it. Sit with your food and taste it. Sit with your bingeing and experience, try not to use bingeing to dissociate, but be present for the event.

Please do report back if you do decide to try this. I hope these questions are helpful.

Hypnosis for Binge Eating

 

HYPNOSIS FOR BINGE EATING

hypnosis for binge eating

Click here to Download Hypnosis to Stop Binge Eating

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a therapist who also utilizes hypnotherapy in my practice, I often receive phone calls for people wanting hypnotherapy to help cure their binge eating.

Many people want long term Psychotherapy to understand and heal the family dynamics and past wounds that contributed to self esteem issues, binge eating issues, or eating disorder issues. I find this kind of work to be very valuable and I do encourage anyone who is grappling with an eating disorder to try and do weekly depth psychotherapy.

Hypnosis and meditation can be a wonderful complement to any recovery program. It is relaxing, peaceful, calming and effective in helping you reach your recovery goals.  Many people find a single hypnotherapy session to be incredibly helpful. They often leave a session feeling  refreshed, relaxed, and feeling more in control of their behaviors.  Even though I’ve been doing hypnotherapy since 1999, I’m still always impressed by how much better people feel when they leave my office after a hypnotherapy session.

Because I’ve seen it help so many people, I want to make it more accessible. I’ve decided to run through what a hypnosis for binge eating session would look like.

Okay, so if you were to come into my office for a hypnotherapy session, the first thing I would ask you is to tell me what your binge eating looks like. So, for instance, answer these questions:

1.)When do your binges occur? What time of day?

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2.)How often do you binge?

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3.)What do you binge on? (List your binge foods)

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4.)Are there certain situations that cause you to binge? (You might figure this out as you go along)

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Hypnosis for Binge Eating Brings Mindfulness to your Day and Eating

These questions are used to help you bring awareness to your binge eating. So, as we establish patterns, you can begin to think about how to break those patterns. For instance, if you notice that you binge each night after work, create a list of alternatives that you can do each night instead of binge eating. Some people like to go to a cafe and work on their computer, catch up with their emails, or talk to friends, some people take walks, or go to the gym, some people opt to go home, but choose not to have binge food in the house and instead use the time for just relaxing in a hot bath. This post gives some alternatives.  Binge eating often occurs as an unconscious response, almost a Pavlovian response. So if you can bring some awareness to it (knowing that the end of the work day = binge eating) you will have the foresight to create some consciousness. This way you have more of a choice as to whether or not you want to binge. Often it feels as though you don’t have a choice. It’s just an unconscious response. Bringing awareness will create a choice for you.

Knowing what foods you binge on is helpful as well. I’ve had many, many people come in and say, “I’ve thought about just getting rid of all the peanut butter and cereal in my house because I binge on it, but I realized that it’s unhealthy to do that, lots of people have those things in their house and don’t binge on them, I can learn to do that. ”  To that I respond, “No. Don’t keep binge foods in your house right now. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s about keeping you safe.”  If you were a recovering alcoholic would you keep vodka in your house because other people can drink vodka? If you were a recovering cocaine addict would you keep cocaine in the house?  Of course not.  Don’t compare yourself to others. If there are foods that you binge on, don’t keep them in the house. It’s not fair to you. If there are other people in the house who want them in there, negotiate with them to either keep the food out of the house or put it in a place like high up in a cabinet that you cannot reach, so you’d have to think about it (bring consciousness) to it  before eating it, or you can get a lock for the cabinet that your binge foods are in. This is all okay. It’s important to keep yourself safe. This isn’t for always, this is just for now as you decrease and heal from your binge eating.

There might be certain situations that cause you to binge eat, for instance, visiting your parents, or talking to your boss, or seeing a certain friend put an update of Facebook— think about your binge triggers. Beginning to find connections about what causes you to binge eat rather than just trying to have the willpower not to binge eat will make this journey easier. So, if you know in advance that certain people on Facebook trigger your symptoms–  hide those people. If you know that going to your parents’ house triggers a binge, line up a group of people to call before you go, and after you come back. In 12-steps, this is known as “book-ending.” You talk to someone before you go to your parents’ house and tell them that it’s your intention not to binge while you’re there or after you come back. You call them on your way home from your parents’ house to tell them your intention and ways that you plan on taking care of yourself without food after you come home. If you need extra support while you’re at your parents’ house, you can always call the support person/people that you’ve lined up ahead of time.  If you know that talking to your boss sends you right to the vending machines, either walk outside your office building to go for a walk, or head to the phone to talk to a support person and decompress from your meeting with your boss.

It’s about knowing what your triggers are and making plans ahead of time to not let these triggers bring you to a bad place.

Binge eating can be such an unconscious behavior. What we are trying to do here is make it conscious. Many people say that they feel as though they don’t have a choice in the matter, they just wind up “waking up” in the middle of a binge, almost unsure as to how they got there. The goal of hypnosis for binge eating is to keep you conscious. For you to be aware of when you’re thinking about binge eating, to know that you are stronger than the urge to binge eat. To know that you are in charge, not the binge. To know that this will just pass. As the days pass, you will find that letting go of binge eating becomes easier and easier.

Next is utilizing an Alternative Choice Journal. Every time you feel the urge to binge, use this tool:

Feelings: Describe what you are feeling right now- happy? sad? anxious? angry? tired? lonely?:
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What led to this feeling? Can you pinpoint the trigger?
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Describe what kind and how much food your are fantasizing about:
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How do you hope that this will make you feel? What outcome are you looking for?
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How do you think this will really make you feel? What are the negative consequences of acting out on this urge?

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Is there something else that you can do that might be able to give you a similar feeling as you are trying to achieve with food?

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Use this device each time you want to use food. By use food, I’m referring to those times when you’re not hungry and it’s not time to eat a healthy meal, but when you want to go and rip into something. Often, it’s hard to catch these times at the beginning, so use this journal every time you do binge. It will help you begin to draw parallels between your feelings, the situations that got you there and the binges.

And finally, the hypnosis. This should be listened to in a quiet place. You can download it to your computer, but I suggest using headphones, or listening to it on your phone or device. Find a place where you can have total peace and quiet for 25 minutes. Lay down, relax, close your eyes and allow yourself to listen. Listen as often as you like. Many people like to listen at night before bed because they find that it helps them relax very deeply. Many people find that it’s very easy to fall asleep after listening.  I often receive many emails and phone calls telling me that after a hypnosis session, people really feel as though they just don’t have the urge to binge eat anymore.

Hypnosis is really just very deep meditation. You will close your eyes and relax deeply. It helps you to bring awareness and consciousness to your everyday actions while allowing you to go very deeply inward and find peace and calmness within. Hypnosis for binge eating is like going into a deep state of relaxation where you can envision yourself behaving around food in a normalized and easy way.

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