It’s not uncommon for us to turn to ice cream or chocolate cake after a breakup or a serious trauma at work. On rare occasions. But what if it’s the entire cake, plus cookies, plus chips, plus…I found an article on iVillage that gives some helpful tips on how to identify a “binge,” and how to break the pattern if it’s something we do somewhat regularly: “If we eat because of emotions and not hunger, then we're bingeing. A binge is often followed by a purge -- perhaps restricting food intake or increasing exercise or even inducing vomiting. We all use these behaviors at some time or another; how often we use them and to what extent are the key. Restricting our food intake by dieting can often set off a binge. Others use bingeing as a way to calm or soothe themselves in emotionally charged situations.
Can you figure out why you are bingeing? Does it happen only at certain times, after specific events, with certain situations, in specific places? Many of us use bingeing as a response to something happening in our life that we just don't know how to handle. If we can figure out a different way of dealing with a situation, we won't need to binge. This may sound simple, but it really can take quite a bit of work both to understand the reasons behind bingeing and to then substitute another behavior. A therapist can often help sort out the situation. There are some great books that talk about why we eat, why we choose certain foods to eat, etc. Pick up a copy of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch or The Diet-Free Solution by Laurel Mellin. They can help you understand the reasons behind bingeing and give suggestions for how to stop. Some that have worked for others:
Set a goal to eliminate the goal of weight loss; it's next to impossible to focus on both losing weight and preventing binge eating.
Identify an alternative behavior to replace bingeing. For example, someone who binges when they are under stress could try stress reduction techniques such as relaxation, yoga or meditation.
Remember to listen to your body and eat when you are physically hungry, stop when you're comfortably full. If it's love, appreciation, or emotional connection you're craving, find a safe outlet aside from food.
Your post serves as a reminder to parents to not use food as a punishment, reward or pacifier. How many times have you seen a parent "cheer" up a kid by giving him/her candy? By doing this we reinforce that the way to celebrate or deal with disappointment is by eating. Just think of how much better prepared adults would be if we learned from early childhood to express our emotions, whatever they are, in more healthy and appropriate ways.