How do I handle my binge eating?

I have a problem with binge eating, especially during times of stress. I binge eat and feel so overwhelmed with shame and disappointment that I end up going to the gym and trying to exercise the calories off. I am in my late 20s, and I have been dealing with this since I was a teenager. Are there any coping mechanisms I can use to break this cycle?

Amber Madden, MA, LPCA
Amber Madden, MA, LPCA
Food Addiction & Obesity Specialist

Hello,

This question describes a very typical setup of what is called the  Binge, Repent, Repeat cycle. This means that typically after you binge, you experience emotions as you described "shame and disappointment" and then because of these emotions you "repent" (i.e. vow to never binge again, promise to "do better," go to the gym, etc.) and then ultimately end up bingeing again. 

There are many coping mechanisms for binge eating and one of the best is actually attempting to NORMALIZE eating. Meaning you need to attempt to eat normally, eating appropriately portioned meals 3 times a day, with snacks in between. IF you binge, then it may be helpful to remind yourself that when you attempt to compensate for your bingeing behaviors, and you end up feeling restricted from over exercising or undereating, then this actually leads to a binge again. Thus, reverting you back to the cycle. If you binge, it will be helpful to try and get back on a normal schedule of eating instead of trying to compensate for the binge. Although it may feel counterproductive, getting back on a normal eating schedule will prevent you from entering into the restrictive cycle. 

It can also be helpful to remind yourself that the binge has already occurred, it is in the past and the goal is to move forward without focusing on the past. Focus on what you can do differently next time. What emotions or situations led up to the binge? What can you to do prevent or change the circumstances that led to the binge, or the way that you handled the situation? 

Lastly, if you're struggling with "normalizing" eating, it can be helpful to work with a professional that can provide counseling and coaching to help you learn how to eating normally, mindfully and without feeling the guilt and other harmful emotions sometimes associated with disordered eating. I would be more than happy to assist you if you ever have any questions or want to reach out to somebody. You can contact me via my website: http://www.maddenwellnessky.com/ 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Todd Schmenk, M.S., M.Ed.
Todd Schmenk, M.S., M.Ed.
AQAL Therapies, Inc.,

In dealing with an eating disorder you are far from alone.  It is more common than you might think and tied to so many variables that it is easy for an individual to become overwhelmed in trying to navigate the influences of such variables.  I have been working with individuals dealing with such challenges since 1998 and have found over the years that behavioral analysis is highly effective in helping you begin to isolate, understand and then be able to address many of these variable impacting your behavioral and cognitive choices.  

Consider finding someone trained in Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT).  There is a large body of evidence supporting the use of this approach to alleviating many of the aspects you identified in your post as well of a wide variety of tools that you can choose from and utilize that are able to practiced and assimilated into your daily tool box of coping mechanisms that end up becoming new behaviors and ways of thinking about issues that become automatic, the best possible outcome you can hope for if you want the solution to be sustainable.   

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Nakisia McDaniel
Nakisia McDaniel
Trauma Professional
The fact that you are aware of the issue and what causes it is a step in the right direction.  You can absolutely break the cycle but it takes a lot of effort.  Much like growing a physical muscle, developing coping mechanisms must be practiced (exercised) in order to gain strength.  Find healthy activities that you like to do that can help you deal with stress.  It appears that you are already going to the gym which is awesome; you want this to be a healthy experience not one done out of guilt.  Is it possible for you to incorporate food items that are healthy for you? Remember any changes you make must be practiced and developed over time.  You should seek professional help to assist you with getting to the root cause of your emotional connection to food. Normally these issues date back to childhood experiences however this is a generalization and I have little information to go on.  Above all else BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Shame is counterproductive. If you want something to grow you give it love and attention. Well wishes!!!!!!
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

I believe that for results that last, the best approach is to understand why someone feels like doing a certain behavior.

"Coping mechanisms" are superficial instruction that people usually give up on when feeling extreme pressure from the problem behaviors.

Take the slower road of understanding why you would deprive yourself of enjoying food.

Also, if you consider the binging as a mistake of some kind, reflect on why doing something less than ideal, deserves harsh criticism and not tolerance and acceptance that people mess up occasionally.

I'm glad you know that there are better ways of treating yourself.  This is a valuable awareness of realizing you deserve patience and respect, not humiliation and severe criticism when you are lost as to best ways of self-care.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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