What can I *add* to my life to help with my binge eating and/or desire to lose weight?
August 15, 2012 8:07 PM   Subscribe

What can I *add* to my life to help with my binge eating and/or desire to lose weight? Additionally, what texts or exercises helped you work past bingeing?

Lots of detail because this is anon:
I get caught up on the binge eating train most days of the week, and the process goes one of two ways: I either get sad/upset/anxious and cope by bingeing, or I think of bingeing, get upset/anxious/sad, and binge. It's really hard (I won't say impossible, but I can't remember the last time I got off the train once it started) to stop once that sequence begins. It's a vicious cycle that's keeping my weight up, probably exacerbating my anxiety and eczema, and makes me feel horrible about myself and feel like it's futile to try to lose weight or control the bingeing. I've started seeing a therapist through my insurance (she's good, but we meet only once a month) and am considering Overeaters Anonymous.

What I'm looking for is things that I can ADD to my life that will help with bingeing. This could be supplements, meditations, medications, art, TV shows, rituals, whatever--it just feels like every time I try to restrict or remove things in any way the bingeing gets worse to compensate, so I'm looking for changes which don't involve abstaining or limiting things.

To give a sense of what I've worked out about my food behaviours: lot of my bingeing seems to be based around "bad food" and guilty pleasures and the notion of treating yourself--I grew up in a household where good behavior was rewarded with ("bad/unhealthy") food, so if I don't get the "reward" of the binge then I feel like a failure. I don't want to feel like a failure, so I binge. This makes restricting things tricky, because my inner child (cheesy phrase, useful concept) thinks it's because I did something bad and resists by acting out/bingeing/whatever. This is why I'm looking for additions, rather than subtractions, to my life.

I've heard that yoga is good for these things, but I have related issues around starting or sticking to most exercise (except for walking, which I can't do much of now because of plantar fasciitis, which is a big reason I want to lose weight. Vicious cycle, again) because food and exercise are both caught up in the same screwed-up dichotomy of good and bad that's messing with my head.

I don't have a ton of money to throw at this, but my spending is somewhat out of control because my budgets go out the window when I buy bingeing food, so if I can divert some of that money to helpful things I gladly would.

tl;dr: Removing things from my life makes me binge more. What things (not exercise) can I do or add to my life that will help me binge less? If you have recommendations of resources that help with bingeing behavior of the kind I describe, I gratefully welcome those.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of people I know who have dealt with binge and compulsive eating have had success with Wellbutrin, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support groups combined.

Best of luck to you. Are you getting treatment for the plantar fasciitis? If not, let me encourage you to look into that; there is a lot that physical therapy can do to resolve that right now, rather than waiting for your weight to change.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:14 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, also recommending Geneen Roth's work if you aren't familiar with it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:15 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you have any hobbies? I think what you need is an activity that gives you pleasure that isn't eating, that you can proactively DO, as opposed to something passive like reading a book or watching TV. For me those things are mostly physical (e.g. walking, yoga, etc) but it doesn't have to be physical or exercise related. Some ideas:

- photography: you don't need fancy equipment; try taking pictures of interesting houses/trees/birds/whatever in your neighborhood!

- handicrafts: knitting definitely keeps my mind from spinning. Crochet, quilting, sewing, macrame, etc the list goes on...

- puzzles!: word puzzles, number puzzles, jigsaw puzzles...
posted by telegraph at 8:16 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a nighttime binge eater extraordinaire, and there are two things which I've found to be helpful: huge glasses of water mixed with psyllium husk and having zero food in the fridge that's "bad." When I feel like bingeing and all I have on hand are carrots, kale, and squash, and fiber, bingeing is pretty unappealing.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:18 PM on August 15, 2012

And sometimes I find cuddling with my dog and feeding him little (healthy) treats helps me vicariously binge. Watching his grateful little face as I'm stuffing it with little liver snacks is infintely gratifying.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:21 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I had some major binge attacks before I joined Weight Watchers. I've now lost 35 lbs! I really do feel like it's "added" not "taken away" from my life. I can track everything from the app on my iPhone, which is awesome and makes it kinda fun in a gamification sort of way. They teach you to make better choices, not to deprive yourself. I do have the occasional binge attack, but I manage to redirect it to something like grapes or even pretzels or Triscuits. I've also figured out what qualities of food I find satisfying. For instance, I don't understand those people who would rather have one square of dark chocolate because it's higher quality. Screw that. I'd rather have MOAR! So I make myself a little "parfait" of Cool Whip Free, sliced strawberries, and a microwaved chocolate VitaTop, which is low in points but makes me feel like I'm indulging.
posted by radioamy at 8:35 PM on August 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

How about indulging in other sensual pleasures, so you're still rewarding? Buy some amazing bath paraphernalia and take up long, luxurious baths. Give yourself pedicures. Go and find photography of amazing, mind-blowing scenery to look at on the internet. Take up meditation. Buy MP3s of music that makes you dancey or nostalgic or just plain happy, even the embarrassing stuff.

Sorry you're having a hard time, and I'm glad you're working to get a handle on it.
posted by Andrhia at 8:38 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the advice to add medication. There are a few that have evidence behind them as being specifically helpful with eating related issues.

AA has always had one of the best tricks: when the compulsion hits you, focus on putting it off for just a singular night. Do not think about the aggregate.
posted by skrozidile at 8:41 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

In case you are wanting to approach your vicious circle from both sides, did you see this recent question about plantar fascitis?
posted by Forktine at 8:58 PM on August 15, 2012

Response by poster: Well, to add you could try working through these modules.

But if you want to stop binging, the first step is to put weight loss on the back burner. Binge eating is an eating disorder, and weight loss while in the midst of any eating disorder will necessarily require restriction. So any efforts you make to change your weight while coping will be counterproductive to recovering from it.
posted by Anonymous at 8:59 PM on August 15, 2012

I agree with schroedinger - work on the psychology of binge eating.

Then work on plans for eating healthy (not dieting for weight loss).

One measure that can help is to keep a food diary.
posted by cimuir at 9:20 PM on August 15, 2012

Take this with much salt, but it strikes me that throwing a little money at this issue might actually work quite well as such, because spending money can have that same "treating yourself," "being bad" feeling but (hopefully) doesn't push the excess button for you in the same way that food does. So figure out what seems really excellent and luxurious to you, and then go ahead and spend the money on it -- and the more you can stretch the process out, the better. Like, look everywhere for the absolutely perfect print to put over your bed and then get a really well-printed version of it in a nice frame. Specifically physical luxury might work especially well, as Andrhia suggests. Going by things that are less likely to seem like a second-best to food, you might get good results by going for a couple of really fun-looking sex toys.
posted by ostro at 9:20 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Write a list of things to do - fun things, not chore things. Include some of the suggestions here if you want, or add your own. Post on the refrigerator. When you are feeling bingey promise yourself to try to do one thing on the list before you eat. Garden, crossword puzzle, call a friend, check metafilter, read harry potter, paint your toenails, start a new DIY project, blog, play an instrument, watch the wire, -- anything that sounds good to you.
Goal is to distract yourself and hopefully overcome the bingey emotions in the process.
posted by murfed13 at 9:23 PM on August 15, 2012

i completely understand how restricting makes your bingeing worse. that's been my experience as well. it's the pits. therapy, food diaries, self-help books, and nutritionists didn't help me.

ask me anything about overeaters anonymous; it's what finally brought me relief. its basis is that fighting against your binges will only make the binges fight back harder. instead, you learn to soften and follow your higher power's wise, loving guidance, and lean on the strength of your higher power (and/or the friends and fellows you meet through OA) instead of using your own willpower, which you've already found to be inadequate. it's subtle and challenging work and you probably won't find the solution immediately, but a solution is there to be found, and it's beautiful to boot. the community varies depending on your location -- i actually don't like how it feels in my small VT town compared to what i left behind in NYC -- so i especially recommend it if you're near a bigger city.

along with finding a spiritual source of power and strength through OA, a couple other systems have helped me:

1. supplements or medications that must be taken on an empty stomach. this might not be relevant to the way you binge, but personally, i always graze or binge on junk food between meals, then skip nutritious meals because i'm not hungry for them. once i started taking thyroid meds that work best when one's stomach is empty, waiting 3 hours between meals was a requirement. non-prescription supplements i've used for this purpose (seriously, it's kind of life-saving for me) are probiotics (some brands can be taken with food but others recommend they be taken alone) and systemic enzymes.

2. again to reduce the grazing, it helps me to eat 3 meals and 1 snack per day. when i first went to this plan of eating, i allowed myself to eat any food in any quantity at these meals, as long as the meals had a specific beginning and end. the freedom to eat what i want kept me from freaking out and bingeing, and starting each meal with real food (protein, veg, etc.) helped prevent the kind of entire-box-of-cookies binge i used to have.
posted by nevers at 9:32 PM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding Geneen Roth. I have been exponentially more able to control my binge eating after reading Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating. It's available used on Amazon for a penny plus shipping. Feeding the Hungry Heart is also good.
posted by woodvine at 9:35 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Add time. Try to put off the compulsive behavior 15 minutes at a time. Don't worry about the thoughts, just worry about not doing the behavior for 15 minutes. Do something else with yourself in that time. That could be doing 15 minutes of stretching, watching tv, reading, metafiltering, taking a shower, washing the dishes, anything really. The idea is not to combat the urges once and for all, it's just to put off the behavior for 15 minutes at a time. The compulsiveness is really the issue. After 15 minutes see where you are. Maybe you can put it off for another 5 or 10 or 15 minutes? Maybe tonight you just wind up bingeing. Just put time between the urge and the behavior. I don't binge eat, but this has worked really well for me with other compulsive behaviors. Of course that train is REALLY hard to get off once it starts. You have to redefine the train though. Separate the urges from the behavior. Put time between them. You can do it. Seriously good on you for doing therapy and taking care of yourself.
posted by Katine at 6:45 AM on August 16, 2012

Following on the suggestion to treat yourself with things rather than food, but that gets expensive.... That was part of the reason that I took up shopping at garage sales and thrift stores. It's not so much the thing that I buy, but the thrill of the hunt. So you can spend a lot of time looking/browsing, but don't buy anything unless it is just perfect for what you are looking for, and the cost is very low compared to this same type of retail therapy at a mall.

Bonus: I go to neighborhood garage sales on Saturday mornings on my bicycle rather than the car, so I get some exercise, I get 2 hours with no food around to tempt me, and I get that thrill of the hunt, even if I don't buy anything.
posted by CathyG at 7:27 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing I learned from reading a book about willpower is that it is much easier to stop yourself from doing something if you have a hard line not to cross. For example, it's hard not to eat tons of food because you need to eat food, so there isn't a hard line there.

So, what I did to get out of a cycle of eating bad food way too often was to eliminate the food part by spending a week juicing. I only drank freshly made vegetable and fruit juice. I bought a juicer at good will for less than 10 dollars, and only bought vegetables and fruit from the grocery store, nothing else. Anytime I had the urge to just eat a bag of chips because I felt a little down, there were no chips in the house, and all I had was a jug of kale/apple/celery/cucumber juice. It was really hard for a couple of days, but by the end of the week I felt like I had my urges under control enough to start eating more real food. I also lost close to 10 pounds the first week, which helped to inspire me to keep going.

I'd suggest watching the film "Fat Sick and Nearly Dead". It's really inspiring, and if those guys can do what they did, there's no reason you can't.

Definitely try to get all of the junk food out of your house, and make sure you have lots of healthy stuff that you actually like. I like to go grocery shopping when I'm feeling good about myself, since I am a lot less likely to buy a bunch of random junk. If I'm in a bad mood, I stay as far away from the grocery store as possible.

One thing you might think of buying which might help are some little bento boxes. The kind with a bunch of small compartments for food inside. You can turn your meal creation time into more of an art activity, trying to make the most attractive looking meals you can, and when you're done, you'll have a premade healthy meal ready to go. It turns cooking into a little bit of an art project. That may inspire you to eat more healthy foods.
posted by markblasco at 7:34 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You find some inspiration from the book Diet Rehab. It's a plan that includes journaling what you eat and your emotions while you eat, but the whole point is that you don't start by taking away/restricting food. You actually start out by adding feel-good activities every day! In addition to journaling what you eat, you write about what your feel-good activity was.

The author does a good job explaining about the chemicals dopamine and serotonin, and how they can be depleated by stress and life events. He gives symptoms of serotonin deficiencies, dopamine deficiencies, and a combination of deficiencies of both. He suggests that being depleated of both serotonin and dopamine often leads to binge eating.

He gives a list of activities to do that improve serotonin, and a list of activities to do that increase dopamine. I actually thought it was a pretty good list.

My library did have the book available if there is a library convenient to you. It's also available on amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Diet-Rehab-Finally-Craving-Foods/dp/1583334424 (sorry I am not yet in the 2000's and don't know how to link.)
posted by shortyJBot at 7:45 AM on August 16, 2012

I'm not joking about this - Pinterest is helping me with my eating disorders. I have a lot of issues with being homeless; having to keep all my belongings in a storage locker; having to sell everything I owned, TWICE, because I had no way of keeping it, etc. So eating is a way for me to "keep" things. And store them. And no one can take it from me. But with Pinterest I can keep pictures of things I love, in their own compartments, and no one can take them. I have seriously skipped meals now by sitting at the computer making a board of my favorite pictures of puppies. Online animal hoarding. Accessible from anywhere I am. Jewelry and fashion pinning is also satisfying and feels like it almost takes the place of shopping for me. (Before the bad economy I could go shopping for hours which was good exercise and I would not eat while I was doing it.) Pinterest is a kind of digital hoarding that seems less destructive than real life hoarding or binge eating to me.

I did read an article recently that if you buy a brand name item, doesn't have to cost a lot, your brain sees that as telling yourself you are worth more. So, for example, instead of an OK gas station black coffee, you should splurge on a Starbucks latte now and then. Or the $7 mascara instead of the $3 mascara. It's a low cost way to boost your self esteem. I don't really believe in the superiority of name brands but I do believe in using any kind of trickery to get your brain to give you a healthy body.
posted by cda at 8:21 AM on August 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

When I was in therapy one thing my therapist recommended was to re-frame your ideas about food.

Food is fuel. We take pleasure in it. Some foods are healthy for us, some aren't. Since it's fuel, and since we take pleasure in it, let's think of some lovely, healthy, indulgent things to eat.

I suggest that you channel your food energy to sourcing and cooking beautiful food.

I'd be much more satisfied with a chocolate souffle that I cooked myself with Belguin chocolate than I would a Ho-Ho. It would be richer, more enjoyable and satisfying. I wouldn't wolf it down because I made if for myself, with love.

Practice slowing down when you eat. Taste what you're eating. Only eat real food, nothing processed. Take joy in the preparation of your food. Concentrate on the perfection of a peach, or the marbling of your steak.

Take pictures of your meals and journal/blog about them. How did you feel? What did you learn? What did you think about? Anything relevant.

Learn to be in the here and now when you eat. Don't be distracted, don't tune out, don't watch TV and mindlessly munch.

Expect that sometimes you'll revert to old habits. Don't beat yourself up, accept it, and affirm, "I will do better, I deserve to treat myself well."

When you hear the voice in your head start in with the "If you don't eat rubbish you aren't good," Say back to the voice, "That's not true. I'm good no matter what I eat. Eating food that is unhealthy and substandard has nothing to do with my worth." Say it out loud if you have to. Say it frequently. Make it a mantra or an affirmation.

Track everything you eat, even the unhealthy items you binge on. Be brutally honest. If you ate a bag of Doritos. That's the truth. You did. Write it down. By doing this, you move your food consumption from unconscious to conscious. You're deciding to eat something, not letting your impulses drive you.

This is a journey, not a destination. I will always struggle with my weight, the deck is stacked against me, but I don't have to have unhealthy responses to this. I eat nice food, I exercise regularly and not to excess. I do the best I can with what I've got.

This will be some of the hardest work you will ever do, but once you are free of all the negative voices in your head, and you change your relationship to food, you will feel amazing.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:21 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you ever considered that you may have ADHD? Your description of your situation sounds like someone trying to cope with undiagnosed ADHD. Eating disorders are common in women with ADHD, as food can be used to calm the restless mind.
posted by TorontoSandy at 10:00 AM on August 16, 2012

I would recommend adding Green Tea to your daily ritual. It's very good for you (as long as you don't sweeten it with lots of sugar) and helps in weight loss and appetite suppression.

I also find that I really enjoy the taste and ritual, so a nice cup of green tea is a 'treat' for me.
posted by derivation at 12:11 PM on August 16, 2012

I've been dealing with this for a long time. I have a two-pronged attack: mood maintenance so I am less likely to reach that "Oh my god, I'm going to die if I don't binge" feeling, and then, if I reach that feeling, activities that might occupy or calm me enough that I can get through without binging.

Mood maintenance:
* I've started Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and that's been a huge help. In particular, mindfulness meditation, mindful moments and checking in with myself throughout the day, and breathing exercises to keep me relaxed. I'm working through Steven Hayes's book right now. I find free guided meditations online (in particular, meditations that emphasize self-compassion). This has been very effective for me.
* Writing in my journal. Essential.
* Daily walks.
* Connecting with a family member, friend, or loved one (email, phone, etc.).
* Doing my best to keep a positive, values-based approach to my recovery, so it's less, "Don't binge! Don't do it! Don't screw up!" and more, "Let's work towards a healthy relationship to food." I've developed a food philosophy for myself that outlines how I want to eat (mindfully and intuitively). I do much better if I'm moving towards something positive rather than resisting something negative.

* Shopping (even window shopping)
* Knitting or sewing
* Playing a musical instrument
* Making really hot tea or hot milk (with a bit of sugar and vanilla extract) is soothing and feels like a treat, and takes a while to consume
* A walk
* A resource for this that I absolutely love is 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. So practical and helpful.

If I do it, I try to analyze my binge in my journal. It helps me if I feel like I learned something from it. Then I can think of it as "gathering data" rather than "screwing up royally."
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 3:19 PM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Been there. Still there.

I just read Living With Voices, which may help. It's about making friends with the irresistible impulses and getting them to stop shouting at you. I'm just getting started, but I think it may work.
posted by KRS at 3:32 PM on August 16, 2012

One more thing: I said I've been dealing with this a long time, but I didn't experience any success at all until I adopted the mood maintenance practices. I've had quite a bit of success because of them. Relying on activities and distractions to white knuckle my way through? Did not work.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 6:27 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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