Stop Binging?
September 25, 2007 8:16 PM   Subscribe

How do i stop from binge eating?

I have had an eating disorder (bulimia) in the past. Now i find myself not throwing up or even wanting to, but still eating large quantities of food and not being able to stop. Does anyone have any ideas on how to stop or recognize what is happening before going into a frenzy? I am going to counseling and have also been on anti-depressants. Both of these help a lot, but i would still like some strategies. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
People used to smoke to deal with this. Naturally no one recommends that anymore, but the core idea is that you need to distract your brain. I find that brewing coffee helps distract and coffee is very low calorie if taken black. The other thing I find helpful is having carrots, celery and other low calorie munchies around.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 8:59 PM on September 25, 2007

Advice from someone who has also dealt with bulimia:

Try eating as slowly as possible - You'll find that you get that "I'm full" feeling without actually consuming near as much food.

Limit the amount of food you have on hand at any given time to a reasonable amount - a pantry full of cookies, chips and other "snack" foods that are easy to eat with little forethought may not be a great idea. You mentioned that you are going to counseling - it's a great idea and you'll likely find (or have already discovered) that it'll be necessary to think about food in a completely different way. It's fuel for your body and your body only needs a certain amount to be healthy. You don't fill your gas tank till it's spilling over - the same should apply for food intake.

Drink LOTS of water - aside from it being a healthy thing to do, I've oftentimes found that the more water I drink during meals, the quicker I feel full and can't continue to eat / overeat.

Most importantly - keep trying and don't give up. Eating disorders can be incredibly difficult to overcome and as with any addictive behavior (smoking, drugs, gambling, etc) relapses can happen. If you find yourself falling back into old habits do your best to pick up where you left on and continue trying to get better. Strive for progress and not perfection.. :)
posted by ninepin at 9:14 PM on September 25, 2007

I forwarded this to a good friend who has been dealing with a similar issue:

The only strategy that's given me real relief from binging is attending meetings of Overeaters Anonymous. At my first meeting I was amazed by how much I identified with what other people were saying. I was also skeptical about a 12-step program because I am agnostic. But the god/religion thing doesn't have to be a part of everyone's recovery. Check out 'Is OA for you?' and see what you think. It's helped me get my shit together in a way that nothing ever did before. You are not alone.
posted by funkiwan at 9:32 PM on September 25, 2007

I think the key is learning to feel hunger and satiety again, but that's hard. OA may be right for you, it may not. When you're confronted with food at mealtimes and social occasions it can be hard to always think "I am an addict, I have to control myself." Instead, I believe it is possible to retrain yourself to eat what you need to and stop when you should. I highly recommend "When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies" and "Overcoming Overeating," by Jane Hirschman and Carol Munter. With those books, and some other changes in my life, I learned what it was to feel hungry again. It's kind of amazing, even now, when I realize it's dinner time and I haven't thought about food or calories or whatever for hours. It's even more amazing when I am upset and actually DON'T feel like eating. That would sound weird to someone who's never dealt with compulsive eating, but if you have, you know what I mean.

Distractions are important too. Hobbies, movies, books, exercise--get yourself out of the habit of eating for distraction/soothing/frustration. I recommend knitting.
posted by chelseagirl at 9:43 PM on September 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

Can you eat small amounts of food all through the day, while trying the strategies others have mentioned? I know that if my blood sugar drops, sometimes I feel ravenous.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:28 PM on September 25, 2007

Clean out your fridge, and your pantry, of everything that is high calorie, high sodium, high fat, or particularly calorie dense. The next time you want to binge, something otherwise unappetizing will become your best friend, for a moment, and you'll likely eat copious quantities. But you'll get 10 full seconds to confront the vast abyss in your psyche from which you are trying to hide in mortal terror, while trying to find something to eat, before doing so.

Use that 10 seconds to get a glimpse of the abyss, and later, dump whatever food stuff it was to which you fled in the moment of binging. At the next binge, you may get a 15 second glimpse of the abyss, while you consider remaining and less palatable alternatives. Again, eat the copious quantities of raw cauliflower (or whatever it is that seems like a good idea in that awful moment) and dump whatever you chose, when, in more lucid moments, you're thereafter able.

Eventually, you lose fear of the terrible chasms you come to know in yourself, 15, 20, 30 and 60 seconds at a time. Eventually you learn that if you can stand in front of an open refrigerator door for 120 seconds, courage and sanity can be summoned, even from a deep sleep.
posted by paulsc at 12:45 AM on September 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I'll probably get skewered for this, but: Adderall. In addition to being an ADD drug, it is an anorectic (and was originally marketed as a diet drug under another name - according to wikipedia). I'm not suggesting substituting one ED for another. However, something like Adderall (taken only short-term) will give you the added willpower to re-learn what it is like to feel hungry and full. Hunger is not a common feeling for binge eaters, this it is impossible to repair a damaged relationship with food and re-learn how to use food to respond to your body's nutritional requirements and not as a vice/drug/addiction.

Obviously this may be a great plan for some people and a terrible plan for others. Luckily, Adderall is prescription only so it is up to the experts to decide whether or not it is a good idea for you.
posted by birdlady at 1:22 AM on September 26, 2007

okay, I am only familiar with eating lots and then feeling guilty, so take it for what it's worth when I say that eating things I know aren't tooooo bad (like low-fat low-cal low-taste crisp rice waffles as opposed to hot dogs) don't make me do what I usually do when I feel guilty after binging, which is running in the middle of the night, which always gets the cops excited.

hey, are you talking to a professional about this? because you should. they're supposed to have this kind of answer for you, they're job is to be there for you if you want them. given this question I'd like to think you do want them, no?
posted by krautland at 1:54 AM on September 26, 2007

This is what I wrote in relation to a similar question a while ago.

Find your trigger foods. Detox from them. Don't eat them and you won't get the cravings that make you binge.
posted by essexjan at 4:26 AM on September 26, 2007

How bad is the situation?

When I'm going through periods of higher stress, I eat and eat and eat. I gain weight. It never goes past a certain point though, and when things settle down for me it feels natural and doesn't require self-discipline to eat less, and I lose the weight. I've accepted this. Basically, eating helps me cope with stress and that's an acceptable stress reliever. It doesn't work so effectively if, on top of the stress that's motivating me to eat, I'm also feeling guilty and anxious about the food. I decided to ditch the anxiety, because it was easier than ditching the food. (The foods I eat a ton of tend to be normal foods, ie, not disproportionately junk or sweets).

I don't know if it's possible for you (it's a struggle for anyone in our diet obsessed society), but it might be worth a try. Accepting your appetites and your body, whether it's up or down, might be another way (than ADHD drugs, say) to reduce their power over you.

Honestly a lot of the advice on this thread, the strict monitoring (of your intake and your hunger/cravings), the strict rules, the incredibly high level of attention to food, appetite, intake, seem like a bad idea for anybody, but especially for someone who has struggled with ED. Consider the alternative of accepting that your body is just as worthwhile and precious, as are you, if you're a couple of sizes larger. If this is about health and peace in the end, consider that ditching the stress may be much more effective, especially in the context of a life long relationship with your body and your eating, than ditching the food.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:46 AM on September 26, 2007

I'm not sure if I'm a binge eater -- I'm certainly a compulsive one -- but the Shangri-La Diet has really improved my relationship with food. I tried it on a whim, and, within a few days, the part of my brain that wanted to eat everything essentially turned itself off, leaving the let's-eat-healthy-stuff-in-moderation part in control. Following all the diet wisdom I had heard over the years got a lot easier.

I don't know if it would work for you, or if it's even a good idea with a history of bulimia, but it's also easy enough to try out flavorless calories for a week and see what happens.
posted by backupjesus at 6:01 AM on September 26, 2007

I was also a compulsive eater until last year. Whole bags of candy, whole pizzas, whole cakes, bags of chips...gone whenever I was stressed. Now I'm down to 1-2 binges a year until of 1 a month. Shangri-La diet is a good solution, but I've had success with a diet that is generally more dense in calories. I eat about 60% calories from fat (mostly from salmon, coconuts, nuts, olive oil, flax, avocados, etc. with a special focus on omega-3 fatty acids because of their effects against depression) and feel satiated almost all the time. It has made a big difference in my health. You'd think a high-fat diet would make you fat, but it hasn't done such to me. In fact, I weigh significantly less. I was eating the paleo diet, but now I guess I'm more Weston A. Price since I am eating more fat than protein.

I also did cognitive behavioral therapy so I could overcome my self-defeating behavior.
posted by melissam at 7:00 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Penelope Trunk wrote about eating disorders yesterday. As a binge eater myself, Trunk's article prompted me to finally order Geneen Roth's Breaking Free from Emotional Eating. Trunk's article prompted me to action; I'm hoping that Roth's book can talk some sense into me.
posted by jdroth at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've had a binging problem for the past two years. The most helpful strategy has been along the lines of what paulsc suggests.

You have to make it easy for yourself by making it hard to binge.

First, I suggest figuring out what your trigger foods are and what you will & can eat when you are not hungry.

Second, clean out your house of these foods. This is not to say you can never eat these, but you will limit yourself to eating a SINGLE serving in a controlled environment, e.g. a restaurant.

NEVER buy them again. No matter what you try to convince yourself, if you couldn't resist the peanut butter jar the last time, don't put yourself in that position again.

This means that there are very few "ready to eat" or convenience foods in my house. I've eliminated cold cereals or instant oatmeals, granola/cereal bars, snack foods, string cheese, leftovers, ice cream --ok sweets of any kind--, and peanut butter. This is not to say that there is no food in my house - I do keep cottage cheese & yogurts for true hunger (I never binge on them, so I consider them "safe"), and have lots of ingredients to make meals out of.

I figure if I'm actually hungry, I will take the time to prepare something, but when you are in "binge" mode, you are looking for a FAST fix. Having to take the time to actually prep ingredients and cook gives you that built in time to think ... that is if the concept of actually working for your fix hasn't completely turned you off. It always turns me off, as I binge when I am in a fit of anxiety or stress ... if there's no quick fix, I usually just lay down on my bed and sulk or cry for a bit (and feel better afterwards).

Also, this is kind of bad, but I used to wake up in the middle of the night to raid the fridge - a habit I hated but had so much trouble stopping. It was compulsive. When we got an alarm system, I made sure that our motion detector was placed so that it blocked the bedrooms from the kitchen, but not the bedrooms from the bathroom. Thus, I could pee or get a drink of water, but not raid the fridge. I mean, I could have, but it would have beeped and woken my husband up.
posted by tastybrains at 10:26 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, anonymous, feel free to e-mail me (my username @ gmail) if you want to talk about this at all.

I also forgot to mention that there is a website that hosts online OA meetings every 3 hours. It is at The Recovery Group and it is run very professionally with people who really know the OA program and are there to listen.
posted by tastybrains at 10:28 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I say I.D. the situational triggers and avoid them and substitute harmless behavior for harmful and try the other suggestions esp. tastybrains's motion detector thing because it's so clever but if you slip up, don't feel bad because:

you know how everyone thought ulcers were caused by ulcer sufferers' emotions? And then it turned out to be Heliobacter pylori and those guys got the Nobel prize? Well, there's some talk lately that OCD may be linked to streptococcus infection.

There are also murmurings that eating disorders and OCD may be related.

"I never had an eating disorder. Now I find myself eating large quantities of food." Why would you suddenly come down with insanity? What if a bug caused this? Then the "unpack yr emotions to find the cause" jazz turns out to be wrong. Just as the "emotions cause 'nervous stomach' so stop being emotional and you won't have Crohn's disease anymore" line turned out to be wrong. Just as "night air causes malaria" was wrong.

I bet a lot of these fixes could help--find and eliminate triggers, treat it like an addiction, CBT. Additionally, I'm suggesting it might be kindof a relief to think of it as possibly a medical problem and maybe not a sign that you've gone wacked in the head. Eating and body weight seem to be physiologically determined and largely not under conscious control. To me, "Stop reading fashion mags and you'll stop starving/stuffing yourself" sounds like "Mr. Monk touches every other light pole because he was not breastfed as a child" which sounds like "The stars- no, the weather- no, bad humors cause syphilis, and the cure is to bathe you in mercury 'til you sweat 'em out." I think eating disorders have all the hallmarks of "problem we don't understand, yet, and are nevertheless coming up with (sometimes expensive, sometimes harmful) 'cures' for."
posted by Don Pepino at 10:32 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't keep crap in the house. And if I must binge, I make it something that won't send me down the shame spiral (eat carrot sticks or celery or plain cabbage till I can't anymore).
Doesn't address the underlying issue, but when you just have to stuff your face, you can do that without getting too many calories.
posted by chickaboo at 11:12 AM on September 26, 2007

It really depends on WHY you're binging - what your motivation for it is, I mean. I would binge when I was younger. My motivation was that we were poor and food was just something my mother viewed as a luxury (she was a drug addict, so there you go). So the only times I got to eat during that period were when I was at school (free school lunches ftw) and over at a friend's house. Whenever we actually had food in the house, I'd binge eat - because I never knew when we'd have food again, seriously. When I moved out on my own and was in charge of my own finances, it was hellacious - having access to that much food almost ruined me. I kept thinking "what if i lose my job tomorrow? i won't be able to afford my apartment and i'll have to move back in with my mother and i'll go back to eating once a day."

What saved me - and this probably will not work for you - was keeping the kitchen fully stocked. My kitchen is stocked all the time and I can make what amounts to a chinese buffet at 3am on a monday morning if I want to. Knowing that the kitchen is stocked helps me so much. I don't jump into panic mode - "omfg there's no food. shit shit shit. what am i going to do?" For a lot of people, they need to get rid of all the food in their house and only keep one day's worth of food there at a time. For me? Oh god, I HAVE to keep the kitchen stocked or else Taco Bell would have roughly 40% of my yearly earnings by now.
posted by damnjezebel at 4:42 PM on September 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

damnjezebel's answer is the strategy put forth in the books I mentioned. The premise is that you binge because you're in this all-or-nothing mentality: you cannot continue, you're never going to binge again, you'll be going on a diet tomorrow, so this is your LAST chance to eat those oreos, etc.

Allowing yourself any food takes away that "last hurrah" urgency and you are not compelled to eat as much. It's amazingly liberating.
posted by chelseagirl at 7:57 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thirding damnjezebel. The goal is to learn not to eat compulsively, not to live life in such a way that one is prevented from eating compulsively. The prevention option may be the only one that works for some people, but, in my experience, few people can maintain that kind of white-knuckle complete control over the long term without introducing a whole new set of eating issues.
posted by backupjesus at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2007

I just wanted to add that some people do not binge because they actually want the food. Many people are sensitive to the chemicals in food, especially sugars, and will binge to get a little "high" off of them.

Trust me, I did a 6 month experiment where I allowed myself to keep anything I wanted in the house and tried to just eat what "my body wanted". In the end, I was out of control and had gained nearly 40 lbs.

My current mindset is that yes, I can eat whatever I want. I'm an adult, and if I really want something, I can, at any time I want, either make it, or go out and get a serving of it. But because I know I am susceptible to binging when I feel out of control, I try to make it hard for me to mindlessly binge.

I think this is an important thing for people who feel at the mercy of food to do - to make it easier for themselves to stop and think. It's not deprivation, it's just a built in time-out.
posted by tastybrains at 10:56 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

For this, I went to my primary care physician at my lowest point (IE when I felt like I was totally out of control.) She referred me to the Northwestern University Wellness Institute and I got connected with a nutritionist (who was less helpful initially but more helpful down the line) and a shrink who worked CBT on me as well. I'm 50 lbs lighter 3 years later but more importantly have control over the whole thing. It's not always perfect--I still slip sometimes--but it's great not to hate myself. good luck!
posted by clairezulkey at 1:04 PM on September 27, 2007

« Older Hosed.   |   Why did I waste my youth pulling the sides off... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.