Skills you can use to stop binging and overeating NOW!

The first goal of therapy should be interrupting any current unwanted behaviors, such as bingeing, overeating, obsessing about food or your body. If you have binge eating, you may have very chaotic eating patterns: eating more, both at meals and during binges, than people who are living in larger bodies but don’t binge eat. You may also engage in weight cycling, or yo-yo dieting  - going on and off diets, always chasing the latest fad diet that promises to deliver the perfect "summer body." Another common trait of those with binge eating, food addiction and emotional eating is the loss of control over your eating that can make you feel like a failure, no matter how many other areas of your life you succeed in.  

Buddhist theory views pain as part of the human condition and distinct from suffering.

Suffering is defined as nonacceptance of pain. For example, if you go through a divorce after twenty years of marriage, you will experience pain in the form of anger, sorrow, fear, and other emotions. Suffering comes about when, instead of accepting your feelings, you blame other people for how you feel, get stuck in feeling sorry for yourself, or distract yourself from your true emotions.

There are skills that can help you if you want to move on and just don’t know how.

These skills come from a type of therapy called "dialectical behavior therapy" (DBT) – originally developed by therapist Marsha Linehan.  Below is a listing of some DBT skills that you can use to help you reduce food obsessions, binging, emotional or stress eating and also reduce self-judgment:

One of these skills is mindfulness.  When you are mindful, you observe and describe what you are experiencing, even when the experience is painful. Mindfulness allows you to just "sit" with your experience—to participate in what you are feeling and change your reactions to harmful situations as a result. One of the most important elements of mindfulness is learning not to judge your emotions, the emotions of others, or your situation. Such judgments are common—for example, we often describe things as good or bad. Including food!   Here are other skills you can learn and practice:

1.    Pros and cons skill. Analyze your current situation for its pros and cons you discover all the different ways the situation does and doesn’t serve you.  
2.     Skills for immediately improving the moment. Various skills can help you immediately change things in the moment; these include prayer, relaxation, using your imagination (e.g., thinking of a beautiful beach you’ve visited), and finding meaning in your pain.

3.     Self-soothing skills. Self-soothing (with the 5 senses) skills help you nurture and calm yourself.  For example, you might soothe yourself by taking a bubble bath, smelling a rose, listening to music, or noticing the beauty of nature.

4.     Skills of distraction. Distraction can put distance between a current situation and your feelings.  Examples include taking a walk, calling a friend, taking three deep breaths, and reading.
5.     Push away: . To do this, imagine yourself putting the problem into a lockbox and then storing that box on the top shelf of your closet until you are less emotional or have more support and are ready to take it out and deal with it.

Skill are not sexy to talk about but they are absolutely necessary for changing unwanted behaviors!

Here are some examples of ways you can use these skills:

1.  Pros and Cons - Ask yourself: How would it affect your life if you stopped using food to numb or comfort yourself?The pros for this are obvious:  If you stopped using food in this way, you would feel better about yourself, your life would be improved. But you’d also give up certain things. For example, if you stopped using food to manage your distress, you’d no longer enjoy the instant gratification that comes with doing so.

2.  Situations for using all other skills:
When you are upset or stressed (knowing that these feelings can lead to a binge, try taking a walk or calling a friend (distraction skills). If you feel overwhelmed or exhausted (a vulnerable time for your next binge):  plan to use self-soothing skills to calm and nurture yourself with a bubble bath, putting aromatherapy lotion on your skin or listening to soothing music.

See if you can identify at least five skills that are very effective for you. These should be skills that can be used in a variety of situations. Obviously, if you get upset at work you can’t stop and take a hot bath. You’ll need another skill to use until you can get home. Don’t forget to try the mindfulness skills of observing and describing your emotions, being nonjudgmental, and sitting with your feelings.

If you still think you can do it on your own and don’t want to seek outside help or support, ask yourself how long you’ve been going it alone and is that working for you?  You can even use the pros and cons exercise to ask yourself – What are the pros or cons of continuing to try to do this on your own? Use the DBT skill of analyzing pros and cons to see whether going it alone has primarily helped you or held you back. If you’re doing great on your own, stick with it. If, on the other hand, you’re ready for outside help and support, see links below.

All the best,

Dr. Carolyn

PS:  If you recognize you are ready for expert support, that you can't go it alone anymore, schedule a free consult to see if the Anchor Program is right for you.