It's been a tough day, week, month! You've been struggling with your eating behaviors and you've been upset that you've starting binging more often. Things had been going well for awhile and you thought you had the binging under control. You convinced yourself after every binge that you won't binge again. And then, it happens again and again. You may feel like a failure, disappointed in yourself or just tired of dealing with this issue.
But maybe you've been thinking about this all wrong without knowing it.
Instead of trying to prevent a binge, focus on what to do AFTER you binge. That's the time when you are probably most able to make the important changes in your thinking that will enable you to change your behavior.
Binge eating is always followed by self-judgment.
Judging yourself over and over after you binge strengthens the vicious cycle of binging. This cycle often starts with a trigger, usually related to some form of stress that leads to uncomfortable emotions that then trigger feelings of insecurity, worthlessness, hopelessness. You may have thoughts such as: "I'm a failure," "I'm not good enough," or "I'm not lovable."
It is these emotions and these self- judgmental thoughts/beliefs that then set you up for your next binge.
After you binge, if you are able to recognize this pattern of stress leading to binge behavior leading to emotional upset and self-judgment, you have a chance to intervene. Here are the three points in the binge cycle where you can use your awareness of this pattern to interrupt your unwanted behaviors:
1. Right after you binge - soften towards yourself. Acknowledge that you've had a binge and then before you start "hating" on yourself, find something encouraging to say to yourself. It could go something like this: "Ok, so that (I binged) happened but it doesn't make me a failure / disappointment / weak. Tomorrow is a new day and I don't want to carry these negative feelings with me.
2. Reflecting back on the binge - identify your emotional trigger. Perhaps later that day or the next day, see if you can understand what you were feeling before you binged. you may have to look back for a few days or even a week before the binge episode. Did you have a talk with someone that upset you? Did you spend too much time online or watching the news? How did that make you feel?
3. Build a different off-ramp - I think of the binge cycle as a highway that you've taken over and over and once you're on that highway, there is no way to get off. But you can build an off-ramp. If you know the emotions and thoughts and self-judgments that form the pattern that trigger your binges, then you can build off-ramps that give you a way to take a detour away from your next binge. One off-ramp could be attached to the emotion you identified in #2. If you miss that off ramp, you could build another that comes up when you recognize negative self-talk or self-judgements.
If you're used to being on the highway to your next binge, it will take practice to see the possible off ramps and it will take willingness to make that detour.
Binging is the easiest and quickest way to find comfort, but if you think about it, this comfort lasts for only a short time. If you are willing to try and to practice other ways to soothe yourself, you will find these new off ramp skills work much better - once you know how to use them.
If you want help building your own personal off ramps, schedule a free consult with me to discuss. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain!