Coping Mechanisms when Tempted by Binge Eating Disorder Habits

This was a recently requested blog post and since National Eating Disorder Awareness week is just wrapping up, I figured it was a good time to dive deeper into the topic.

I want to preface this post by saying that if you feel you may have an eating disorder, it is important to reach out to a professional for help. I did last August and I have made tremendous progress in my recovery with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). The person that I am today is drastically different than the person I was one year ago, even nine months ago, regarding BED. However, (and this is a big however), just because a person has begun recovery or has made significant progress in their recovery does not mean that they do not have ED tendencies or that the eating disorder is magically gone. Oh how lovely life would be if that was the case! 😉

My binges and urges have significantly reduced because on August 1, 2020 I made a promise and commitment to myself to do everything I could to heal myself, my tendencies when feeling different emotions, and my thinking around eating and food. One thing that I took action on immediately was researching to find a therapist; someone who I could talk to and share what my life looked like while having BED. I’ve been seeing someone since August and still virtually meet with her on a regular basis now.

Like I said above, just because a person has made progress doesn’t mean the urges or tendencies are gone forever. My therapist has reminded me a few times that my goal isn’t to not necessarily have the urge to binge – that will stay with me for a while because of my history with the disorder, but to know how to act and respond to urges when they do arise because oftentimes I don’t know when they’ll happen. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling tomorrow afternoon, for example. Hopefully I’ll be in a great mood but maybe something will come up that stresses me out or upsets me. Because the urge to binge is usually something you can’t prepare for (though sometimes you can), having a toolbox of coping mechanisms or strategies to pull from is key.

When I am feeling a strong temptation to binge, I:

1.) Pause. I stop whatever I’m doing, and ask myself these questions: What am I feeling right now? What emotion is it? Why am I feeling this way? How did this feeling come about? What action can I take to resolve this? What productive thing can I do to make myself feel better?

2.) Talk to Kyle. If I am with Kyle and he’s able to talk, I usually just end up going straight to him and end up word vomiting all my feelings and thoughts. It’s usually a bunch of really long run-on sentences because I’m processing what I’m feeling while fighting the urge to binge, but as I vent to him, it feels good to just to get the feelings out in the open. Just acknowledging and saying everything and word dumping feels really good. I love having him there to listen and to ask questions and give advice (he gives really good advice) 🙂 I always feel like I’ve let out a really big exhale after venting to him.

3.) Journal. If I’m by myself, my therapist has encouraged me to keep a journal and to write down my feelings and thoughts when an urge arises. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of journaling. It’s not that it doesn’t work, I just feel like the process of handwriting everything I’m feeling takes so much time. And yet, I think that’s a huge point of the journaling strategy. That you give yourself a lot of time to not only recognize and acknowledge the urge to binge, but also to process it through an action like writing, kind of similar to venting to a friend or going for a run or walk.

4.) Drink water or a seltzer. I love lemon lime flavored seltzer! Because my BED temptations are not hunger cues (meaning I don’t want food because I’m hungry, I want food to suppress something that I’m feeling), a lot of times I reach for a seltzer or a glass of water and move through steps 1, 2, and 3 with it. I’m not sure what it is, but something about drinking one of those calms me down and grounds me.

5.) Get outside. If I’m still feeling an urge after journaling, I always try to get outside. Whether it’s a walk or a run, getting some fresh air and movement always makes me feel better. I have had so many times in my life that I’ve left to go on a run or walk feeling really upset or really frustrated and I’ve returned home feeling much more at peace with a well thought-out plan to how I can take action and feel better.

6.) Continue talking with my therapist. To keep myself accountable and to continue progressing with recovery, I always tell my therapist about any urges or binges the next time I see her. So, if I had an urge and I was able to move through it using my strategies, then I would tell her about it. And if I had an urge and I gave into it, I also tell her about it. Together, we then dive deeper into why I might have not found success with my strategies and sometimes it’s been, “I don’t know, I was really upset and just binged.” That’s it. But it’s always a learning process and each time I think about the “why”, like why I was feeling a certain way, why this strategy served me well, or why I gave into the urge, I get a little bit stronger. And a little bit goes a long way.

7.) Remind myself of my goals. This is another thing I think about when I find myself with a temptation to binge. I think about how much progress I’ve made since August and how much stronger of a person I’ve become. I think about how I don’t want to have these urges control my life anymore and that this is the ugly mess I have to work through to get to that reality. I think about how I’ll feel after a binge – usually really uncomfortable physically, upset with myself, and still left with my problems and feelings that I had when I started the binge. I also think about my running goals and how much progress I’ve made with my base building. Eating multiple bowls of cereal will probably not fuel me well for my next run and I’ll most likely end up feeling bloated and sluggish.

Now, there have been times when I have given into the urge and binged. The most important thing to do when that happens is to forgive yourself and move on. Don’t dwell on it or sulk. And definitely don’t continue to binge because you’re feeling bad about yourself (something I did a lot in the past). When you mind is clearer, take some time to reflect and think about why you ended up binging. Also take some time to work through your emotions and take productive action to make yourself feel better. Recovery is a long, messy, ugly process and there will be slip-ups. However, it is possible and if you really commit to doing the hard work, there can absolutely be progress made.

What’s something you do when you are feeling upset, stressed, anxious or angry? What do you do to make yourself feel better?

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