Tag Archives: binge eating

How to prevent a binge.

When most people think about eating disorders the image of a low weight person who restricts their food intake comes to mind. Anorexia Nervosa is the most commonly talked about and known about eating disorder. However there are other kinds. I also work with people who suffer from Bulimia Nervosa, binge eating disorder and a mixture of all the above.

Whilst restricting your food intake can sometimes be understood as “dieting that has gone too far”, bingeing is less socially acceptable. In my mind both of these ways of eating are problematic and indicate underlying issues that need to be worked through. An eating disorder is a horrible illness that is hard to understand for those around the person, it can be consuming for the person and it takes a lot of willpower, guts and hard work to conquer it. I hugely admire the people I work with who make those steps towards beating this nasty mental illness.

A true binge involves eating a large amount of food in an uncontrolled manner. We are not just talking half a packet of biscuits. Some binges can range into several thousand calories. Some people describe a switch being flipped, they are unable to stop and are almost in  trance like state. After a binge you are likely to feel very uncomfortable physically due to the amount eaten and you may feel uncomfortable emotionally and psychologically. Many people have an urge to compensate – for example exercising, purging (vomiting) or restricting their food to make up for the binge.

 

The science

You cannot vomit up all the calories you have eaten. The maximum you get rid of is 60%. Absorption starts in the oesophagus so by the time food gets to your stomach you have already absorbed some.

Restricting after a binge leads you into a cycle. When you restrict you end up really hungry at some stage which then leads to another binge. 

You would need to do a lot of exercise to burn off all the calories from a binge. 

So the best answer is to try to prevent a binge from happening in the first place. Now this is easier said than done. It will take time and be a work in progress. My top tip is to not expect to just stop bingeing and to expect a relapse to happen. When it does, it is ok. Just get back on track as soon as you can.

 

Preventing a binge:

1. Identify the key times you binge. Think about the Why, Where, When and How it happens. 

Why – how do you feel before a binge? Bored, tired, upset, angry, hungry?

Where – is it linked to being on your own, in a certain place?

When – does a binge happen at a certain time of day?

How – how do you get the foods you binge on? 

2. Use the above information to think about how you could stop a binge occurring. Is there an activity/place you need to avoid? Can you limit access to the binge foods?

3. There should be a point just before a binge occurs when you are thinking about bingeing. The idea is in your head. This is the point to stop it. Jump in there and say NO. At this stage you need a distraction. So write out a list of things that could take you away from the binge, that keep your mind and hands busy. Good options can include doing something crafty, calling a friend on the phone, having a shower, journalling how you feel, having a bath.

4. Look at your meal plan – it need to be structured with regular meals and snacks to prevent you getting too hungry. It may be that building a snack in at a key time will help prevent a binge. 

If you do binge DO NOT PANIC. Get right back on track with your normal eating plan as soon as possible to stop that restriction, bingeing cycle. 

You can do it. I know it.

What is Binge Eating?

This post was written for Slimsticks.

One of the words that commonly comes up when talking about diets and weight loss is Binge. For many this means a one off slip/lapse or an over-indulgence. For others it’s a recurring cycle that they hate but are stuck in….

A binge is defined by the American Psychiatric Assoication (1) as:

  1. Eating in a discrete period of time (e.g. 2 hours) an amount of food that is definitely large than most people would eat during a similar period of time and circumstances.
  2. A sense of lack of control during the epsiode of eating.

People describe being out of control and in another zone when bingeing, some people can’t actually remember a binge at all. Whereas other people plan a binge, buying the foods and working out when and where they can eat it. The majority of binges happen in secret and are not talked about. Binge foods are usually high sugar high calorie foods, high fat foods or carbohydrate rich foods, for example chocolate, biscuits, cakes, bread, cereal. However it can just be whatever is available.

The first moments of a binge bring pleasure and a sense of euphoria, but these feelings don’t last. People tend to eat rapidly during a binge, researchers have found women with bulimia are food twice as fast as women with no eating disorder (2).

The typical binge is 1,000-2,000kcal, but they can range up to 10-15,000. (3) To put this in context the average women should be looking to eat no more than 2,000kcals per day.

Binges where more normal amounts of food are eaten but the person still has all the feelings of being out of control are called Subjective Binges and binges where large amount of foods are consumed are known as Objective Binges.

What can trigger a Binge:

One of the keys to stopping binges is to work out what triggers them, here’s some of the common triggers:

  1. Feeling fat
  2. Gaining Weight “I’ve failed so may as well give up”
  3. Hunger and Dieting – The thought of food can become overwhelming.
  4. Breaking a Dietary Rule
  5. Having free time or a lack of routine.
  6. Boredom
  7. Premenstrual Tension
  8. Alcohol

I’ll be dealing with tips on how to break the binge cycle in the next blog post.

References:

  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnositc and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).
  2. Effect of eating rate on binge size in Bulimia Nervosa. Kissileff H.R et al (2008). Physiology and Behavior 93 (3): 481-485.
  3. Overcoming Binge Eating. Dr Christopher G. Fairburn (1995). The Guildford Press