Why we do what we do when we know what we know
Yoga, meditation, journaling: all these things are invaluable tools to make me feel zen, yet I often struggle to do them even though I know I feel more in touch with myself afterwards.
It’s not that the activities are hard in themselves (though yoga can be grueling at times). It’s the internal debate that starts up every day when you know you should do them but there’s a part of you that is holding back.
The same goes for our diet. We know we should be eating more fruits and veggies, but instead we go for the heavily processed stuff. Why is that?
I used to think that it was just me – that I was ‘wired wrong’ and that I was somehow incapable of learning from my mistakes. I knew I’d feel good after eating a light meal and that I would feel crap after eating crap, but all too many times I would still opt for what made me feel bad, both physically and mentally.
Why is implementing so hard? Isn’t knowledge power? Why can’t we just do what we know to be good for us, what’s stopping us?
I think that especially emotional eaters and those who binge eat can relate to this. We know how miserable we will feel after a binge, but yet we still do it over and over again. For what? For that 10 minute sugar high that makes us feel good temporarily. But when we crash from the sugar high and realize what we’ve done, we feel even worse about ourselves, and so we want to comfort ourselves with some more unhealthy food. On top of that we don’t feel motivated to exercise or be productive, so things spiral down from there until we feel hopeless and completely out of control. One small binge can lead to hours, days or even weeks of going from binge to binge, without knowing how we can ever get out of this vicious cycle.
Not all too long ago I would often be eating a healthy meal, while secretly thinking Pasta, Pasta, Pasta or Icecream, Icecream, Icecream, knowing that in the hours following this meal I would probably devour both of them.
I just seemed to never be mentally satisfied with healthy food, my mind was always craving the stuff that was going to give me that momentary high.
The good news is that binging is a habit and that it can also spiral upward.
The thing is that, even though we’re not 100% happy with the current situation, we are also incredibly afraid of change. We are afraid of things that aren’t comfortable, and binging has been our comfort blanket for a long time. Trusting the recovery process – one that is slow and with no obvious light-bulb moments – is difficult.
But believe me when I say that you can stop binge eating. Whether it is something you do at night, in your car, on rare occasions when you’re stressed or every single day, you can get better.
Compulsive eating is not the result of a character flaw or a messed-up intrinsic part of yourself. It simply is a habit that was cultivated by accident because at the time you just didn’t know any better.
This list is by no means extensive but a good place to begin if you are ready to fight your compulsive eating.
3 simple tips on how to stop binging
- Remove as many restrictions from your diet as possible
Restriction -> Binge Eating -> Guilt -> Restriction -> Binge Eating -> Guilt
It’s as simple as that. You simply cannot overcome binge eating when you restrict yourself too much. Have you noticed that the foods that are on your “Don’t-Eat” list are the ones that you end up binging on?
For me it was ice-cream. I was mortified of the fat in ice-cream and forbid myself to eat it, but when I binged it was always Ben & Jerries Cookie Dough ice-cream. I would try to suppress my craving for ice-cream for as long as possible, so obviously when the desire to binge crept in, all I could think about was having that one food.
- Create “If this happens, then that” plan.
Write down a list of the triggers that cause you to binge. Write down as many things that come to your mind. Then, create another list of possible things you could do in the moment to prevent yourself from responding to those triggers. Instead of binging, what else could you do?
For example, your triggers could include:
- Every time I weigh myself
- Every time things don’t go as planned
- Every time I talk to xyz
Your SOS-prevention habits could include:
- Calling up your best friend and simply talking to her
- Going for a 10 min walk by yourself
- Taking a hot shower and brushing your teeth to feel clean
- If you’re at work/uni and don’t have a lot of time, something simple as taking a couple of deep breaths
You cannot expect to never feel the urge to binge again. So instead you need to prepare yourself for when sh*** hits the fan. This is a simple trick to help you maintain positive behavior when your willpower becomes depleted and gives you a little action plan for when you don’t know what your next step should be. I know this might sound naive and simplified and I get that many times you don’t even have that moment of realization before you start eating. But over time you will get better at creating space for yourself between when you want to eat and when you actually go get food, and during that time you can start thinking of those altneratives things you can do.
- Keep yourself distracted
People binge for many reasons. We binge when we are stressed, sad, annoyed, mad and tired, but also when we are excited, happy and sometimes simply when we don’t have anything else to do.
Imagine this: It’s the weekend, you don’t have anything to do, you started feeling a bit lonely and cracking up a jar of Nutella seems easy. Aftewards you look back and wonder: “I didn’t even feel bad about myself, so why did I binge?”.
Oftentimes we don’t even have to feel a negative emotion to binge, we might just be bored and have nothing better to do. It’s a habit, after all. And we love to go back to habits that make us feel good.
So, find something else to keep you interested. What are you passionate about? Make a to-do list of things that you enjoy doing. When you feel the urge to binge creep in, take a look at your list and go spend some quality me-time with yourself. It’s probably what your mind is craving!