It’s been a tough year, and I want to help you end it on a positive note—with progress toward recovery. Even if you’ve previously struggled with increased binge eating in December, this is your chance to do things differently, and have this month be a successful one.
When I was a binge eater, the final weeks before the new year usually included my worst binges. I’d often have thoughts like…
“I can’t stop binge eating now, there is too much tempting food this time of year.”
“I’m too busy with the holidays to even bother with recovery.”
“I will binge all I want through the end of the month, and then quit on January 1st.”
Why December Seems Like a Binge Eating Opportunity
Telling myself I’d quit at the start of the new year seemed to give me a pass in December—to binge as much as my lower brain wanted. That primitive part of my brain seemed to view the days leading up to January 1st as a non-stop binge opportunity. At the time, I didn’t understand how my lower brain worked, and I thought my binge urges were expressing my true desires. I also thought that I was emotionally broken and “needed” to binge to cope with the holidays. So, I went along with my lower brain—all the while telling myself that I’d leave binge eating in the past once January arrived.
What I didn’t know was that my lower brain was repeating a habitual and predictable pattern that’s common in binge eaters (and really in anyone with a destructive habit). I’ll call it the “one last time” rut, and when binge eaters get in this rut, they repeatedly promise that each binge will be their last, and promise to quit afterward. I explain this pattern in detail in Episode 14: Overcome “One Last Time” Thoughts to Quit Binge Eating.
However, in December—instead of telling yourself it’s your “last binge”—you may start telling yourself that it’s your “last year of bingeing.” You tell yourself that after December, you’ll be done for the rest of your life, so these are the final weeks of being caught up in the binge eating habit.
Because you feel committed to quitting on January 1st, you might stop any attempts to curb your binge eating at the end of the year. You may allow your lower brain’s desire for the temporary pleasure of binges to completely run the show. You end up feeling awful from the binges in the December, but when you remember that you’ll quit in January, you see no point in even trying to stop now. You just accept that you’re going to keep bingeing until the clock strikes midnight and marks a new year—and a new you.
January Doesn’t Erase Your Binge Eating Habit
During all of the the years of my binge eating, January 1st always came with a sense of dread. I wondered if I could really quit, and felt confused and frustrated that my desire to binge was still the same on New Year’s Day that it had been on New Year’s Eve. In December, it was comforting to believe that a new year would bring a swift recovery; but looking back, my resolutions usually only served as excuses to binge prior to the resolution’s start date. If I told myself I was quitting tomorrow, next week, next year; it gave me reason to binge today, this week, this year.
On January 1st or shortly thereafter, I began to resent the new year—because of the struggle of trying to avoid binges. I often wished it was December again, when I felt like I could just binge without even considering quitting, even though I knew December had been miserable. Until 2005, nothing I tried to help myself quit had worked, and I always found myself binge eating again by about January 5th.
In Brain over Binge, I talked about that first New Year’s Eve (15 years ago) when I didn’t have to make a resolution to stop binge eating. I wasn’t with family or friends or at a party—I was simply alone with my thoughts, watching others ring in the new year on television (where most of us will be this year as well). It was a wonderful feeling knowing that the next year would be different—that I wouldn’t just binge again a few days, and that I’d never have to resolve to quit binge eating again, because I was already done.
Do December Differently
No matter what your thoughts are saying now in December, your binge eating habit will not suddenly disappear come January 1st. The lower brain has no regard for time, and it will send urges automatically no matter what day or year it is. You will not suddenly gain the ability to avoid binges, unless you support yourself in learning how to do that.
You don’t want to spend another December being miserable, promising yourself you will do better in January. You can do better now. You can learn to recognize all of those faulty brain messages that drive you toward binge eating, and stop believing them. You can stop believing thoughts that say it somehow makes sense to binge through this month. You know that it doesn’t make sense, and you can absolutely break this cycle.
Just think of how amazing you’ll feel if you gain control of your binge eating before the new year, before the start of your typical resolution. Challenge yourself to do something different this year—break the pattern, and stop waiting until later for freedom from binge eating.
You can start ending this terrible habit today, and I want to offer you some support this month for a price that I hope is doable for anyone.
You can now get the Brain over Binge Course for only $10.99/month, with no commitment required.
That means if you feel free of binge eating by January 1st, you can cancel your subscription and you’ll pay nothing else.
The challenging circumstances we’ve been through in 2020 got me thinking about how to help more people. Those of you who have followed my blog, or read my books, or listened to my podcast know that this is a mission for me more than a job…but the reality is that I do need to charge for some of the resources if I want to continue doing this work.
I will still continue to offer no-expiration access for the regular price of $179.
If you think you’ll use the course in some way for more than 16 months, then the no-expiration option is still the best value for you, but I understand that kind of financial commitment may not be possible in these difficult times.
With the monthly subscription option (and the no-expiration option), you get the entire course (116 tracks) right away, plus you get immediate access to the new app we’ve recently set up to make it easy to listen on mobile. You will also get two new resources each month that you are subscribed.
You can use the course for as much time or as little time as you need to support yourself in ending binge eating and getting your life back.
This will be a short and simple blog post, and the message is just what is stated in the title. January 1st is coming soon, and you’ll of course see that people are going on diets; you’ll see weight loss heavily marketed as a goal you “should” have.
I’m here to tell you that it should not be your goal as you welcome the new year.
Having goals of becoming healthier by nourishing yourself well, or goals of becoming stronger or more energetic by incorporating enjoyable activity into your life are fine goals to work toward at any time of year. But please do not fall into the temptation of trying to lose weight fast with restrictive, calorie-deprivation diets.
Whether you are trying to recover from binge eating or you are newly recovered, going on a restrictive diet is a risk not worth taking. The body and brain have survival mechanisms that kick into gear when you deprive yourself of enough food, which will harm your efforts to stopping binge eating for good, and prevent you from developing a healthy relationship with food. A deprivation diet will make it extremely difficult to dismiss urges to binge and prevent those urges from going away.
Even if you haven’t binged in a very long time and you are confident in your recovery, weight loss through restrictive dieting should still not be your focus. Recovery opens up your time and energy, and you can use that time and energy to do so much good. Why use it to focus on your weight and dieting? There is simply no need to turn your attention there when you now have freedom from bingeing and freedom to focus on much more important things.
If you aren’t happy with your body, or you think weight loss would benefit your health, restrictive dieting is still not a solution. I’ve talked in previous blog posts and podcast episodes about healthy ways to think about weight and approach weight regulation. I’ve compiled all of my weight-related discussions into one blog post titled “Addressing Weight Issues in Binge Eating Recovery,” which I hope can be a helpful guide for you if you feel like weight issues are a challenge.
I realize that going on a restrictive diet and trying to get fast results can be tempting at this time of year, but ask yourself: Even if you could somehow manage to get fast results…then what? No one can maintain restrictive diets for long, which is why dieting has such a high failure rate. Attempting to start your New Year with a diet is extremely short-sighted. It’s following the crowd without considering the bigger picture of the rest of the year, or the rest of this decade, or the rest of your life. Even if you could lose weight temporarily, you’d have a slower metabolism and stronger hunger at the end of the process (two factors that make long-term healthy weight maintenance nearly impossible); and if you are a binge eater, a restrictive diet will only fuel your destructive habit.
Dieting is not a solution; it’s a path to more problems. Don’t fall for a “quick fix” that may last for the first three weeks of the year and then cause much more harm than good. Learning to stop binge eating, nourish your body, honor your hunger and fullness, and accept your natural weight is giving yourself a gift that will last a lifetime.
If you want to put binge eating behind you for good in the coming year, the Brain over Binge Course offers powerful and practical guidance to help you toward your goal.
You can now subscribe to the course on a monthly basis for only $10.99/month. Learn more.
It’s difficult to deal with binge eating at any time of year, but the holidays can bring extra challenges. One of those challenges is dealing with holiday events where people frequently talk about food, weight, and diets. These seem to be favorite topics of conversation for some people, and when I was a binge eater, hearing friends and relatives talk about their diet plans, weight loss strategies, and workout programs often made me anxious. You probably know people who can’t seem to participate in a holiday meal—or any meal for that matter—without talking about how fattening they think certain foods are, or what foods they are or are not eating because of their diet, or how guilty they feel for eating this or that. You probably also know people who comment on or criticize their own body or others’ bodies, or give unwanted weight loss advice, or think that it somehow makes sense to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be eating.
Because the holidays bring more temptation surrounding food and more concerns about weight gain, these conversations seem to ramp up. I want to give you some ideas for dealing with this, so that you can stay on track in binge eating recovery during the holidays—and in many situations where you encounter food and weight talk. Know that holiday food and weight talk does not cause holiday binge eating, but it’s helpful to learn to manage your own reactions and responses.
Dismissing Food and Weight Talk and Urges To Binge
Giving up dieting and weight obsession is very important in recovery from bulimia and binge eating disorder, because it allows you to nourish your body and get out of the survival state that drives bingeing. When you are letting go of dieting, learning to eat normally, and trying to accept your weight, it can be unsettling to hear about people doing the very things you are making an effort to avoid. For example, let’s say you are at a holiday meal and you are trying to enjoy eating everything in moderation and not feel guilty about eating certain indulgent foods, and then a friend or family member says they aren’t eating those same indulgent foods because it’s not compliant with their “diet”—this can make you question yourself and feel shaken or even ashamed.
The most simple solution for this is to treat the food or weight comment you hear like you treat the binge urges: Just dismiss it.
[If you are new to the Brain over Binge approach, you can learn about dismissing binge urges by downloading the free Brain over Binge Basics PDF.]
Dismissing a thought or feeling is to view it as unimportant, meaningless, and not worth your attention. You can dismiss any thought or feeling encouraging you to binge or to engage in other harmful behaviors—like dieting or being overly focused on weight. These thoughts arise inside of you, but you can use the same strategy to disregard comments from others. You don’t have to give the other person’s diet comment any value or consideration. This doesn’t mean you have to be rude to that person, but you can politely ignore the comment or kindly change the subject, and move on. This sounds easy, but I know that sometimes it may not feel easy in the moment, so I’m going to dive a little deeper to help you remain unaffected by food and weight talk, and avoid holiday binge eating.
Be Mindful of Your Own Reactions
The reason why dismissing someone’s food or weight comment may feel difficult is because that comment may immediately lead to an emotional, mental, or physical reaction in you. You may find your own food thoughts increasing in that moment; you may have feelings of anxiety arise; you may feel angry at the person for bringing up the topic; you may feel guilty if you are eating something that goes against the person’s weight or food advice.
You may even begin questioning your recovery or wondering if it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with food, when even people without eating disorders are dieting and making weight a big focus of their lives. You may start to have some food cravings when you hear dieting talk, because the thought of dieting may be strongly associated in your brain with overeating or binge eating.
In other words, what may seem like a mundane comment to the person saying it can lead to some unwanted, obsessive, anxious, or impulsive thoughts in you. It’s not usually what the person says that bothers you the most, it’s your own reactions.
[If you are someone who struggles with incessant food thoughts on a daily basis, you can listen to this free Q&A audio from the Brain over Binge course: “Food is constantly in my thoughts. Even if I’m not having urges to binge, I’m incessantly thinking about eating.”]
Like I said in the beginning of this post, it’s important to know that food and weight comments do not cause binge eating, and you remain in control regardless of what someone else says. I also want you to know that a person’s food or weight comment is not the direct cause of your uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and I’ll explain what I mean by this…
If other relatives or friends heard that same comment, they would be left with different feelings and reactions, or they would be completely unaffected. In the past, that same comment could have lead to a different reaction in you, and in the future, it will give rise to a different reaction in you. But at a specific point in time, when the comment hits your ears—and is processed by your particular belief system and experiences—your thoughts can start to race in a way that feels unwanted and intrusive, and goes against the peaceful relationship that you want to have with food. You don’t have to spend time trying to figure out why this is the case, because that can lead to you feeling like something is wrong with you, and it’s not the most efficient way forward. It’s simply that your brain is temporarily conditioned to react this way to food comments, but you have the ability to change it.
You Don’t Need to Avoid Holiday Food Talk to Avoid Holiday Binge Eating
Whether it’s during the holidays or at any time of year, avoiding all food and weight talk is not really an option. Even if you could somehow avoid every person that might say something unhelpful, I do not think this would benefit you. Food and weight talk is extremely common, and not only would it be impractical and probably impossible to avoid it altogether, it would severely limit your choices of what to do, where to go, and who to see.
Furthermore, thinking that you need to avoid food talk in order to recover from binge eating disorder or bulimia encourages a mindset of powerlessness. When you tell yourself you are not capable of dealing with food talk, then food talk will be much more upsetting to you, and the conditioned reactions you have to it will be become stronger. Furthermore, if you think that food and weight talk will lead you into harmful behaviors, then it probably will. On the other hand, if you can learn to dismiss harmful food talk when it occurs, you can become confident that you can handle any comment in any situation—and that you can avoid holiday binge eating and any behavior that would hinder your recovery.
Have Compassion for the Other Person
In order to get in a better mindset to deal with food and weight comments, you must first understand that everyone has their own thoughts driving what they say or do. Most people do mean well; but what they say about food and weight comes from what is making sense in their own mind in that moment, based on a multitude of their own experiences, emotions, and opinions. It’s unlikely that the person is saying something about food or weight to intentionally hurt you; they are simply making a comment, or just trying to make conversation.
When food is the center of an event, it can seem to make sense to talk about it, so that’s what people often do, and you don’t need to make it more meaningful than that. If the event didn’t include food, but instead took place around a big table of flower arrangements, people would likely feel compelled to start conversations about flowers. The problem is that food is often an emotionally charged topic, so the conversations about it don’t always feel as positive or pleasant as conversations about flowers might feel.
We are all guilty of sometimes not considering how our words may affect others, or saying something without really thinking, so try to have compassion for the person making the food or weight comment. It could be that they’ve simply gotten into the habit of talking about diets and weight during meals, so those thoughts automatically come up for them and they don’t filter their thoughts before they speak. Whatever the case, being upset with the person isn’t practical or helpful. Keeping an attitude of compassion for that person keeps your emotions from running high and makes it easier to dismiss their words.
It’s Not About You
Regardless of the exact reason the comment was made, know that it’s not about you. Someone saying that he or she is not eating sugar this Christmas does not mean you should also consider avoiding sugar this Christmas. Someone saying that they need to lose weight after the holidays does not mean you should consider that as your goal as well. Someone else criticizing their body size does not mean you need to turn attention to your own appearance. For help with body image issues, you can listen to Episode 40: Body Image and Binge Eating.
I’m going to add a helpful little disclaimer to any holiday food talk that you might hear: What people say about food and weight is often not accurate, and doesn’t always line up with what they actually do. The person who says sugar is off limits may have had cookies the day before, or may decide to have a delicious dessert later at the party. The person who says she is going to lose weight may never change one eating habit.
It’s common for people to claim to eat healthier or less than they really do. They aren’t intentionally lying about their eating habits or weight loss plans, but people often express what they aspire to, as if it’s fact. If you are someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, you’ve likely learned how harmful diets are, and you know that the percentage of people who actually stick to them is very low. It’s very unlikely that the people who are making dieting comments at a party are the exceptions to diet failure.
Even if the person making the food comment is really dieting and losing weight exactly like they say they are, it still doesn’t have to affect you. It’s simply the path that person is on right now—a path that may change tomorrow or in the future, but it’s not your path.
In addition to compassion, try viewing food and weight comments with curiosity as well. This can help reduce any anxiety you feel. If, in a moment of holiday food talk, you can think, “hmm, I wonder why they feel that way?” or… “I wonder what that’s about?” it can make a big difference in your mindset. You don’t need to say these words out loud, and you don’t need to actually answer these questions; it’s simply about switching from an anxiety-filled reaction to a curious one.
You can also use curiosity to help you with your own emotional, physical, and mental reactions. Being a curious observer of your own mind helps you get some distance from your thoughts and reactions and not take them so seriously. You don’t need to try to figure anything out; you don’t need to know exactly why your reactions are what they are; but being curious about your own thoughts and feelings is a much better way to manage them than being fearful of those thoughts and feelings or criticizing yourself for having them.
Don’t Engage the Food Talk
I find that in most cases, it’s best to avoid engaging this type of food, weight, and diet talk in any way. During recovery, it’s helpful to take the focus off of these things, and talking about someone else’s diet and weight is contradictory to that. It’s not that you can’t talk about it, but it typically doesn’t serve a useful purpose and it’s a distraction from your goal of having a healthy relationship with food.
If you strongly feel the other person’s diet is ill-advised, then you might consider addressing the topic with them at another time in a private setting. But in the context of a holiday event or meal, just try to kindly bring the focus back to something other than food. It gently sends the message that you aren’t really interested in diving deeper into that conversation, without you needing to be critical of the other person. Ask about the person’s family, their job, their house, their hobbies, or anything that is important to them.
Let Your Reactions Subside, and Get Back to Enjoying Yourself
Many emotional, mental, and physical reactions are automatic, which means you can’t necessarily control what comes up inside of you in response to food and weight talk. But, you’ll find that the reactions subside on their own, without you having to do anything. You can allow any uncomfortable feelings and thoughts to be present, without giving them a lot of attention or meaning, and this helps the thoughts and feelings to simply run their course and fade away. This is the same process you can use to deal with urges to binge. Learn more about not reacting to binge urges in Episode 6: Dismiss Urges to Binge: Component 3 (Stop Reacting to Urges to Binge.
As your reactions subside, you’ll find yourself naturally coming back to a less-anxious and more-peaceful mindset, where the other person’s words and your own feelings and thoughts are no longer bothering you. Then, you are free to continue enjoying the holiday event or having other conversations that don’t involve food or weight.
Keep this in mind as you attend holiday events and aim to avoid binge eating during the holidays: Comments from others or harmful thoughts that arise in your own mind are messages that you can choose to take or leave. Just because someone says something about food, weight, or dieting does not mean you have to believe it or give it any significance in your life. You can simply let comments and your own reactions come and go, and move on. Other people’s words do not hold the power to get you off track in recovery. You can stay connected to what you need to do to end the binge eating habit for good.
If you need some extra help avoiding binge eating during the holidays or any day of the year, you can subscribe to the Brain over Binge course for only $10.99 per month.
My goal is to make recovery resources available to anyone who wants to be free of binge eating. Learn more about the course.
If you are newly binge-free, or trying to stop binge eating, you may be wondering how to avoid holiday binges. First, I want you to know that you can avoid binge eating regardless of the date on the calendar. There actually isn’t anything special you need to do or not do during the holidays. The path to recovery is the same every day: You need to dismiss urges to binge whenever they come up, and you need eat adequately. If you are new to the Brain over Binge approach, and you want to learn more about these two recovery goals, you can download my free PDF, the Brain over Binge Basics.
Even though avoiding a holiday binge is fundamentally the same as avoiding a binge at any other time, it’s helpful to be aware of issues that may come up. The holidays may bring some additional or different challenges in binge eating recovery, and this post will give you guidance on challenges relating to holiday decision-making.
Before I get into today’s topic, I want to mention briefly what I think is the most important thing to be aware of during the holidays:
Don’t Fall for “Binge Now During the Holidays, and Quit in the New Year” Thoughts
At some point before the end of the year, your lower brain may produce a thought like this: “Well, it’s so close to the end of the year, you can just binge now and then quit for good on January 1st.” This is neurological junk. This thought doesn’t speak your truth. You want to be binge-free now, this year, this holiday season. If you are aware that a resolution thought like this will likely come up, you’ll be more prepared to recognize it when it does—and most importantly, you’ll be prepared to dismiss it. The lower brain will always try to encourage you to binge “one last time” and come up with a justification for it. The holiday might be some of your lower brain’s favorite justifications for binges. If you want more help with this, you can listen to Episode 14: Overcome “One Last Time” Thoughts to Quit Binge Eating.
Saying Yes or No During the Holidays
Now, I’m going to move on to the topic of the blog post, which is stop letting holiday choices lead to holiday binges. Basically, I want to tell you that you can keep your yes’s and no’s to holiday events, obligations, responsibilities, and holiday foods separate from your yes’s and no’s to binge eating. I know this may sound a little confusing, but as I explain what I mean, I hope you will find this advice helpful.
It is a time of year when there are ample opportunities to put many more items on your To Do list—both at work and at home. There is usually pressure to be more closely involved in your community, with your co-workers, and with your family and friends. All of this involvement and connection can be wonderful, but as everyone knows, it can bring a fair amount of stress as well.
Binge Eating Can Become Connected with Holiday Stress
For those who binge, there can sometimes be a strong association between stress and binge eating, so that an increase in events and obligations on the calendar also leads to an increase in urges to binge. In addition, other factors such as social anxiety, the presence of certain foods at holiday events, and conversations about dieting at holiday meals may have become connected to the binge eating habit over time; so that now, binge urges automatically arise in those situations.
How those associations and connections developed varies from person to person; but knowing why certain stressors, events, people, foods, conversations, and feelings lead to binge urges is usually not very important to your recovery. What you need to know is that you’ve simply developed some habitual patterns, but binge eating does not help you cope in any way with the stress, events, foods, feelings, or obligations.
You always feel worse after the binges—it doesn’t do anything to solve your holiday problems or fulfill your responsibilities. When you binge, you either have to make yourself keep your obligations anyway—dragging yourself through the day with the binge eating making everything more difficult—or alternately, the binge makes you feel so badly that you have to cancel your plans, usually by making up an excuse.
On the surface, some people think that this second scenario of cancelling plans because of binge eating is the deeper reason for the binge, as if the binge was a subconscious way to get relief from responsibilities or avoid something they didn’t want to do. It is very important to see that this is not true. If you look deeper, you know that there are countless ways to get relief from responsibilities or avoid events without having to harm your health. All the binge does is give you temporary relief from the urge to binge, not from your responsibilities, obligations, or stress.
Keep Your Holiday Problems Separate from Your Binge Problems
If you’ve been exposed to what I’ll call the trigger theory in eating disorder recovery—the idea that you need to learn to handle triggers, or avoid them, in order to avoid binge eating—the holidays might seem like a dangerous time that is full of triggers for binge eating. Triggers can be things like a feeling, a negative comment from someone, eating a certain food, or being in a specific situation.
The trigger theory creates a scenario where your yes’s and no’s to holiday events, responsibilities, and even holiday food are what determines whether or not you will binge. For example, let’s say that you say yes to organizing a holiday party for your child’s class, and that creates a lot of stress the night before the party. During that stressful night, you have an urge to binge and act on it. In the trigger theory, the take-away lesson would be that you need to say no to organizing parties or similar events in the future, because you need to keep your stress level low to avoid a binge.
There are several problems with this theory. You might really want to organize parties for your child’s class, even if it brings extra stress, and you don’t want to have to base your life decisions around avoiding binges. Another flaw of this theory is that—even if you do say no to obligations—something else could create stress, and you could still have an urge to binge and still binge. Also, you could have a binge urge and binge even without any stress at all.
You Can Have Urges with Holiday Yes’s or No’s. Say No to the Holiday Binges
Here are some additional examples of how yes’s and no’s can create confusion when you use the trigger theory:
You say yes to eating some chocolates at a family holiday party and that leads to an urge to binge, and you act on it; so you decide that you must now say no to trigger foods at parties. Alternately, you say no to some chocolates at a family holiday party, then later that night you have a binge urge and eat a lot of chocolates as part of the binge; so you conclude that you should have said yes to the chocolates at the party—to avoid feeling deprived and then binge eating at home.
You say no to a holiday event because you don’t want to go, then when you are home alone, you have an urge to binge and act on it; so you decide that you need to say yes to social events in the future—in order to avoid being alone and binge eating.
Alternately, you say yes to a social event, but you feel anxious while you are there, and when you leave you have an urge to binge and act on it; so you decide that you need say no to those type of social events in the future to avoid binges.
As you can see, this trigger theory can make your decision-making feel very significant to your recovery, and very confusing as well. Even if you can somehow make what you feel are all the “right” decisions, you could still have binge urges. So, instead of all of this complexity, I want to tell you that saying yes or no to a holiday event, responsibility, or food has nothing to do with your ability to say no to a holiday binge. Your yes’s and no’s to things you want to do or don’t want to do during the holidays (or at any time in your life) are different from your yes’s or no’s when urges to binge arise. One decision doesn’t cause the other.
The binge urge is an urge to binge. It is not a hidden desire to avoid a responsibility or a social event; it is not an urge to calm yourself under holiday stress; it is not an indication of whether or not you should have eaten dessert. It is a primal and habitual urge to eat an abnormally large amount of food. You can learn to dismiss it in any situation or after eating any food, or after experiencing any “trigger.”
Knowing that you have the capacity to dismiss binge urges whenever they arise gives you the freedom to say yes when you want to say yes and no when you want to say no, while always say no to binge eating.
If you want extra help learning to say no to binges during the holidays and at any time of year, you can get over 100 audios and other resources to guide you in the Brain over Binge Course.
You can now get the course for only $10.99 per month with no commitment.
I hope this new subscription makes the course doable for anyone who wants to end binge eating.
If you have a goal to stop binge eating in the new year, I want to give you some advice that I hope will help you keep that resolution.
My advice is twofold:
1.) Prioritize stopping binge eating
2.) Don’t connect stopping binge eating to your other resolutions.
Let’s talk first about prioritizing your goal of ending the binge eating habit.
Stop Binge Eating First Before Working on Other Eating Resolutions
Of the unhealthy eating habits you may have (we all have some!), binge eating is probably creating the most pain in your life, and it’s the biggest factor holding you back from pursuing other goals or simply being more at peace. With that in mind, I would suggest setting aside your other eating-and-weight-related goals and keeping your focus on stopping the binges. This helps you avoid putting too much pressure on yourself to eat exactly “right,” and helps you avoid judging your eating too much or falling into an all-or-nothing mindset. Once you don’t binge anymore, and you are confident that you won’t binge in the future, you can make other healthy improvements to your eating, if that’s what you want.
If making sure you don’t binge is your top priority, then if you eat foods that are unhealthy, you can still be excited that you didn’t binge. If you overeat, instead of being upset with yourself, you can be proud that you didn’t follow your overeating with a binge. If you find yourself grazing when you are upset, you can praise yourself for not going into a binge during or after the grazing. If your weight does not change in the way you want it to, you can celebrate the fact that you can be binge-free at any weight, and know that a number on the scale doesn’t change your commitment to walk away from your harmful binge eating habit.
Prioritizing stopping binge eating also means committing not to diet.
If you’ve been following my blog and podcast, you know that restricting your food intake is a way to end up binge eating. Two of my recent podcasts focused on helping you avoid restrictive dieting in the New Year (and always): Episode 30: No Resolutions to Diet and Episode 33: Challenging Your Motivations to Diet.
You might have some anxiety about making stopping binge eating your most important resolution, because you may be thinking…”What if I do binge? Does that mean I’ve failed at my top priority?” Absolutely not. Acting on an urge to binge does not mean that ending the habit is suddenly less important to you, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should give up. Because quitting is your top priority, then if you do binge, you are in great position to learn from what happened, and move forward. You can look at what thoughts led you to follow the urge, decide what you will do differently next time, and commit to continuing to prioritize your goal of quitting.
To illustrate this, I want you to imagine that your priority is to learn to play guitar. If you think about this goal, it’s apparent that you would not quit if you played some wrong notes. The process of learning is your priority. Because your goal is important to you, you can seek support when you need it, and make adjustments as you see fit, and you can do the same with binge eating until you are completely binge-free. With the guitar goal, you may decide you need a private instructor, and with binge eating, you may decide you need a one-on-one coach (and I highly recommend Binge Code Coaching if you need that type of extra help).
Don’t Binge After Breaking a Resolution Not to Binge, or After Breaking Other Resolutions
If you do break your resolution not to binge with a binge, that doesn’t give you a reason to keep repeating the destructive behavior. A binge does not need to turn into binges. When I was bulimic, my response to a binge was often this: “well, now all is lost, so I might as well keep going,” and I’d end up binge eating for days at a time. I know this experience is common; but when stopping binge eating becomes your top priority, you can minimize the impact of any slips that you do have. For a podcast about getting back on track after a binge, listen to Episode 17: What if You Binge During Recovery?
It’s also important not to break other resolutions with binges, and this brings me to my 2nd piece of advice for stopping binge eating in the new year, which is: Don’t connect stopping binge eating to your other resolutions.
Many of you will take my suggestion to make stopping binge eating your only goal as it relates to your eating and weight, but if you are like some of the women and men who I’ve worked with, you may be thinking something like this: “Yes, stopping binge eating is my top priority…but I also need to eat healthy…and lose this extra weight…and I should stop eating gluten…and I think I need to quit sugar…and I want to commit to only eating when I’m hungry…and I need to end all overeating as well.”
As much as I can tell you to put aside those goals for now, I know that they may still be in the back of your mind. Even if you plan to work on those goals in the healthiest, least-restrictive way possible, and you are committed to eating adequately, those other goals can still become connected in an unhealthy way to your goal of stopping binge eating (and therefore interfere with your goal of stopping binge eating).
What tends to happen is this: You break your other eating resolutions—as most people do sometime in January—and then you have thoughts saying, “you’ve failed, so you might as well binge.” So, instead of just breaking your other resolutions, you break those resolutions and go on to binge. Maybe you’ve experienced this before, but let’s say you resolve to avoid gluten, and then the first time you eat some bread, you think something like this: “See, this is evidence that I don’t have any self-control, so I might as well give up, eat everything, and start over tomorrow.” Then the next time you eat gluten, this cycle repeats.
Or, let’s say you resolve to eat only when you are hungry, and then the first time you decide to have dessert after an already satisfying meal, you feel that “all is already lost” and that “there is no reason to dismiss urges to binge”. Then, the next time you eat when you aren’t hungry, you do the same thing, so that you end up frequently breaking your resolutions with binges.
What if you simply broke your healthy-eating resolutions, and stopped there?
What if you ate gluten, but still stayed committed to avoiding binges? What if you always dismissed binge urges after eating when you weren’t hungry? What if you didn’t lose a single pound in the new year, and never used that as a reason to binge? Breaking your resolutions would cause so much less damage, and in many cases, absolutely no damage, and you’d stay on a path to a better life—even with all of your imperfections.
Think of the millions of people who simply break their resolutions and don’t go on to do something more harmful afterward. It’s difficult to give up a food or food group altogether, or to follow exact parameters for eating, which is why not many people manage to consistently eat in an ideal way. Plus, eating in an ideal way is different for each person, so you don’t want to create a scenario where your ability to binge or not binge depends on your ability to follow or not follow difficult food rules—rules that may not even be right for you personally.
If any of your friends told you that they broke their New Year’s resolution to eat healthy or to avoid a certain food, would you tell them that “all is lost” and they “might as well binge”? Of course not! But, somehow binge eaters tend to believe this same logic when it comes from their own thoughts. These type of thoughts are neurological junk from the lower brain—the part of your brain that is trying to maintain your binge eating habit. If you can learn to dismiss these binge-encouraging thoughts, you are well on your way to erasing the habit.
I’m not saying you can never decide to make healthy changes in the way you eat; but, I am saying that whether or not you are “successful,” you never have to binge. And that is a huge success!
It’s the same with any type of resolution, even if it’s completely unrelated to eating. I think it’s wonderful to create goals for yourself in other parts of your life, so that you can turn your focus away from food and weight obsessions. However, even if you don’t measure up to the vision you have for yourself in the new year, and even if you never accomplish what you intend to, you never have to follow thoughts that say “you might as well binge,” and you can become binge-free for good.
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For even more guidance in recovery, you can learn about the Brain over Binge Course, which you can now get for only $10.99 per month.