Ep. 98: The Illusion That Overeating Makes You Feel Better (with Cookie Rosenblum)

stop binge eating advice

Quick and Practical Advice to Help You Stop Binge Eating (Part 1)

Here you’ll find some quick inspiration and practical advice about a variety of issues that may come up for you in binge eating recovery.

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Overeating & snacking: Is it ok during and after recovery?

It is absolutely normal to have times when you overeat or snack too much.

Even 16 years after I quit bingeing, I still choose to do things like have seconds at dinner or snack in a way that may be more than my body needs. The difference now is that there are no binge urges before, during, or after those experiences.

Wanting seconds at dinner is just wanting seconds—there isn’t that underlying urge keep going into a binge. I either decide to have more food or not, and either way is fine. Same with snacking—I can choose to snack or not, but I no longer have any desire to stuff myself, which now seems like the opposite of pleasure.

Once you consistently dismiss urges to binge after indulging, you’ll feel in control, and the desire to follow overeating or snacking with bingeing will fade away.

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If I’ll still feel pain, why recover?

Being binge-free never means being pain-free.

Life is challenging, and when you stop bingeing, that doesn’t change. In some ways, life may feel even more difficult right after recovery. This is because your brain was used to focusing on your eating problems, and it can take some time to get used to focusing on other things, especially painful things.

Stopping the habit allows you to step into a whole new way of living, and that takes courage. It can feel both exciting (celebrate that!) and in some ways unsettling (be accepting of that); but always remember that binge eating is not the better option.

The lower brain may send thoughts like, “you still have pain in your life, so you might as well go back the pain of bingeing.” This is pure neurological junk and doesn’t speak your truth or indicate what you actually want.

If you can stay binge-free during the time when your brain is getting used to experiencing normal life, with all of its ups and downs, you can stay binge free for good!

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Are you doubting your success?

If you’re doing well, you may be surprised to feel not only pride and excitement but doubt as well.

This is especially true if you thought recovery would be very complicated. It can feel unsettling to simply stop the habit using the power of your brain, and have the rest of your life be basically the same.

After spending years thinking I needed to fix my other problems and learn to cope with emotions to recover, it felt strange to just not binge anymore. Of course, it felt amazing too, but I wondered if I was doing enough to claim a full recovery.

If you feel this way, remind yourself that some of the most powerful solutions are the most simple ones.

Also know that your brain would likely produce doubting thoughts regardless of the path you took to success, and even if your solution to binge eating had been complicated. Instead of wondering, “Is this too simple?” you’d be wondering, “What if there’s more to solve?”

Know that doubt is normal, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of your success!

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Not mindful during meals?

Not a problem!  Life is busy and challenging, and mindfulness during meals isn’t a requirement for recovery.

You may have received the idea somewhere that you “should” be present while you are eating, and chew slowly, and pay close attention to the sensations of your body.

Mindfulness can certainly be helpful, especially if you are re-learning normal eating and re-establishing your hunger and fullness cues.

But…I want you to know that if you find yourself not being mindful, you are not doing anything wrong, and you are not destined to binge!

Your lower brain might send thoughts like, “you weren’t present enough and you didn’t really enjoy your food, so now you need the ‘pleasure’ of a binge.” This is neurological junk. The reality is that sometimes you just have to eat and move on, and you simply don’t have time to sit down and savor your food.

You’ll find the level of mindfulness that you want (depending on each situation), but always remember that you can dismiss binge urges no matter what.

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Your imperfect binge-free self

You are learning to live as a person who does not binge, and never will again…but, never expect your binge-free self to be your “ideal” self.

Your binge-free self may not always be at peace with your body or relaxed around food—especially early in recovery—and that is okay. Having a perfect body image, or being an ideal weight, or being totally comfortable with your eating habits is not required for ending the destructive binge eating behavior.

Use any struggles you have to prove to yourself that you can remain binge-free despite other problems (even food and weight problems). This is a lesson you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

Sometimes stopping binge eating feels like the more clear-cut goal. It’s an incredible accomplishment and gives you so much of your life back. However, there’s often more work to do to fully let go of the dieting mindset and negative body thoughts.

So, celebrate your success in ending binge eating, then get to work on whatever you believe will help you improve your life and be the best (imperfect) version of yourself.

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How to be consistent

“Part of courage is simple consistency” – Peggy Noonan

At a basic level, habit change is courage + consistency. The consistency part can be tricky, and you might find yourself recommitting to recovery again and again, and that can challenge your feelings of integrity.

It’s frustrating to feel like you know what to do, but you can’t get yourself to do that on a regular basis. Consistency commonly breaks down when the binge urges make false promises of pleasure, or when you give in to “one last time” thoughts, or when you feel like dismissing urges is too uncomfortable.

You can learn to handle any discomfort that comes up, and you’ll realize that the discomfort of dismissing urges is so much less than the discomfort of binge eating, and it’s so much less than the discomfort of living out of your integrity.

Remind yourself that it’s uncomfortable either way (bingeing or not bingeing), and that you are courageously choosing the productive discomfort of extinguishing a habit.

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This recovery advice is taken from weekly emails I’ve sent in the past several months. If you’d like to receive my emails going forward, all you need to do is enter your email address into this sign-up form.

When you sign up, you also get my free PDF (“The Brain over Binge Basics”) and a free course track (“Manage Your Mindset After a Binge”).
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More help:

If you want extra guidance as you learn to give up binge eating, here are some resources for additional support:

Brain over Binge Course – Self-paced online lessons (plus an app) for only $18.99/month. Includes over 125 tracks to listen to that give you the information and answers you need as you end binge eating.

Group Coaching – Get help from coach Julie and support from others who are overcoming this habit. Includes a forum that is open 24/7, group coaching calls, mindfulness resources, plus course access.

One-on-one Coaching – Book a 45-minute private session with coach Julie. She will help you change your thinking, uncover what is holding you back, and get on a path to complete freedom from food issues.

Embracing Imperfection Binge Eating Recovery

Ep. 93: Embracing Imperfection (with Coach Julie)

Episode 92 Best of the Podcast New Year's

Ep. 92: Best of the Podcast, New Year’s Edition

Drop the "Shoulds" Around Eating

Ep. 85: Drop the “Shoulds” Around Eating

Gillian Young

Ep. 81: Getting Over Night Eating Syndrome (Interview with Gillian Young)

how to stick to a diet not binge

The Brain over Binge Approach Is Not How to Stick to a Diet

I want you to escape the daily pain that bingeing brings. I want you to stop eating in an out-of-control way that makes you feel sick and ashamed. I want you to get your life back, so that you can pursue what is important to you. I also want you to eat in a way that works for you and makes you feel nourished and satisfied.

I do not want you to make it your goal to eat perfectly. I do not want you to think that stopping binge eating also means learning how to stick to a strict eating plan. I do not want you to feel like you have to avoid all unhealthy foods, or say no to yourself every time you want to eat something just for pleasure, or stop acting on all desires for food that is not in line with a certain diet.

My goal is to teach you how to dismiss urges to binge and eat adequately; my goal is not to teach you to how to stick to a diet. This post is inspired by Episode 49 and Episode 12 of my podcast, and I hope it helps clear up the intent of the Brain over Binge approach.

Binge eating recovery includes giving up restrictive dieting

If you are familiar with my blog, podcast, or books, you know about the strategy of dismissing binge urges, which is the practice of separating yourself from the lower brain’s desire to binge (listen to Episode 5), and not acting on the thoughts and feelings that encourage binge eating (listen to Episode 7).

You can also learn more about dismissing urges to binge in my free 30-page guide, the Brain over Binge Basics.

What I teach is for ending binge eating, and although I do believe that similar methods can be used to help with other problematic eating habits, I want to make it clear that the Brain over Binge approach is never about learning how to stick to a restrictive diet. It is never about helping you follow rigid weight-loss plans, or helping you eat less than you physically need—because that would be extremely harmful to your recovery.

A big part of my approach is about helping you give up restrictive dieting and implement nourishing eating habits that work for you. I also believe in learning to allow yourself all types of food in moderation, and avoiding the harmful mindset that can develop when you have “forbidden” foods. (You can learn more about giving up the dieting mentality in Episode 48). I realize that not everyone can eat all types of food due to certain health conditions, so another way of saying this is that I believe in eating in the least restrictive way that’s possible for you. 

Dismissing too many eating urges is harmful

Over the years of working with binge eaters, I’ve found that some people want to ignore my advice about eating enough, and only want to focus on dismissing urges—and this does not work and prevents recovery. Some people even want to take it a step further and start dismissing not only binge urges, but urges to eat anything that is not in line with a strict diet plan. When used in this way,  dismissing urges becomes a dieting strategy in and of itself, which is the opposite of my intention.

The only way that dismissing binge urges works to get rid of binge eating for good is if you’re also eating adequately. If you are dismissing too many desires to eat, then you’ll remain in a food-deprived, survival-instinct-driven state that fuels binge eating.

Now, I know that creators of some diets or weight loss plans might step in here and argue that their eating plans are adequate and not overly restrictive. It’s possible for that to be true in some cases—meaning that the way of eating required for a certain “diet” actually does meet your physical needs and nourishes you well. But that’s not the type of diet I’m talking about, and it’s also not the issue I’m raising today. This post is about clarifying the intention of the Brain over Binge approach; it’s not about evaluating the merits of each and every diet plan that is out there.

Not sticking to a diet is not binge eating

Even if you could argue that a certain “diet” is technically an adequate and nourishing way to eat, my approach is still not meant to be a way for you to dismiss every urge to veer from that plan. I don’t think it’s necessary to have perfect eating habits, and in many ways, trying to get your eating habits exactly right is counterproductive in recovery. This is why Brain over Binge is not and should not be used as a “how to stick to a diet” strategy—that is contrary to the message I want to send.

Dismissing urges is not a way to avoiding eating any food that’s not “keto,” or “paleo,” or “vegan.” It is not a way to stop eating anything at all when you are fasting, and it is not a way to say no to all processed foods or any foods you think are unhealthy.

Eating sugar is not bingeing, eating carbs is not bingeing, eating meat is not bingeing, eating junk food is not bingeing—unless of course, you are bingeing on these things. Likewise, eating when you think you shouldn’t be eating, or when a diet plan says you shouldn’t be eating is not bingeing—unless of course you are bingeing at those times.

There is certainly value in not acting on all of the food cravings that you have. There are benefits of being able to observe your thoughts about eating and then to choose which thoughts to act on and which to ignore. There are benefits of being able to decide to eat foods that make you feel good. My approach is never about giving up on health. It’s never about eating anything you want, anytime you want, without regard for the effect food has on you. It is absolutely appropriate to not follow your every desire for food.

Furthermore, if there’s a certain way of eating that works well for you and is adequate and satisfying, then it may make sense to dismiss thoughts that cause you to veer too much from that way of eating—and this is especially true if you need to eat a certain way for medical reasons. I realize this may seem like a subtle distinction, but deciding to eat in a specific way to take care of yourself is very different from following a restrictive diet and then trying to dismiss urges to eat anything off of that diet. For example, someone with a dairy sensitivity who chooses to dismiss thoughts of eating dairy is not the same as someone who implements a strict calorie deficit and then tries to dismiss urges to eat any additional calories.

Get rid of the binge problem, don’t aim for perfect eating

To further explain why stopping the binge eating habit does not include learning how to stick to a diet, I’m going to end with an excerpt from the Brain over Binge Recovery Guide (from the Healthy Eating chapter). I hope that reading the following few paragraphs helps you better understand the purpose of the Brain over Binge approach, and the purpose of separating your higher brain from your lower brain—in a way that promotes recovery, not dieting.

“It’s common for binge eaters to mistakenly merge the part of themselves that wants to binge with the part of themselves that wants any unhealthy food. They begin to apply the lower brain/higher brain idea to the consumption of all junk food by viewing their lower brain as their “unhealthy eating” brain and their higher brain as their “healthy eating” brain. I don’t think this is useful, especially when first trying to quit binge eating, because it can lead to an “all or nothing” trap. When you start trying to view all of your cravings for anything unhealthy as neurological junk, it can be overwhelming.

It can lead you to believe that if you follow a desire for a dessert or some processed or convenience food, then your lower brain has already won, so you’ll be primed to believe any thoughts that say you “might as well binge.” You don’t actually have a good brain and a bad brain, because both the lower and the higher brain are necessary for a rich human existence. Your lower brain, with its pleasure centers, is indeed behind most of your junk-food cravings, but everyone has those. The lower brain also causes you to crave and take pleasure in delicious, healthy food as well, as desire for food is rarely a purely rational experience. Recovery is about trying to get rid of the “glitch” in your reward system, not banish the system altogether.

Craving french fries doesn’t make you abnormal or weak, and it certainly doesn’t mean your animal brain controls you. If you choose to follow those brain signals and have the fries, great—enjoy them! If you choose not to, then that’s fine too—have some organic carrot sticks with almond butter instead, and enjoy those! Don’t think that if you choose the french fries, you are giving in to a binge urge. Likewise, don’t think that if you decide on the carrot sticks, depriving yourself of the fries will lead you to binge. It won’t. There will be other opportunities for fries. The methods and advice in this book are for quitting binge eating, not for sticking to very strict, healthy-food-only eating plans and banishing all cravings for anything unhealthy.”  (pgs. 262-263)

I encourage you to find a balance in your eating that works for you, but remember, you never have to eat perfectly!

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If you want extra guidance in learning how to eat normally, you can get the Brain over Binge Course for $18.99 per month.

You can also get personalized support and accountability with one-on-one coaching or group coaching.