Fear of junk food
Are you afraid to eat any “junk” food as part of your normal daily eating? Are you bingeing on large amounts of those very same foods?
Something to consider is that your fear of unhealthy foods could be a reaction to the binge eating itself. If you’re eating junk foods excessively during binges, it makes sense that you would feel the need to avoid those foods at other times.
Considering this, it may not be that you truly fear unhealthy food in moderation. It may be that you fear eating unhealthy food in moderation AND binge eating on top of that.
A question you can ask yourself is: “If I knew I would never binge, how would I like to incorporate foods I believe are unhealthy?”
There’s no one right answer here, but if you start seeing yourself as a binge-free person, you can begin letting go of the fear, and realize there is a place in your life for many different types of food.
For more on this topic, you can read my post: Can I Recover & be Healthy if I Eat Everything in Moderation?
Eat like you won’t binge later
If you are tempted to restrict food, consider that you could be trying to prepare for a potential binge. It’s not that you want a binge to happen, but because you’re worried that it will, you try to limit your calories…just in case.
But this restrictive behavior sets you up to binge. Something I like to say is: Eat like you won’t binge later. Meaning, don’t try to diet in preparation for a future binge.
This mindset helps with eating adequately, because you’re taking the fear of binge eating out of the equation when you decide what to eat. Then, in turn, eating adequately supports you in avoiding a future binge.
Gradually, you’ll become more confident that you are definitely not going to binge later, and that will help increase your feelings of freedom around food.
(If you struggle with thoughts of how you “should” eat, get more help in Episode 85: Drop the “Shoulds” Around Eating)
Giving up dieting = Eating less
If a desire to diet and lose weight is getting in the way of your recovery, remind yourself that your previous attempts gave you the opposite result (binge eating and more weight gain).
The mindset needed to give up dieting starts with the realization that restriction > leads to binge eating > leads to eating a lot more than you would if you simply ate an adequate and nourishing amount of food each day.
In other words, not bingeing + not restricting is less food than restricting + bingeing. It’s helpful to remind yourself of this simple math, especially when your mind is focused on wanting to lose weight.
When you eat without dieting or bingeing, your body can start to find its natural and healthy size. For more help with weight questions, go to BrainoverBinge.com/Weight/
As you are relearning how to eat in a way that works for you (without binge eating and without dieting), you will likely have thoughts saying you are doing it “wrong.”
Before you make adjustments to “fix” your eating, consider that these thoughts could be due to the negativity bias of the brain. The brain is always looking for danger, giving us a natural tendency to find and dwell on what’s negative (more than what’s positive or neutral).
You may find your brain pointing out the negative in getting a little too full after meals…and not getting full enough, in choosing processed foods…and choosing healthy foods, in sticking to a meal plan…and eating in a flexible way. This makes it seem impossible to get it “right”!
When faced with “you’re eating wrong” thoughts, I want you to consider the possibility that nothing is wrong at all, and that the food choices you’re making are all simply part of normal eating.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements or changes to how you’re eating, but understanding this tendency gives you the ability to decide for yourself, instead of always believing those automatic negative thoughts.
What about tracking calories?
Keeping track of calories consumed is an extremely popular component of dieting, especially in the years since tracking apps appeared.
Even as you let go of dieting, you may be scared to stop the calorie counting—worried that if you don’t track, you’ll gain weight.
Calorie counting can have a place in binge eating recovery—if it’s used as a way to make sure you are getting enough food and nourishing your body. However, if you are counting to try to maintain a deficit, this will not support you in ending the binge eating habit.
Something that can help you let go of the tracking is to think about all of human history and how recent calorie counting is to our species. It simply can’t be true that we need this technology in order to keep our bodies at their natural, healthy weight.
Think of all of the people who have lived in the past or now—who have not tracked calories—and yet stayed generally the same size. Start trusting your own body’s innate wisdom to find the weight that’s right for you.
(Read more about weight issues in recovery at BrainoverBinge.com/Weight/)
It’s always an option: Choosing how you think about your body
I took one of my daughters to paint pottery over the weekend, and she can be a perfectionist when it comes to her art. As she was trying to fix what she thought was “wrong” with her paint job, she said, “I just want to look at this when it’s done and not be mad about it.”
I responded, “That’s always an option, no matter how it looks.” That power is, of course, in how we choose to think about it.
You may have thoughts like my daughter’s when you look in the mirror, or when you think about your food choices or exercise routines. You may think that getting it just “right” is going to help you feel better. But the truth is, my daughter could have kept painting forever and not been totally satisfied with it.
When it comes to body image, it’s always an option to choose self-caring thoughts, knowing that you are doing your best and that your uniqueness makes you the beautiful person you are.
For more on body image, listen to Episode 40: Body image and Binge Eating
Feel like you’re on a roller coaster?
Do you get hopeful about recovery, do well for a while, and then let yourself down? Does this happen over and over and seem like an awful roller coaster ride?
You are not destined to be on a never-ending roller coaster. What often leads to this experience is constantly telling yourself you are “starting over” in recovery. But you are never truly starting over. You are gaining insight along the way and learning what you need to learn to step out of this cycle for good.
Always tell yourself that you are moving forward, not in circles. Tell yourself that every renewed commitment is a continuation, not a new beginning. You are persevering in order to arrive at food freedom, even if there are some ups and downs and turns along the way.
For more help with this, read my post: “Making Commitments Last in Binge Eating Recovery”
Discouraged by bingeing less?
You may feel frustrated that you’ve reduced your binge eating but haven’t fully eliminated it from your life. So, instead of celebrating your progress and making more improvements until the binge eating is gone, you may tell yourself that “improvement is not good enough,” and that you “might as well go back to bingeing more.”
It’s okay to acknowledge that you want binge eating fully gone…of course you do, because it creates pain in your life. However, less binge eating means less pain in your life, and that’s a step in the right direction. Going from binge eating daily, for example, to binge eating once per week leads to so much extra time, energy, money, and peace of mind.
Do not let a transition period of less frequent episodes make you want to return to full-scale bingeing. Instead, allow your experience of additional freedom make you even more motivated to fully recover.
For more on motivation, listen to Episode 95: Creating Motivation to Stop Binge Eating.
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”).
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.