Tag Archive for: stop binge eating

Mindfulness in binge eating recovery (podcast)

Episode 42: The Power of Mindfulness in Binge Eating Recovery: Interview with Fernanda (Life on Tellus)

What makes binge eating recovery work

What Makes Recovery “Work”? Part III (You Don’t Need to Work so Hard)

This is the 3rd and final post in my blog series, “What Makes Recovery Work?”.  In Part I, I talked about expectations surrounding what it means for a recovery method to work.  In Part II, I discussed the work you personally need to do in recovery, which is to dismiss each urge to binge (and also eat enough food).  Now in Part III, I want to talk about eliminating unnecessary work in recovery.

When I was in therapy for binge eating, it felt like I had a lifelong journey of work ahead of me in order to stop the harmful behavior and then to maintain my recovery.  But, since then, I’ve seen that it’s not necessary to work so hard to put aside the binge eating habit.

I know you aren’t afraid of doing work; I know you aren’t expecting recovery to be effortless; and I know you are willing to do what it takes to stop your binge eating. Working hard is certainly not a bad thing, but if right now, you feel that your hard work hasn’t gotten you closer to freedom from binge eating, you may be doing work that isn’t actually targeting the binge eating problem.

Commonly, in traditional eating disorder therapy, the work that is required has to do with managing emotions, healing pain from your past, and learning to cope better with daily stress. This is meaningful work that can help improve your life, but if it isn’t helping you avoid acting on the binge urges, it’s not helping with the binge eating specifically.

It can be baffling when you feel you are doing all of the hard work that therapy requires and you are still binge eating.  If you find yourself in this situation, you may understandably start to look for something else to work on, and then something else after that.  This can lead to a constant state of trying to find another problem to solve, or something else within yourself to fix, hoping it will eventually put an end to your binge eating.

You may also be working on improving and fixing the way you are eating, thinking that will get rid of the binge episodes.  You may be trying to create the perfect meal plan, or trying to adhere to strict eating guidelines, so you may be working hard every day measuring, counting, and weighing your food intake.  Additionally, you could be going through a lot of trouble to avoid certain foods that you believe are problematic or addicting, or you may be trying to research nutrition and take all of the right supplements.

Although improving your eating in ways that feel good to you is a positive thing, and although it’s certainly important to make sure you eat adequately, it’s possible you are putting a lot of unnecessary time and energy into your eating plan, without it making much of a difference in your binge eating.  It can feel like a never-ending quest when you are always looking for something else to fix or change about your diet, hoping that will put a stop to the binges.

If you think a lot of hard work is required for recovery, it only makes sense that you would keep looking for something else to solve or fix, whether that’s in your life, your relationships, your personality, your emotions, or the way you are eating. It’s admirable, and shows determination and resilience.  But, I know how frustrating it feels when it seems like no matter what you work on, you still end up binge eating.

What if working harder in recovery is not the answer?

It is my belief that no matter how much you improve your life, your emotional state, your relationships, your ability to cope, or the way you are eating, binge urges will still inevitably come up.  Even if you work very hard in all of those areas, you’ll still be left with the fundamental work of recovery: not acting on the binge urges.

To stop acting on the binge urges, what if less work is actually more effective?

I had a conversation with Dr. Amy Johnson on my podcast last week, and part of what we talked about was how just seeing your binge eating habit differently can allow change to occur without the struggle or without needing to work so hard. When you have a fundamental shift in the way you view your urges and respond to them, it suddenly seems unnecessary to sort out and deal with all of your other problems or have a perfect eating plan in order to stop binge eating.

So, instead of thinking “what other problems and difficult emotions can I work on in recovery?”, you can change your mindset and think, “how can I work on developing a new perspective about the urges and respond to them differently?”

Ending binge eating doesn’t need to feel like intense, complicated, or tedious work. The work can simply be you deeply seeing that the urges do not express your true wants and needs, and then learning to connect with your own power to avoid acting on them.

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If you want help in increasing your ability not to act on binge urges, and you are new to the Brain over Binge approach, you can get started with my free eBook.

If you want extra help in making recovery work for you, the Brain over Binge Course is composed of over 125 audios to guide you and encourage you, including one audio you can listen to when you are having an urge to binge—to help you avoid acting on it. You can get access to the complete course for only $18.99 per month.  

What works in binge eating recovery

What Makes Recovery “Work”? Part II (The Work You Need to Do)

In last month’s blog post What Makes Recovery “Work?”, I talked about how an effective recovery method or strategy is not defined by its ability to take away your binge urges, but by its ability to help you stop acting on them.  So, when you try an approach to recovery and hope that it will “work,” try not to have the expectation that it will take away your binge urges, but instead that it will help you better manage them and better avoid acting on them.

Last month’s post got me thinking more deeply about this topic, and I decided to write a Part II and a Part III post, addressing different angles of the idea of recovery “working,” as well as the “work” you do in recovery.  Today, in Part II, I want to talk about the work that you personally put in to overcoming binge eating.

If you expect that talking to a therapist or coach, or reading a book, or joining a support group or online program will “work” by taking the urges away, then it can automatically put you in a more passive role, where you may be expecting recovery to just happen–ie: the urges to disappear.  When the urges don’t disappear, it’s possible for you to assume that the therapist, support group, book…etc. didn’t work, without fully considering the work you need to put in to have success.

That’s not to say when recovery doesn’t work, it’s your fault.  Not at all.  There are many factors at play, and different approaches are better suited for different people. But, once you know that no recovery method will make your urges suddenly disappear, you can see clearly that there is work for you to do.

I’m not talking about work in a “nose to the grindstone” or “tough it out” sort of way.  But, when you use recovery methods and resources as ways to help you stop acting on your urges, it automatically puts you in a more empowered, active role in recovery.  You fully realize the work you need to do: avoid acting on every binge urge, until the binge urges stop coming.  When you deeply know that is the work of recovery, your focus can shift to finding and applying what works to help you do that.

No matter what strategy for recovery you are using, you are the only one who can choose (or learn to choose) not to act on binge urges.  Even if you have a lot of support, there will be moments when it’s just you and the urge. Recovery strategies and support can certainly help prepare you for those moments, but during binge urges is when you do the brain-changing work of recovery.

To think of having to avoid acting on every urge to binge may feel overwhelming to you right now, but once you can shift your perspective and achieve some separation from your urges, it will start to feel more natural to avoid acting on them. It won’t always feel comfortable, but even the most meaningful work can be unpleasant at times.

While writing this, I looked up the definition of work, which is this:  An activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.  Not acting on your binge urges day after day definitely fits that description.  It does require mental effort and requires you to stay connected to your higher brain, and it is certainly aimed at a result that you absolutely want: to be free of binge eating.

At times, it may feel easier not to do the work of dismissing urges. It sometimes may feel easier to slip back into old habits, just as it often feels easier to get back in bed in the morning instead of going to work at your job or care for your family. But, I’m sure that you rarely get back in bed, because your sense of responsibility is too strong.  The work of your recovery deserves the same sense of responsibility from you.  That doesn’t mean you will do it perfectly, and never slip, but if you keep trying day after day, you will find what works for you.

Go to What Makes Recovery “Work”? Part III

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If you want help in increasing your ability not to act on binge urges, and you are new to the Brain over Binge approach, you can get started with my free eBook.

If you want extra help in making recovery work for you, the Brain over Binge Course is composed of over 125 audios to guide you and encourage you, including one audio you can listen to when you are having an urge to binge—to help you avoid acting on it. You can get access to the complete course for only $18.99 per month (no commitment required).  

What works to end binge eating

What Makes Recovery “Work”?

I know a life free of binge eating is completely possible for you, but if you are like many binge eaters who I’ve spoken to over the years, you may have a hard time believing that right now.  You may have searched for years for a cure, for something to “work,” for it all to just click so that you will no longer binge.  You may feel exhausted and frustrated by the search.

You may be someone who has already read my books, and you could be thinking that the method I used “worked” for me rather quickly, so it should be the same for you.  You may believe that if the concepts from my books do not work right away, then you need to look for a new approach that will work.  It is certainly possible that another approach may be a better fit, but if you are someone who has jumped around from one approach to another, I want you to take a minute to think about what you believe makes a recovery method “work.”

If you are holding the common belief that a recovery method only works if it gets rid of your binge urges right away, or at least very quickly, this could create some problems for you in recovery.  If ‘getting rid of the urges right away’  was the measure of a successful recovery method, then the Brain over Binge approach actually didn’t work for me either.

Seeing my binge urges as meaningless, powerless, and harmless neurological junk from my lower brain didn’t make those urges go away right away, or even all that quickly. The new mindset I had changed how I perceived my urges, and it rather dramatically made me feel my own ability not to act on them.  But, the urges were still there for a while.

I had to avoid acting on every binge urge until they did completely go away – about 9 months from the time I adopted my new approach.  Not once during those 9 months did I think “this isn’t working.” The reason for this was that I defined success not by whether or not I had urges, but by my ability not to act on them.

In the beginning of recovery, the binge urges came frequently…and I wasn’t perfect.  There were two times when I did act on the urge. The first time, I heard those familiar, lower brain reasons why I should binge, I felt the familiar craving, and I mistakenly thought it was the real “me” who wanted to binge, and I acted on it.  The second time I binged, I had much more awareness of what I was doing, but ultimately, I did still act on the urge.

When I acted on those two urges, I didn’t proceed to throw out the principles that I’d learned, because they didn’t “work.” I realized that in those specific instances, I had not applied what I’d learned, and I had simply followed the urges.  I did not think that I’d failed or that I needed a new approach.  I recognized that I had the power to avoid acting on the very next urge and to keep my recovery going.

During those 9 months of having urges but not acting on them, I never wished the urges away or took their presence to mean something was wrong.  I believe this was a big component of what allowed the approach to be effective.

My own recovery and my experience helping others has led me to believe this:

What makes recovery “work” is not what works to take your urges away.  It’s what works to help you not act on them.

No matter what approach you use, the crux of recovery comes when you have a thought, feeling, or impulse encouraging you to binge, but you don’t.

When you are able to do that over and over, your brain changes, the urges gradually do go away, and your binge eating habit is erased.

Go to What Makes Recovery Work, Part II

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If you want help in increasing your ability not to act on binge urges, and you are new to the Brain over Binge approach, you can get started with my free eBook.

If you want extra help in making recovery work for you, the Brain over Binge Course is composed of over 125 audios to guide you and encourage you, including one audio you can listen to when you are having an urge to binge—to help you avoid acting on it. You can get access to the complete course for only $18.99 per month.  

freedom from binge eating

Freedom: Reframing Your Motivation to Stop Binge Eating

To stop binge eating, you have to want to…not in every moment, but on the whole, you have to have reasons why you no longer want the destructive habit in your life. If you feel very little or no desire for recovery, then your higher brain is likely to continue following the binge urges from the lower brain. Your higher self needs to be motivated in some way, for any approach to work for you.

Most people have inspirational motivations for recovery, like becoming a better friend, parent, daughter/son, spouse, or being able to focus more on their career, or having more energy to pursue goals, or having more time to travel, or being able to better serve others, or simply enjoying life more. Your motivation could be highly specific, based on things you want to accomplish in the near future. It is very helpful to reflect often on your reasons for recovery, and consistently remind yourself why you want to stop binge eating.

But, what happens when you have days where you can’t seem to find anything positive about your life? 

What if your main motivation for recovery is to succeed in your career, but then you lose your job?  What if you want to recover so that you can heal your relationship with your spouse, but then the marriage falls apart…even while you are binge-free? What if you come to the realization that you can’t possibly achieve a particular goal due to a physical or financial limitation? What if everything seems to be going wrong in your life?

Then, what happens to your motivation for recovery?

You might notice that when it feels like things in your life are falling apart, your motivation for recovery feels like it’s falling apart as well.

You may have an urge to binge (because that’s what your lower brain has been conditioned to think you need, regardless of what’s going on in your life), and then you may experience thoughts like this: “You’ll never achieve your goals, so what’s the point of even trying to recover?”…or…  “Life is so hard anyway, even without binge eating, so you might as well binge”…or… “You wanted to recover so that you could enjoy life, and life sucks, so there is no reason to dismiss this urge to binge.”

You can of course dismiss all of those binge-encouraging thoughts as neurological junk, and avoiding giving them any attention or value.  However, an additional technique is to reframe how you think about your motivation to recover–in order to make those type of thoughts seem even less logical.

What I mean by this is to adjust how you think about your reasons for recovery, so that those reasons are not only about things going well in your life.

Although it’s great to imagine hopeful possibilities for yourself after recovery, I would suggest that your core motivation for recovery be this:  Freedom

I realize that sounds cliché.  I know you want freedom from binge eating, or you wouldn’t be reading this; but I will explain further how viewing freedom as your fundamental motivation can provide protection against your reasons for recovery falling apart when you have hard days.

When I was in the depths of binge eating, I thought of freedom as a vehicle for achieving my other motivations for recovery: Freedom from binge eating was how I was going to become a better friend, freedom was how I’d be able to become successful in a career, freedom was how I’d finally be able to enjoy my life.

But as it turned out, freedom was the goal in and of itself, whether or not I lived up to any of my other expectations.

Once I was free from binge eating, I could even be a terrible wife or friend, completely fail in my career, not accomplish goals and still not feel tempted by thoughts saying “you might as well binge.”  I realize that may sound a little odd, because of course, being unsuccessful was not actually a goal of mine, but there were (and still are) days when I did not even come close to the expectations I had for myself, and times when the reasons I wanted to recover didn’t even begin to materialize.

But I was still free.  

I was free to fail, and not worry that a binge would result.  I was free to have horrible days, and cope the best way I knew how, because I knew binge eating was never truly a way to cope.  I had the freedom to pick myself back up when relationships went badly, or when life didn’t go as planned, without having to pick myself back up from a binge as well.

Desiring freedom is about desiring the opportunity to experience all of what is means to be human, even the bad parts, without binge eating getting in the way.

Freedom does not hinge on your accomplishments, or what’s going on around you, or your success in relationships, or your own happiness. The other motivations that you have are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but when freedom provides the foundation, you always have a reason to recover.

Using freedom as motivation is also helpful if you can’t find many reasons to recover in the first place.  If binge eating has been clouding your life for a long time, you may not be able to fully see what your life could be like after recovery.  But, no matter what life brings, the opportunity to have freedom from food issues is invaluable.  You’ll be free from the shame, the physical discomfort, and the feeling of being out of control of your own life. If you can experience even a moment of freedom from the consequences of binge eating, and get excited about it, it can solidify your desire to keep recovering, despite your uncertainty about what your life will be like afterward.

Freedom, in and of itself, is worth the effort you are putting into quitting this habit.  

I encourage you to keep focusing on all of your motivations to recover, but remember that underneath those reasons lies a desire to be free to live the whole of your life – the good and the bad – without the pain of binge eating.

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If you want practical guidance toward complete freedom, please join me on July 17th (2023) at 8pm for the 2-Hour Course, an online event where I will teach you the Brain over Binge approach and address any challenges you have.  Learn more:

2 hour brain over binge course    

Overeating in binge eating recovery

Overeating, Part III: Practice Thankfulness

When I was planning out this blog series on overeating, I envisioned this third and final post to be a little different (see Part I and Part II). I thought I would share some practical tips for conquering any problematic overeating you may have after binge eating stops, but this week I was inspired to take this post in a new direction.

Inspired feels like the wrong word to use here. I was heartbroken seeing the events unfolding in the Philippines during the past week (*this post was written following the devastating typhoon in 2013). I just couldn’t bring myself to write tips for conquering overeating, while so many victims of the typhoon were starving as they waited for aid. Those of you who read Brain over Binge know that my family was impacted by hurricane Katrina in 2005, and since then, seeing the suffering caused from natural disasters seems to affect me even more deeply.

Before I go any further, I want to stop and say that I’m not trying to minimize the problem of overeating at all, or say that you shouldn’t worry about it because there are people who don’t even have food to eat (and certainly not enough to overeat).  But, what I hope to point you toward in this post is a different perspective that will serve to help you in your effort to end problematic overeating.

What I want to suggest to you is to cultivate gratitude for the food you have, which in turn, can naturally lessen your desire to overeat. Gratitude can bring you peace in so many aspects of your life and your relationships, including your relationship with food; but if you are like most people with eating disorders, you probably have an antagonistic relationship with food. You may be fearing it, trying to eat less of it to lose weight, trying to “burn it off” when you feel like you don’t eat perfectly; and at times, you are also putting too much of it into your body, which is harming you both physically and emotionally. All of this means that you may not experience a deep sense of gratitude for food.

If you can learn to develop that sense of gratitude, it can be a powerful deterrent to any of your harmful food and weight thoughts and behaviors, including overeating.

To explain this, I want to share a personal story about the effect that thankfulness had on my thoughts about food today. I had been watching the news coverage of the typhoon prior to taking a trip to the grocery with my 4 kids. The background to this story is that over the past several months, I had slipped into a negative mindset in regard to feeding my kids. I had been worrying so much about potentially harmful ingredients that’s in some of the food I buy. There is, of course, a great deal of concerning information out there about food, and although I try to feed my kids relatively well most of the time, I rarely buy organic because it’s just not financially feasible for our family of 6 right now. I also feel overwhelmed much of the time caring for my little ones, and I don’t always succeed in cooking at home and avoiding processed foods and fast foods.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to nourish yourself or your family with high quality food, but my lack of success in doing that was causing me a lot of unnecessary stress. I was approaching a lot of meals with self-criticism and a sense of fear about the potential effects of certain ingredients; and because of this, I was not truly appreciating the food we were eating. But, during today’s trip to the grocery store, I filled up my cart without any of those worrisome thoughts. It was as if the news coverage of the typhoon woke me up, and made me truly appreciate what I have. As I took each item off of the shelf, I felt a renewed sense of thankfulness for having food and being able to feed my kids meal after meal and day after day, even if it isn’t perfect.

I believe gratitude can have a similar effect on the desire to overeat. If you find yourself worrying that you’ll overeat at a meal or snack, try to shift your focus to being thankful for the food that you have. Try to grow your appreciation for the fact that you can nourish your body, feel satisfied; and then have more food available the next time you are hungry. A mindset of being thankful for food in the present, while also being thankful for future food, can help curb the desire to eat too much right now.  If you allow yourself to feel deeply grateful that food will be there for you at your next meal or snack, you will be more likely to stop eating when you are comfortably full.

Trying to be more thankful doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about having plentiful food when others have little. I am simply recommending that, when you begin to worry about eating too much of this or that, or when you feel too full after a meal, you try gently reminding yourself that you are fortunate to be able to eat, even if you don’t always do it perfectly. And be thankful that you’ll have tomorrow to try again.

For more on overeating, you can listen to the following episodes on the Brain over Binge Podcast:

Episode 47: Q&A What if I’m Overeating After I Stop Binge Eating?

Episode 25: Compulsive Overeating, Emotional Eating, and Binge Eating: What are the Differences? (Interview with Cookie Rosenblum)

Episode 64:  Stop Yo-Yo Dieting and Take Control of Overeating (Video Interview with Gillian Riley)

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More help:

If you want extra guidance as you learn to give up the struggle with food, 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.

self-control in binge eating recovery

Overeating, Part II: Don’t Overdo Self-Control

(Part I)

To recover from binge eating, you are not aiming for heroic control of everything you put in your mouth; and this is very important when it comes to discussing overeating. Ending binge eating is not about ending all overeating, but many binge eaters want to address their overeating behaviors as well. In the Brain over Binge Recovery Guide and in my course, I suggest that people who believe they overeat should first consider how they define overeating, because it’s possible they are not overeating at all. To better explain this, here is a paragraph from the “Overeating” Chapter of the Recovery Guide:

“Many people think that they are eating too much when they are in fact eating normally – just not dieting anymore. Individuals who have a history of starving themselves might view what are actually normal portions as excessive; and since people with eating disorders can be perfectionists, there may be an element of “being too hard on yourself” involved in what you perceive to be overeating.  For example, if a dieter is trying to restrict calories to 1,500 per day and “overeats” one day to reach 2,200 calories, they haven’t truly overeaten at all, just eaten more in line with their calorie needs.”

In other words, make sure you aren’t holding an unrealistic standard for yourself.  Breaking resolutions to stick to overly restrictive eating plans is not overeating.

Let’s say you are someone trying to maintain a too-low calorie intake; for example, 1,300 calories per day. If you go over your “allowed” amount of calories and think you overate, you may hear faulty thoughts telling you that you “have no self-control and you might as well binge and then start over tomorrow.” Remember that voice making excuses for binge eating is from the lower brain; those thoughts are not logical or rational and don’t need to be given any value or attention.

Of course it makes no sense to binge because you have eaten more than your restrictive diet allowed. But, if you continue down the path of not giving your body enough food, the binge urges will persist and giving into them will be inevitable. The best course of action is to abandon the restrictive diet, not abandon your resolve to stay binge-free. 

You may be thinking that your overeating is more than just breaking a strict diet. If you determine that you are truly overeating (and not simply being too hard on yourself), here are some thoughts for you:

If you are someone who is still binge eating and trying to end that habit, my advice is to acknowledge any overeating you engage in, but don’t focus too much attention on correcting the overeating right now. I think that tackling too much at once may actually prevent you from overcoming your main problem of binge eating, and here’s one explanation of why, which also explains why trying to strictly control everything you put in your mouth is not helpful:

Recent research shows that too much self-control is not good for you. The following is from The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal:

“Just like some stress is necessary for a happy and productive life, some self-control is needed. But just like living under chronic stress is unhealthy, trying to control every aspect of your thoughts, emotions, and behavior is a toxic strategy. It’s too big a burden for your biology. Self-control, like the stress response, evolved as a nifty strategy for responding to specific challenges.  But just as with stress, we run into trouble when self-control becomes chronic and unrelenting. […] You will have to choose your willpower battles wisely.” (pg. 49)

When recovering from binge eating, I think it’s best to use the “nifty strategy” of self-control primarily for binge eating and not worry much about overeating or any other eating imperfections. If you start trying to dismiss every non-hungry craving, or try to detach from every thought encouraging you to eat a few more bites, you will wear yourself down. This doesn’t give you a pass to overeat all of the time; it only means to avoid putting so much pressure on yourself to get your eating exactly right. If you find yourself having a few more bites (or another serving) when you are already comfortably satisfied, it’s okay. Just move on, and put your focus on dismissing the binge urges.

To help you put aside your overeating concerns for now, it may help you to write those behaviors down. That way, you know aren’t ignoring any eating behaviors that you feel are problematic.  You are fully acknowledging them, but you are disconnecting them from your binge eating recovery. Keep your list in a place where you can come back to it after binge eating stops. You may find that some of the overeating habits go away on their own with the cessation of binge eating, and you also may find that what you considered “overeating” simply isn’t a big deal after recovery and there is no need to address it. Conversely, you may find that some of the eating issues do indeed interfere with your life after binge eating stops and you need to work on them. Welcome to the world of normal eating!

Another benefit of having your overeating habits or any other problematic eating behaviors written down, is that you’ll be less likely to fall for those lower brain thoughts that tell you that you “might as well binge” because you aren’t eating perfectly. You can detach from those harmful thoughts, remembering your list and that you will work on resolving overeating or any other eating problems after recovery, if you deem it necessary when that time comes.

So, instead of getting upset at yourself for overeating, and instead of binge eating in response to overeating, try this:

If you find that you’ve eaten in a way that isn’t ideal (but is not a binge), then just add it to your list, and acknowledge that it’s something you may need to address at some point in the future when you are binge-free. Don’t over-think it; don’t dwell on it; don’t put yourself down because of it; and most importantly: don’t think that you are destined to binge binge because of it.

(Go to Part III)

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More help:

If you want extra guidance as you learn to give up the struggle with food, 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.