When I was in college I left a brightly colored sticky note on my box of Oreos that read, “Stop after eating two cookies, you fatty!”
Besides the fact I even jokingly called myself fat (where's the self-love, younger Meg?), my roommate and I had a terrible habit- we would watch 16 and Pregnant on MTV and eat all the junk food we could get our grubby hands on. I would start by eating two Oreos, then I'd get hooked, and before I knew it I would finish an entire sleeve. I would also eat a whole bag of popcorn, maybe some ice cream and pretty much whatever I had access to. All the while I was fully aware that I was not even slightly hungry. Claaaaaassic example of my binge pattern.
After dealing an eating disorder as a teen/young adult, my eating finally reached a peaceful equilibrium around age 21. I am thankful that I experienced this during my younger years because now I've become a more aware and protective eater than before and I no longer binge or overeat.
So, long-winded introduction aside, here are ways you can stop overeating and get your food freedom back.
1) Stop DIETING- The worst over-eaters are the obsessive dieters who suddenly "let themselves go." This pattern of limiting certain foods or all food makes you want it that much more and heightens your attachment to food. Advice from me- when you have a craving, let yourself eat that food. Don't look for a healthy substitute or deny yourself what you want.
Survivor Tip: The only way you can experience food freedom again is by allowing yourself to eat what you want when you want it. It might cause some weight gain at first but it's a smart long term move if you want to reach a peaceful body equilibrium . Once you reach a peaceful place with your eating, your body weight should naturally find a place where it is comfortable and you feel happy. That weight will not be your heaviest weight or your lightest weight. It will be something strong and lovely inbetween those numbers.
2) Find a Friend Who Can Help- I would always binge eat alone. When I moved home to recover my mom would sit at the table with me late at night when I was likely to binge. It was really comforting having someone there. I didn't loose control of my eating or have a food blackout when she was around, and I felt supported and loved. Having someone there helps get you out of that "zone" or "fixation" on food.
Survivor tip: If you have a roommate, friend or family member you can trust who is aware of your eating problems, talk to them about your patterns. If you feel yourself loosing control or tempted to binge/overeat, ask them to help by being your temporary distraction and/or energetic recovery supporter. Maybe they can sit with you while you binge to help you regain sense/control. Maybe you can switch environments by going on a walk together. Watching Netflix or striking up a conversation might help too.
3) Know your triggers- There can be certain foods that make you binge/ overeat. Mine was ice cream. To recover, I had to avoid ice cream for awhile. You also might want to be aware of certain scenarios that could be triggering to you. For instance, when do you feel like it's "OK" to overeat? Perhaps you're likely to overeat when you're watching TV. Maybe you overeat after drinking (who hasn't had an entire Dominos pizza at 2am after the bar)?
4) Stop skipping meals- Skipping meals leads to hunger! Lots of hunger! To stop overeating you MUST eat when you are hungry. Eating sustainable meals will prevent SNACKS from turning into an endless, empty meal replacement /binge.
Survivor tip: If you're someone who avoids meals, make plans to eat with friends. For instance, if you're a college student who actively avoids eating lunch every day and then binges later that evening, try making a lunch date with a friend. You'll at least eat something and your stomach will not be completely empty later.
5) Ditch substitute foods- If you really want to eat a donut with your coffee and you choose an boring apple instead, you will be left completely unsatisfied and increase your chances of binging later on. Eating that donut, might actually be a smarter choice in the moment since nutrient absorption might be somewhat reliant on enjoyment. Also, craving is an indication that you're body needs that food. So, go for the donut. It will prevent you from overeating useless calories you don't really want later on.
6) Notice how gross binging actually feels- During my recovery I reprogrammed myself to avoid feeling sick/ bloated/ overly full/ sloshy from eating. To this day, there are little feelings more disgusting to me than the experience of a sloshy, bloated, overly full stomach. During my recovery I would start a binge and then remember how much I despised feeling that physical discomfort and I would stop before letting it get to that point. Honestly, it got to the point where being "skinny" was no longer worth the grossness of my eating disorder.
Truth Bomb: Part of me wishes my recovery had a more cheery resolution than "protection from feeling sloshy/ bloated/ overly full" but frankly, it's a huge reason why I am healed.
7) Practice Body Kindness- If you feel like you're always beating yourself up mentally and physically because of your rocky relationship with food, it might be a good idea to infuse more positivity into your recovery by practicing body kindness. At the end of each day ask yourself, "What kind things did I do to my body today?" Your answers can be food related or not. The idea is to focus on the small victories which will build momentum towards your recovery and help you return to food freedom.