Discover the Technique That Can Stop Binge Eating Before It Starts
As someone who struggled with binge eating for over a decade, I am all-too-familiar with how the process tends to play out. It starts with the internal battle that precedes the binge. Your rational side tries to convince you that you’re stronger than whatever tempting food is within reach. You don’t need it. Just leave the area. Find something else to do. Have an apple instead.
At the same time as you are trying to heed this advice, a primal, panicky, devouring, all-encompassing energy is building within you. It wants to eat. Now. Fast. A lot. It doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to heeding words of wisdom. Logic has no sway over it. And the more you fight it, the bigger it gets. Before you know it, you’re frantically stuffing yourself. You feel crazed and out-of-control. Waves of shame course through you, but you can’t stop until you feel sick or the food is gone.
Afterwards comes the stomachache, and the self-disgust.
Later, when you’re feeling calmer, you promise yourself that this was the last time. From now on, you’ll have more willpower. The sane side of you will win the internal battle; you’ll dig in your heels and do whatever it takes.
I deceived myself with this line of thinking for years, to no avail. Despite my frequent attempts to overcome binge eating through sheer force of will, my struggle continued.
Thankfully, my story doesn’t end there. Today, I’m a mind-body-nutrition coach, specializing in compassionate health coaching for women and teen girls. I’m happy to report that I’ve healed my relationship with food, and I now have the privilege of helping others to do the same.
Along the way, I’ve developed an imaginative technique that has been surprisingly effective in helping my clients who struggle with binge eating.
Here’s how it works.
- Right now, close your eyes. Recall what it feels like in the moments before you binge. Feel that primal, panicky, devouring, all-encompassing energy. If it were a being of some sort, what form would it take? A ravenous lion? An ugly monster? Get as detailed as possible. What color is it? What size? What other physical characteristics does it have?
- Give it a name. Choose whatever seems fitting, but if you can’t think of anything, it’s fine to keep it simple. For example, if your being takes the form of a monster, name it Monster.
- The next time you feel Monster’s energy coming on, don’t try to fight it. It’s already proven that it doesn’t listen to logic, and that the more you resist it, the bigger it gets. Instead, personify it. Imagine it in the form you gave it in step one. Then, take a deep breath, and engage it with kindness and curiosity.
“Hi there, Monster. I see you. What made you decide to show up today?”
- Keep an open mind, and listen to what it has to say. Continue to engage it with kindness and curiosity for as long as it sticks around.
Yes, you may feel silly having an imaginary conversation with a monster in your head, but I’m willing to bet that if you give it a try, you’ll be surprised at the outcome. Despite initial hesitation about this technique, my clients report that more often than not, the act of engaging Monster in this way lessens the crazed, panicky charge of that pre-binge moment. As a result, they’re able to calm down and avoid the binge.
I believe that this technique works for three primary reasons.
- It gives a form to the pre-binge energy. That form may be scary, but a scary force we can see in our mind’s eye is better than a scary force we can’t see at all. It gives us something to engage with.
- It utilizes curiosity instead of resistance. As the saying goes, what we resist, persists. This approach turns that pre-binge energy into an opportunity to get curious instead of up in arms.
- It assumes that the monster is here to tell us something – which of course, it is. Our entire struggle with binge eating is here to tell us something. It exists to draw our attention to an area in which we’re being called to grow and evolve. When we choose to be present and listen, we can figure out what that area is and address it.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The same principle applies here. The intensity of ‘Monster’ can’t be beat by mounting a fear-driven counter attack. But a love-driven response that cultivates curiosity and kindness…now THAT has the potential to change everything.