The Ugly Truth About Binge Eating

December 28, 2016 3:20 pm
Leave your thoughts Binge Eating

Are you struggling with bouts of binge eating?

Yup… We all have. There’s no shame in admitting it.

But here’s the thing: Binge Eating is a serious problem and it’s likely making you gain weight.

In fact, binge eating can:

  • Make you overeat and gain weight by surpassing your body’s natural fullness cues
  • Make you gassy and bloated leading to things like indigestion, bloating, cramps, hiccups, poor nutrient absorption, and distressed bowels
  • Make you feel guilty and out of control which leads to more binge eating and feelings of guilt

It’s not a pretty picture but, you can get past the habit with some simple strategies and a little consistency.

To understand how, let’s take a deeper look at what happens when we eat…

You see, when you eat, it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full. Until that happens, your hunger hormones are still going off, your salivary glands are still producing saliva, and your body is preparing to eat.

So what happens if you finish a big meal in 10 minutes?

You’ll still feel kinda hungry for at least the next 10 minutes. That’s enough time for desert, right?

binge eating

If you keep going at this pace, you might be able to get through all three!

And it isn’t just fast eating that makes us gain weight.

It’s distracted, mindless, or idle snacking that throws things off kilter without you even noticing.

We eat while we’re driving, walking to appointments, while we’re at home watching TV, as we’re rushing out the door in the morning… Think about it. How often are you just eating and not doing something else at the same time.

Dr. Brian Wansink, PhD once ran a study where movie theatre staff gave out free popcorn to movie-goers as a complimentary offer. The kicker? The popcorn was stale. It was over a week old!

Despite the clearly stale, unappetizing popcorn given to these patrons, they still ate most of it.

Why?

Because they were distracted by the movie and thus totally disconnected from the fact that their bodies were telling them “hey, you’re not really hungry right now and this actually tastes like crap!”

So… What are we supposed to do?

You’ve Got to Slow Down

Slow Stop to Stop Binge Eating

Take a cue for this adorable sloth. Slooooooooww doooowwwn.

Fortunately, by eating slowly, we can start to reverse the effects of fast and distracted binge eating.

When you eat slowly, you can

Stop overeating by eating slowly enough to tune into your body’s fullness cues
Get more enjoyment from your food (or maybe realize that you don’t enjoy that sugary treat quite as much as you thought you did)
Improve your digestion helping you to feel light and lean instead of bloated and groggy
Meditate by creating a break in your day where you stop, slow down, and enjoy your food and your surroundings

Eating slowly is a really important part of weight loss and health.

In fact, according to Dr. John Berardi, PhD and CEO of Precision Nutrition, eating slowly is one of the most important habits when it comes to weight loss and long-term weight management.

That’s pretty powerful.

I can hear you right now saying “Yeah, that’s pretty cool and all. But I’m busy! I don’t have a second in my day to focus on myself, let alone my food. And if I take too long to eat, I won’t have time to pick up the kids tonight!”

And I totally understand. We can talk all day about the benefits of slow eating but for most of us, it seems like a pipe dream.

Even for the busiest among us, though, there is hope. Let’s chat about some slow eating strategies.

All You Need is 5 Minutes to tackle Binge Eating

If you’re a fast eater, you’ve likely been a fast eater for as long as you can remember.  And old habits die hard.

Don’t start off expecting to slow down every meal to a snail’s pace and reap the benefits right away.

Start very small.

All you need is 5 minutes.

Choose one meal per day where you’re either alone or in a setting you can control (at home or in your office with little-to-no distraction).  Figure out how long an average meal takes you and add 5 minutes to it.  Set up a timer on your phone or just watch the clock and make sure that meal lasts you 5 minutes longer than usual.

That’s it.

You won’t get it right the first time around. You’ll most likely devour all but a mouthful then dutifully wait till the last second on the clock to eat it.

That’s fine.

The point is not to be perfect on day one but to set the intention and build the habit. Eventually, you’ll fall into the habit of taking that extra 5 minutes at that meal.

Binge Eating - Stop by slowly eating your meals

Your friend, next time you eat lunch.

Ideally, you’ll get to a point where meals take you about 20-30 minutes to eat and you can feel what your stomach is telling you. Maybe you’ll get to the 20 minute mark and find yourself totally satisfied already. You aren’t obliged to eat the rest of the meal.

By focusing on just one meal where you have no distractions, you can zero-in on what it feels like to eat slowly. You can start noticing things like:

• When do I feel full?
• How does the smell and taste, and texture of the food make me feel?
• How does my body feel when I eat this?

Here are a few strategies you can use to force yourself to slow down while you’re eating:

• Put your fork down between every mouthful
• Stop for a sip of water between bites
• Count how many times you chew. Aim for 20-30 times per mouthful. Use more if you need to
• Stop to smell the food and to notice things like taste, texture, and how it makes you feel
• Go somewhere peaceful and put away distractions like your phone if you can
• Use a timer and put it somewhere you can see it while you eat

Try some of those strategies while you’re eating.  You may be surprised at what you notice.

Taking it on the Road

Once you’ve done this with a distraction-free meal, you can start applying it elsewhere like when you’re out with friends, eating dinner with a client, at a dinner party, or any place where you might be eating while distracted.

If you’re in a group setting, you can do a few things to slow down your eating.

For example:

• Eat slower than the slowest eater at the table. Make a game out of it. Can you finish your meal after they finish theirs?
• Put your fork down between every mouthful and take in what’s around you. Try to connect with the people you’re with.
• Focus on having an engaging conversation. If you’re talking, it’s hard to be eating at the same time. Use the good company around you to slow down your pace.

This habit is difficult to break.

You’ll get distracted and forget about it many times.

That’s natural.

Don’t let those times discourage you.

Keep reminding yourself that you’re only ever one meal (or one mouthful, really) away from getting back on track and slowing down. Remember whenever you can and stay positive.

And if it’s still a big struggle, we have a little experiment you can try…

Eat the Raisin. Slowly.

A number of years ago, I learned a wonderful little lesson from the good folks at Precision Nutrition. I call it the raisin test (you can also do it with any other similarly sized food).

Here’s what you do:

1. Get yourself 15 raisins and 15 minutes to yourself
2. Lay the raisins out in a line
3. Eat them slowly, one at a time, and make them last for 15 minutes

With each raisin, pick it up and examine it first. Smell it. Put it in your mouth and slowly chew it. Pay attention to the sensations smell, taste, and texture. Notice what happens in your mouth as you chew. Don’t swallow the raisin until you’ve broken it down appropriately.

Use the Raisin test to stop Binge Eating

This lil guy can help you get to your goals. If you’re patient.

Most of us are not used to eating this way. By slowing down to the extreme we can learn some patience with our day-to-day meals.

Now all these strategies work well for the day-to-day. But sometimes stress gets the better of you. Sometimes you binge. The cool part about slow eating is that it can even help you to curb binges. Let’s chat about that for a second…

Even if you Binge Eat, do it Slowly

Here’s the thing: you probably have all kinds of stress and distraction in your life.

And many of you deal with that stress by binge eating. I know I did for a long time.

Binge eating is fairly common and when you’re starting to change your nutrition, you won’t fix it right away. It takes some time. For the time being, I’m not going to suggest you stop binge eating at all because that binge eating does something for you.

As guilty as it makes you feel, binge eating helps you deal with your stress. Taking away binge eating without an appropriate substitute may make your stress get worse.

The only suggestion I’ll make is this:

If you binge eat, do it slowly.

If you are still binge eating do it slowly

Even if you make it through the full bag, do it slowly and mindfully. You might be surprised at what you find.

That’s right.

Go ahead and do it but do it slowly.

Take your time with your “meal” and try to slow it down.

Put your fork (or the box of cookies) down between bites.

Breathe a little.

Be mindful.

Because really what we’re trying to learn is…

Mindfulness, the Key to Fat Loss and Healthy Living

Learning to eat slowly is ultimately about one thing:

Mindfulness

Most of us are mindless in our daily habits. Not because we’re stupid but because we feel overloaded. If we don’t have to think about eating, that’s one less thing we have to think about.

But unfortunately, not being mindful of our bodies, our food, and our health can hurt us. A lot.

And slowing down is helpful when it comes to more than just eating.

Slowing down in general can help you:

  • Listen and connect better with your loved ones
  • Find peace on a stressful day
  • Decrease your stress and give you a more positive outlook
  • Appreciate and be grateful for what is around you every day

For a little more on the benefits of slowing down, check out this great TED talk by Carl Honoré.

To stop binge eating listen to this ted talk on slowing down

Carl Honoré discussing the life changing benefits of slowing down.

Putting it All Together

Let’s take a quick minute to recap what to do in order to beat fast and distracted eating:

1. Pick one meal that you’ll be alone for, find out how long it takes you, and make it take you 5 minutes longer
2. Once you’re comfortable with that, see if you can stretch the meal to 20-30 minutes. If you get full before you’re done, don’t finish the meal. Save the rest for later
3. Use some of the strategies we suggested above to help you master slow eating on your own
4. Get creative when you’re out with friends, family, and coworkers. Make a game out of it and see how long you can take to finish your food
5. If you’re really struggling, try out the raisin experiment. See if you can make those 15 raisins last 15 minutes
6. Even if you binge eat, do it slowly
7. Start trying to see how slowing down may benefit you in other areas of life

Work your way through these strategies and eventually you’ll become ninja of mindful intuitive eating.

You’ll be losing weight slowly and steadily and enjoying the process and the feeling.

It’s certainly not easy but you can do it as long as you’re patient.

I know you’re frustrated right now.

Curing binge eating can be a crazy beast to tackle. And sometimes it feels hopeless.

If you’re frustrated, you’re not alone. Binge Eating is a hell of a difficult struggle for millions of people around the world.

And that’s because you’re trying to do one of the hardest things you’ll do in your life.

You’re trying to change your habits, your behaviour, and ultimately your identity.

You’re probably dying to find an easy fix and I don’t blame you one bit.

Believe me.

If there was an easy fix, I’d do everything in my power to get that information to you as fast as possible.

Unfortunately, the only way out of this is to work through it.

Be persistent and don’t quit.

Write yourself reminders, keep them in your phone calendar, enlist your friends to help you out and offer your help in return.

Join a fitness community, get a coach, do whatever you have to do to work through your habit change.

It will be worth it.

You are worth it.

Got a tip that helps you to slow down your eating and your life? We’d love if you’d share it with us in the comments below.

I like to lift heavy weights, write about fitness, motivation, and psychology, and coach people to achieve their fitness goals.

When I’m not doing that I’m most likely at home cooking, playing board games with friends, or curled up with a book.

He also keeps his own blog over at www.francisnitsch.com

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