If you have an eating disorder and binge eat you often begin the day with a resolve to eat well. You even feel optimistic and strong if you skip breakfast because you are not hungry. Yet in late afternoon or evening binge mode takes over. You gather your binge foods and move into an out of control blaze of eating. You devour food so thoroughly and fast you are unaware of how much you are eating until you notice empty packages and plastic bags and wrappers accumulating around you.
*pix In dream imagery the deer is often a symbol for your soul. A raging binge assaults the most precious aspect of your identity. You can protect and cherish what is sacred within you by learning to stop your binge fires.
Once you are deep in a binge it’s like being in the middle of the forest fire.
Your binge has a momentum of its own. You can't stop it. It has to run its course until you are in too much pain or too exhausted to continue. If you purge as well as binge you can keep bingeing longer but pain or exhaustion will eventually stop you. With guidance and strategic planning you can find your way to decrease and even stop your binges.
Back Track a Moment
Seconds before you start a binge you feel a tiny bit of relief from stress and anxiety. Prepared for a binge in loose fitting clothes, privacy, binge foods assembled, movie or program channel set to go you know you are heading for the solution that will help you be comfortable. .
You have convinced yourself that no solution for your emotional relief exists except this binge. You eat yourself into an emotional zone of what you believe is peace and quiet. What you've actually done is eaten your way to emotional numbness, fatigue and state of deeper loneliness and shame. Your body may hurt from swelling. If you've also been purging, your throat and eyes will hurt.
How can you stop binge eating?
Binge prevention means taking caretaking measures well in advance I live in Southern California where forest fires are a real threat. We can’t prevent a fire while it’s raging. It takes hundreds of firefighters and millions of dollars to stop a forest fire. Even then homes and lives are lost and what once land to trees and wildlife becomes a site of devastation.
The best approach to dealing with fire is prevention. Long before a fire is possible we clear brush, build with fire resistant materials – especially roof tops, put in fire roads, maintain a fire department, have a 911 working system, etc.
When you reach a particular state of stress that triggers your binge it's too late. Your fire has started. Prevention activities seem irrelevant.
Guidelines for Binge Prevention
Prevention strategy begins long before your fire starts. You do not binge 24 hours every day. When you are in a binge urge free zone, you have the opportunity to create your binge prevention solutions. Explore in your own mind and heart what would prevent you from reaching a binge stress level and what would help you veer away from acting out a binge urge.
You create both an early warning system and put activities in place to prevent a binge from occurring.
Treat your binge prevention strategy as a creative exercise to do daily.
Learn to recognize what triggers your binges and move away fromthat stimulation. This usually means extricating yourself from emotionally stressful situations sooner than you usually do.
Recognize early rumbles of an urge to binge. Surround yourself with support and use it in those early stages you are learning to recognize.
Binge Prevention Examples
- Notes, posters, signs to yourself.
- Pictures of yourself.
- Phone numbers to call.
- Exercises and activities to do before and instead of a binge.
- A simple meditation practice and an inviting place for you to do it.
Keep your bedroom clean, organized, pretty with your bed made so you always have a safe, soothing and relaxing place to hold you for rest, retreat and sleep.
- Write letters or e-mails to friends and family.
- Write passionate letters to newspapers about issues you care about.
- Be social with friends
- Go dancing
- Dance around the house
- Call your therapist
- Go to a 12-step meeting
- Make an outreach call
- Draw, paint or sculpt.
- Take a shower.
- Walk your dog (or someone else’s dog).
- Play with your cat or read aloud to your furry friend. Poetry is great for this.
Give yourself a more inviting option than burning yourself out on a binge.
Incorporate these notices, appointments and activities into your normal schedule. They will be in place for you when you are nearing binge territory. They can be in place so your binge urge is minor and resistible or doesn’t come at all.
Keep adding to these examples so your world is full of options. Prevention practices will help you on your path to eating disorder recovery. You will be doing your body and your soul a kindness. You will safeguard and honor your sacred self.
Please share what helps you to prevent or stop a binge. This will inspire others, and they in turn, will inspire you.
Joanna Poppink, MFT, Los Angeles eating disorder recovery psychotherapist.
*pix "Elk Bath" – A wildfire in the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, United States, August 6, 2000,
taken by John McColgan, employed as a fire behavior analyst at the Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.