Want to know what the single most powerful tool I know to stop binge eating? It's the skill of 'allowing' an urge to over eat without either resisting it or giving it to it.
This is possible even if you currently you feel like you’re completely out of control and eating against your own will. By slow things down and becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings we can begin the process of change.
Allowing is completely different to resisting an urge or waiting for it to pass. And by doing this we can...
1) experience the urge fully without judgement by simply naming sensations as they arise in the body
2) cultivating a mindset of gentle curiosity - what does an urge really feel like?
When I first did this I just noticed and wrote down the sensations and the thoughts that came with it as well as the actual level of physical hunger I was experiencing, which often was surprisingly low. For most people the urge to binge doesn’t come from hunger but more from a sense of craving. You might notice that your stomach actually feels relatively full or only slightly hungry, so you can begin to see the binge as not hunger but a conditioned response to stress or a specific situation.
The good news is each time you allow an urge to binge and don’t indulge it, it weakens the urge. And if you allow urge to be there without rewarding it with food or distracting yourself from the urge, the urge will die off. This is the promised land of any behaviour change. Suddenly the urge just isn't there anymore. The theory behind this is called operant conditioning, the theory Pavlov arrived at after experiments training dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell by associating the bell with food rewards. If they got food every time it sounded they would drool just at the sound of the bell. But more importantly, they stopped salivating over time when the bell was rung and no food was offered.
We can do the same and de-condition ourselves from binge and overeating just by staying present to the urge to eat (aka the sound of the bell) without rewarding it by eating. Eventually the urge dies off.
It's worth noticing that the urge itself is powerless. It’s like an alarm but it doesn’t have the ability to make you do anything. You actually have to act on the urge by deciding to eat. In fact, it’s less effort not to eat.
One task I give clients is to try to have 100 allowed urges in order to challenge them to break the habit of bingeing for good.
Even if you aren’t willing to try allowing an urge you can start with cultivating awareness when you do binge and that can be enough to start the process of long-term change. And it’s a skill we can develop even over the holiday season.
Remember if you want help with bingeing I offer a free one on one consult with, seriously, no pressure. I have got past this, and I know you can too.
Have a great week,