“I am a 19-year-old female suffering from an eating disorder. I tend to binge eat as a form of coping mechanism against stress. Stress eating gives me a sense of comfort. But lately, I skip meals out of guilt of overeating and gaining weight. I am essentially trapped in this never-ending cycle of either eating a lot or not eating at all. What should I do?” – A
Answer by Kapil Sharma, Counseling Psychologist, Hudec Nepal
First, let’s start by analyzing the cycle. You feel stressed and you start eating as a form of coping. You might feel a sense of brief relief after binge eating if that is your coping mechanism against stress. Also remember to keep track of the time you tend to binge eat. After a period of relief, the guilt of binge eating comes in. This leads to you trying to restrict yourself and you end up skipping meals and counting calories. Then the stress factor hits again and there is craving. Again, the cycle continues.
In this cycle, people tend to eat their food rapidly and in large amounts. They also eat while no one is watching, they eat frequently and more than they want to. Essentially, they feel helpless about not being able to control their cravings. If these symptoms resonate, you are in the cycle of binge eating.
There are multiple measures you can take. The first step to breaking any cycle is figuring out its starting point. Keep a food and mood journal to track trigger factors that lead to binge eating. Start by noting down when you enter the binge eating phase and what triggered it. Also note whether you were aware while eating and continued anyway because you felt helpless. Awareness is the key.
Once you figure out the cause of your binge eating, find an alternative coping mechanism. Do something you like to distract yourself. Mindfulness and meditation works for some as well. Anything that helps release your stress in a non self-destructive way.
Plan meals and snacks and don’t skip meals. Eliminate all the trigger factors. Don’t watch shows about food or maybe shows with models who have perfect bodies. This latter might be a trigger if you suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. Staying hydrated is also important. Keep potential snacks away from reach. Talk to people, communicate about your problems. And lastly, try talking to a professional.