When you’re bingeing (or bingeing and purging), you’re caught in a highly stressful state. At this point, reason is not in charge. You’re not thinking about how terrible you feel after bingeing. Your only thought is how to give yourself relief, which is what we believe the binge will give us.
I liken a binge to a panic attack because it feels similar in its intensity and the drive to eat *now!* It’s a very tight, intense place of “I have to, I must, I can’t handle this for one more minute…” It’s a build of emotional energy that pow! we find relief from when we binge.
How can we soothe ourselves when we’re in this state? Many of our tools don’t work in this instance because we’re in such a place of panic! We feel caught.
One of my favorite tools to prevent a binge is the “Damage Control Tool” from Emotional Brain Training. You use this tool when your mind is spiraling out of control, when you feel that tight space of “I have to…”, when you’re overwhelmed, caught in obsessive thoughts, when you feel like you’re drowning underwater, when a loved one says or does something that triggers a desire to binge, or when you try on your pants, find that they’re tight, and a torrent of judgment (I’m a fat cow, I’ll never change, I’ll never heal…) throws you under, and sends you to the fridge.
Here’s how to use this tool:
1. Step 1 – Tell yourself, No judgment. Use your name with this step. For example, I would say, “No judgment, Karly.” Using your name is very calming. As Laurel Mellin, the founder of EBT explains, it creates a feeling in the brain of a loving parent caring for us. Much of our work is giving ourselves this unconditional love and care, the nurturing that we need to heal the emotional brain.
Why do we say no judgment? Because when we’re caught in a panic we’re often judging ourselves. We feel guilty or responsible – this sense of “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” To soothe this blame, we offer ourselves the mercy of “no judgment” towards ourselves for being human – for feeling panicky, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or wanting to binge. We also offer “no judgment” towards others if we’re blaming others.
2. Remove yourself from harm. This means to get out of the house, the kitchen, to separate from the food, to call a friend, to go for a walk – to do whatever you can to keep yourself out of harm’s way.
3. Tell yourself, This too shall pass. Again, use your name. This powerful reminder reassures us that while we’re feeling out of control in the moment, everything passes. This will pass.
Repeat the cycle until you feel calmer. It usually takes me about 5-7 cycles, depending on my stress level, to move out of panic.
When I’m in a calmer state, that’s when I’m able to access the other tools that help me – the 6 practices of growing human(kind)ness, deep breathing, inquiry (exploring the needs and feelings that led to the desire to binge), and more.
Other tools that help me move out of a binge:
1. Calling on love. I will literally “call on love,” calling love to me – people both past and present in my life, spiritual figures, pets, love itself, blanketing myself with this love. I imagine them holding me in my time of need until the anxiety and panic fades.
2. Rocking your cravings to sleep. I’ll be posting on this technique separately. I also teach this technique in Overcoming Sugar Addiction for Life
3. Meditation. Meditation has greatly helped me in creating greater capacity to sit with intense feelings (like wanting to binge!) without acting on them. I aim for a regular practice of 30 minutes a day.
In love, Karly