If you’ve ever found yourself knee-deep in a pile of food wrappers with a belly so full it just might burst, you may have experienced a binge. Defined as a period of excessive or uncontrolled indulgence, binges can happen to the best of us. But they don’t have to.
The first thing to do when you’re trying to beat a binge is to rule out the possibility of binge eating disorder (BED). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (the reigning authority on mental disorders) uses specific criteria to diagnose binge eating disorder, including marked distress over binging episodes, loss of control over amount of eating, episodes that occur at least one time per week for three months, among others. If you think you might have BED, consult with your doctor. He or she will likely refer you to a mental health professional who can provide guidance.
If your binges are less frequent or tend to be the result of an occasional moment of weakness, here are four tips for overcoming the inclination to overeat:
Know Your Triggers
Bored, stressed, emotional? There are lots of reasons we eat but only one reason we should: Because we’re hungry. Ask yourself why you want food. If it’s because you’re bored, get up and tackle a to-do. If it’s because you’re feeling stressed or emotional, try to find other ways to deal. Do some deep breathing or call a friend to vent. Or go for a walk. Exercise isn’t just good for your body—physical activity can help boost your mood and prevent you from “eating your feelings.” Learning to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger will be key in overcoming the temptation to overeat.
Speaking of triggers… If you’re already feeling a binge coming on, why tempt fate with alcohol, which is infamous for wearing on your willpower? Skip the booze and load up on water instead, which can help you feel fuller without making you vulnerable to overeating.
Don’t try to save calories. Being too restrictive or waiting too long between meals to eat is a fast-pass to overeating. Eat regularly scheduled, balanced meals and snacks, and only eat until you feel satisfied—not stuffed or uncomfortable. Don’t ban foods or food groups entirely. Eating well is all about balance and moderation. Declaring foods off-limits will only increase their appeal in moments of weakness. With that said, try not to keep too many treats and temptations at your disposal. Keep your fridge full of healthy options, and load up your desk drawer at work with guilt-free snacks. If all you have on hand is healthy options, that’s all you’ll be able to eat.
Keeping a food diary can help you stay accountable for the amount you eat. Research suggests that people who make it a point to log their intake every day tend to have better weight loss results—meaning they’re probably eating less. If you do eat more than you probably should, keep tracking. It could be the difference between eating a bit too much and spiraling into a full-blown binge. Download NuMi, Nutrisystem’s free tracking app for iPhone and Android, or visit numi.com on your tablet or computer to start logging your intake today.