Do you have problems with overeating? Are you eating when you aren’t hungry? Do you continue eating even though you are full? You may have binge eating disorder, or you may just engage in unhealthy eating. Many people struggle with this and feel a lot of shame.

How to Tell if You Have Binge Eating Disorder

In order to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual used by mental health professionals) you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Periodic episodes of binge eating
    • Defined as eating a larger amount of food in 1 sitting than what would be considered normal
    • A sense of being out of control while doing so
  • At least 3 of the following must occur
    • Eat much quicker than normal
    • Eat way past the point of comfort
    • Overeating when not hungry
    • Eating by yourself due to embarrassment over the amount being eaten
    • Feelings of depression, disgust, or guilt after eating
  • Significant distress occurs during the episode
  • Happens at least 1 time per week for 3 months
  • No compensatory behavior occurs (such as vomiting, over exercise, use of laxatives, etc.)

What Can You Do About Overeating/Binge Eating?

The first thing you need to assess is how motivated for change you are. According to Prochaska and Diclemente stages of change, there are five different stages. Which one fits you?

Stages of Change

     Precontemplation

Not thinking about changing behavior at this point in time. You don’t think it is a problem like others see it. The impact of the problem hasn’t become fully conscious. You may be reluctant or rebellious (argumentative), resigned (given up hope that you can change), or rationalize the behavior- say why it isn’t a problem, or is a problem for others but not for you.

My guess is, you wouldn’t be reading this if you were in the precontemplation stage.

     Contemplation

You are ambivalent about changing, and are not making any plans to do anything about it in the near future. You might be willing to hear about the pros and cons of changing.

If you are in the contemplation stage, you may want to make a list the pros and cons of changing your behavior. What keeps you stuck, and what makes you want to move forward?

     Preparation

You are starting to work on changing, and are ready for it. You start to try a little bit here and there. In the preparation phase, it’s time to problem solve on how to overcome the obstacles that are keeping you stuck.

Evaluate the skills that you have to move forward, and spend most of your time with people who will support your change.

    Action

You are implementing the change. Perhaps you are making a public commitment to change. This process takes about 3-6 months. Maybe you are in the action phase, that is great.

Do you have any challenges that make the change difficult? Are there things you can do to increase your support?

    Maintenance

The goal here is long-term change. You are continuing with your healthy behaviors. This stage occurs between 6 months and 5 years.

  Relapse

This usually occurs after a gradual slip. Relapse is part of the cycle, which can occur before permanent change.

How to stop binge eating

Keep a food log

This is something we do to monitor behavior change with food. It has been shown that if you monitor your behavior the problem behavior tends to decrease. Write down the day, time, what you eat, your thoughts while over-eating. Are there certain triggers. Do you have some negative thinking patterns (ex. I blew my diet so I kept eating). These are all things you can discuss with your therapist.

Don’t diet

Research as shown that diets don’t work. Many people lose weight while on them, yet find they eventually gain it back. This is because diets are not sustainable. As soon as we restrict ourselves from eating a certain food, we crave it. There are no bad foods

Intuitive eating/Eat in moderation

Guess what, you can eat whatever you want. It’s about moderation and portion control. Assess your level of hunger. If you aren’t hungry and still want to eat, what is going on? Are you eating to avoid certain emotions? What emotions are you trying to hide? Stress, boredom, anxiety, sadness, and happiness can all be triggers.

Avoid alcohol

This lowers your resistance to eating healthy. After a few drinks, you will most likely lose your motivation. It is much easier to overeat.

I know this is all easier said than done.  Many people struggle for years.  If this is something you need help with, please call me at 713-304-6554, and we can set up an individualized plan for you.

Take care,

Debbie