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Eating Disorders

How to Cope with Binge Eating During the Holidays

Four tips to get you through the season.

 Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash
Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

The holiday season is here, filled with joy, stress, family, friends and most of all…food. Food is a major part of all the holidays that encompass the end of this year and headed into the next. For those who suffer from an eating disorder or any anxiety around food, this can be a very tough time of year.

During the holidays you are literally surrounded by triggers that could lead to disordered eating behaviors. Maybe it’s a toxic relationship with family that triggers you to binge eat, arguments with a loved one about finances, or worries about body image. Another major trigger is the recent clock change. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder you might be noticing lower mood and energy this time of year. The seasons changing can be a big adjustment for your body.

It seems to be the “perfect storm” for binge eating to rear its ugly head and demand more of your attention. And it’s impossible to ignore. Maybe you’ve tried ignoring it the past, hiding the evidence of a binge or swearing up and down that it’ll never occur again. Binge eating causes a lot of physical discomfort along with an exhausting emotional toll. Luckily, there are ways to weather the storm this holiday season and set you up for a healthier, happier new year.

  1. Get Into Therapy. This is the hardest step to make for most people, but most important. Find a therapist that has worked with binge eating in the past, that you feel comfortable with and trust. I also recommend asking if they are a Health At Every Size (HAES) provider. This is important for a number of reasons but the biggest one is to make sure you are aren’t facing any weight bias when getting help. You might need to push yourself to reach out for help because it can be very easy to argue that you should wait to see if it gets better on its own. It takes work and guidance from a professional to recover from Binge Eating Disorder. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people suffer from binge eating for decades before getting help. You don’t have to wait. Wherever you are in your journey, now is a good time to reach out.
  2. Incorporate Mindful Eating. Make sure you are eating three full, satisfying meals a day with snacks. Many people binge at night or during a time when they are physically very hungry. By eating three meals a day you are fully feeding your body. When you are in a ravenous state this is a red zone and sets you up for a binge. Many people see a reduction in binge eating behaviors when they start eating more throughout the day.
  3. Learn to Urge Surf. This is a very important skill to learn when it comes to binge eating. Urge surging helps you learn to accept the urge and craving to binge without reacting to it. This helps train your brain that the urge to binge does not need to be associated with the act of binge eating. By urge surfing, your brain learns you can have the urge to binge eating without the binge. The urge to binge can literally feel like a wave, where it rises (when the urge is really high) and then falls. Just know that eventually, it will fall. For most people, this can last 20-30 minutes. Remember this skill the next time you want to binge eat. It can also be very helpful to practice as the holidays can bring a lot of triggers.
  4. Daily Prevention Scheduling. This is something that can be very useful during the holiday season when your schedule is already jam-packed. Every day, make sure you have anti-binge activities scheduled. This includes: eating three full meals a day, self-care activities scheduled such as taking a bath, going for a walk or writing in a journal. Whatever self-care activity soothes you make sure you’re doing it this holiday season. When you start taking care of yourself binges are bound to decrease.

Lastly, learn to accept the urge or thoughts to binge eat as information, not a red flag that something is wrong. Acceptance is a big part of working through any eating disorder, and learning to accept the urge to binge takes practice but is very powerful. Next time you have the urge to binge eat use it as a time to check in with yourself. Pull out a journal. How are you feeling today? What is triggering this? Did you eat three satisfying meals? Are you feeling anxious?

Binge eating can feel isolating and overwhelming. Many people suffer from binge eating disorder but don’t talk about it or seek help. The good news is you can fully recover from binge eating disorder.

You can no longer obsess about food. You can no longer feel isolated from loved ones because of binge eating. You can be able to eat foods you once binged on in a normal amount, without feeling like you overate. All of this is very possible once you find help. Have compassion with yourself this holiday season and be gentle with your body.

About the Author
Danielle Swimm LCPC

Danielle Swimm, LCPC is a clinical psychotherapist who provides speciality treatment in disordered eating and anxiety. She has a private practice in Annapolis, MD dedicated to aiding in recovery from eating disorders.

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