Do you ever feel like you could eat and eat forever and never get sick of it? Does this incredible urge to eat scare you? Well, there are a few reasons why you may be thinking, “I can’t stop eating!”, and a few ways to overcome this urge.
The overwhelming urge to binge eat, especially when it comes to those sweet or fatty foods, is actually more common than you think. In fact, it is estimated that 2.8 million Americans have binge eating disorder, meaning they are binge eating at least once a week for three months or more.
It may seem like the best solution to binge eating or out of control eating is to be more restrictive with your diet, in hopes that you can control yourself enough to not binge. But, unfortunately, the more we control, the more likely we are to binge. I know this may not make sense now, but once we go over the causes of binge eating, you may understand this better.
Why you can’t stop eating
Here is the million dollar question: why can’t I stop eating? Well, binge eating can be caused by many different factors, but there are going to be four main factors that play into why you are binge eating regularly.
You may notice that one of these reasons really resonates with you, and you may find that all of these reasons resonate with you. Whatever your reason, I will go over practical solutions to help overcome them.
1. You are over restricting certain foods
Do you have a few “trigger” foods that once you get one taste, you can’t help but eat and eat and eat? What if I told you that overly restricting these foods is the reason why you are binge eating or overeating them whenever you get a chance? Well, it’s true! When you over restrict certain foods, it becomes a “forbidden food” and just like the forbidden fruit, we, for some odd reason, are far more tempted to eat it. Plus, when we do give into these urges, we are far more likely to binge.
We make this food special. We put it up on this pedestal, when in reality, it’s just food. And likely it’s not as delicious as you perceive it as.
This food becomes a “fear” food, and we begin to feel uneasy when it is offered to us or even just around us. While most people can have a serving and go on with their day, binge eaters tend to go over board and eat a large amount, because they don’t know when it will be available next. And, inevitably, this leads to guilt and shame, which can lead to further binges.
2. You are overly obsessed with your weight
Yes, caring too much about your weight can in fact lead you to binge eat. This doesn’t make sense right? Shouldn’t caring about your figure make you have more control over how you eat? Well, you would think that right?
It’s actually quite the opposite. Let me know if this sounds like you:
“You are feeling a little down about your weight, maybe you saw a skinny girl in a magazine or in real life and feel like it’s time for a change. You start a new diet and feel great the first few days, but then on day 5 you are feeling far too restricted. Your roommate brought home donuts and you would sell your soul for one bite. But you are too dedicated to improving your body. 10pm rolls around and you give in. You feel incredibly guilty and are constantly weighing yourself the next few days due to fear of gaining weight from those 3 donuts. You feel down and depressed and continue on the binge eating spiral because, why even try anymore?”
This is a common experience for dieters. First, you cheat on your diet. Next, you feel intense guilt and shame for cheating. After that, you give up on the whole thing because you already cheated anyways, right? If you are in this cycle, learning to accept your body can help.
3. You aren’t eating enough food
Next up, you may be bingeing because you aren’t eating enough food or aren’t eating often enough.
There could be several reasons for this, perhaps you are on a tight budget, perhaps you just forget to eat and skip meals often, or you may be on a strict diet that restricts your intake to a certain amount of calories or time frame.
Whatever the reason is, it’s very important to ensure you are eating enough, but also eating regularly.
4. You use food to cope with your emotions
Finally, a common reason for binge eating is using food to cope with your emotions. Food can be very comforting and leads to a short term boost in happiness, but after the initial rush, it often doesn’t leave you feeling very good.
If you are feeling any negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, or even boredom, it can be very easy to binge eat. Instead of constantly using food as a way to deal with these negative emotions, you can try experimenting with other strategies that can effectively help you cope.
How to stop binge eating
Now that we’ve discussed why you can’t stop eating or why you binge eat, let’s discuss some strategies that you can implement to help you eat normally again. I recommend a combination of these four strategies to help overcome binge eating for life.
1. Learn to accept your body
First strategy is to learn to accept your body. This is so important if the reason you binge eat is due to bad body image. I know this can be difficult and I know me telling you to accept your body is not going to help you accept your body. But, I at least want to plant the idea in your head that hating your body will not make your body look different and is not an effective way to change your body.
As for strategies to help you accept your body, you can try body positive affirmations, try focusing on the parts of your body that you like, stop comparing your body to others, and even venturing out of your comfort zone by changing the type of clothes you wear.
Along with this, focus on finding other hobbies or interests that take focus away from your body. Start a new form of exercise, learn a new form of art, join a club or group, learn a new skill. Find something you genuinely enjoy and look forward to, and you’ll find you spend far less time focusing on how your body looks.
2. Eat enough and regularly
If you are going more than four hours between meals, this is too long. Try to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.
And how do you know if you are eating enough? Well, you should never feel hungry. Focus on eating enough and often enough where you don’t go more than a few minutes with hunger pangs.
If you have a hard time reading your hunger cues, focus on ensuring your portion sizes are adequate. Sometimes working with a friend or family member can be helpful to understand what portion sizes are normal.
3. Introduce your trigger foods
This is probably the most important strategy to overcome binge eating. You need to start introducing trigger foods into your everyday diet. Start by making a list of your trigger foods, starting with the foods you fear the least, at the way up to the foods you fear the most. Begin with your least feared foods. You can start by introducing them in a controlled environment, such as a restaurant, a car, or with friends, and then slowly begin adding them to your everyday meals and snacks.
To start, I would make a plan on when you want to introduce them. Make sure you are sitting down at a table in a chair when you eat the food. Avoid doing it in front of the fridge or standing up next to the counter, this could make you more likely to binge. Continue to work through the list until you’ve made it through each food!
4. Experiment with other ways to cope with emotions
Finally, experiment with different ways to cope with emotions that aren’t food. Often, this just means finding something that distracts you long enough that the desire to binge passes.
Here are some examples that may work for you: journaling, going for a walk or swim, creating art, building something, writing, yoga or meditation, manicure or pedicure, doing your hair, window shopping.
Find a strategy that is easily accessible and enjoyable for you. If you don’t enjoy it or you don’t have access to what you need to perform the activity, then it’s likely not a good strategy. It’s also important to note that the first strategy you pick is not likely to work perfectly. You will probably need to test a few strategies before finding one or two that work for you. It’s all about experimenting and finding something that works with you and your needs.
“Why can’t I stop eating?”: Final thoughts
When it comes to finding out why you can’t stop eating and coming up with strategies to feel normal around food again, it’s important to understand the root cause.
Dip deep: what is truly causing this mindset? It’s so important to be honest with yourself when it comes to discovering your root causes. Once you know why you binge eat, it becomes much easier to implement strategies to reduce binge eating! I hope this article was helpful for anymore who suffers from binge eating or feeling out of control around food.